Zurich: A Truly ‘Swisstainable’ Conference Destination

4th December 2023

Switzerland, known for excellence in various fields, also champions sustainability, or ‘Swisstainability’ as they like to call it. Zurich, its largest city, stands out as a sustainable destination for association events.

Words Marc de Faoite

From timepieces to railways, from chocolate to cheesemaking, and much more besides, the Swiss reputation for high standards of excellence is world famous. The old dictum of ‘if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well’ seems to be embedded in the national DNA. 

Sustainability is no exception to this unwritten rule, with the nation appropriating and self-styling its approach as “Swisstainability”, and as might be expected the focus is centred on efficiency and attention to detail, as well as Switzerland’s pristine natural sights and its unique heritage and culture. 

Six cities are now part of the GDS movement (Global Destination Sustainability), which envisions thriving places and communities activated by regenerative tourism and events, aligned with UN SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Among these six GDS sites is Zurich, Switzerland’s largest city, which ranked #12 in the latest rankings of the  GDS-Index.

An ecosystem for business events

Ideal for business events, Zurich offers the perfect setting for event planners, particularly for events centred around Life Sciences, Cleantech, ICT, and Finance. Zürich Tourism’s congress team is well-connected with these industries and can facilitate valuable contacts, arrange speakers, and organize technical visits. 

Zurich’s success factors include world-class academic institutions, strategic investors, cutting-edge intellectual property strategies, innovation-friendly authorities, and a thriving startup ecosystem. The city works to facilitate collaboration between private industry, research institutions, and authorities, creating a supportive and innovative environment. 

Zurich’s central-European location, combined with Switzerland’s world-class rail system that connects to the networks of all five neighbouring countries, makes reaching the city by train a viable and environmental option for delegates which can significantly reduce any event’s carbon footprint.

Venues leading the way in sustainability

The Arena Convention Expo Zurich (ACE) is a collaboration between Messe Zürich, the Hallenstadion Zürich and Zürich Tourism. With 30,000 sqm spread across seven exhibition halls, Messe Zürich is a popular convention venue. Its rooftop solar array generates 150,000 kWh annually, providing 100% of the Messe’s electricity. Meanwhile, Hallenstadion Zürich is one Europe’s largest multi-purpose halls, with a capacity for up to 15,000 guests over 14,000 sqm. It has committed to reducing food waste by working with caterers that favour seasonal local produce and partnering with the fairpflichtet (right and fair) and myClimate labelling systems. 

The Zurich Convention Centre reopened in spring 2021 after a major renovation project based on an entirely climate neutral approach, with the relevant ClimatePartner certification having been granted in summer 2019. In June 2022, the centre obtained the ISO 9001 Certificate for quality management after a rigorous inspection. 

Among the green initiatives at the Convention Centre are the use of water from Lake Zurich for the building’s thermoregulation. The catering uses regional and seasonal products, including a range of vegetarian and vegan dishes. The centre has also partnered with a forest conservation project in Peru to offset any unavoidable CO2 emissions, while easy access by foot or public transport reduces conventions’ and event organizers’ reliance on fossil fuels.

All these activities ensure that the Convention Centre’s operations are entirely climate neutral and do not result in any additional costs for organizers – a major area of concern when it comes to organizing sustainable meetings for planners.

The Circle at Zurich Airport is a commercial development that opened in autumn 2020, comprising a new district that includes ten restaurants and cafés, two hotels belonging to the Hyatt group with a total of more than 550 guest rooms, a congress centre capable of welcoming up to 2500 attendees, a medical centre, and more besides. After a twelve-year process, The Circle received the Minergie and LEED Platinum certificates in June 2022, making it the largest Minergie and highest-rated LEED building in Switzerland. The Minergie certification recognizes the building’s energy efficiency and significant use of renewable energy, including geothermal energy piles and photovoltaics. The Circle is also Europe’s largest building complex with this certification.

Sustainability and energy efficiency are central to real estate today,” said Giorgio Engeli, Head Real Estate Portfolio Management Schweiz at Swiss Life Asset Managers, one of the co-owners of the development. “We are very pleased to receive these two certificates for The Circle. They underline the forward-looking orientation and innovative character of the building.”

This environmentally compatible construction aligns with Zurich Airport’s commitment to ecological impact assessment. The next major construction project, the new Dock A, aims for LEED certification and features sustainable wood construction, a unique approach for a terminal building of its size.

A truly ‘Swisstainable’ conference destination

Switzerland’s centuries-long dedication to excellence, combined with a modern 21st century infrastructure, and commitment to sustainability, make Zurich an obvious and “Swisstainable” choice for association event planners eager to reduce the impact of their conferences.

To learn more about organizing your conference contact Sarah Zürcher, Manager Zurich Convention Bureau or visit this website.

More information on Switzerland as a convention destination: /

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