INSPIRATION

COP26 Legacy for Glasgow and the Planet

The case study below was written by Olga Walker, a SITE Scotland member and the chapter’s Sustainability Ambassador

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The name Glasgow originates from the Gaelic word Glaschu, which can be translated as ‘Dear Green Place’. This is very fitting for the city with the aspirations to become one of the leading sustainable cities in the world (Get Ready Glasgow 2021).

Glasgow has been on a sustainable journey for many years and received a Global Green City Award in 2020, supported by the United Nations Environment Programme (Glasgow City Council 2020). In addition to this the city has achieved 4th place in the Global Destination Sustainability Index (2021) – the global platform to benchmark environmental and social performance, showcase best practice and promote responsible and regenerative business tourism and events. Sustainable Glasgow Partnership is playing an important role in uniting the city’s public and private sector organisations, aiming to reinforce Glasgow’s position as a leading city in tackling climate emergency (Sustainable Glasgow 2021).

On 31st October – 12th November 2021 the eyes of the whole world have been on Glasgow – hosting the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). Not only is this the most important global event dedicated to sustainability and climate change, but this year’s summit, delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, has a particular mission of urgency and acceleration to fulfil the goals set out in Paris Agreement (United Nations 2015) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (United Nations 1994).

The official COP26 statement (COP26 Explained) highlights, that while net zero commitments for 2030 are important, it’s crucial that they translate into immediate and collaborative everyday action – for every business, organisation and individual.

Glasgow, as the host city of COP26, has done a great job demonstrating to the rest of the world this immediate and collaborative action approach – in not just hosting the biggest global sustainable event, but also in creating a ‘model example of harmonious balance between human activity, resource use and environmental impact’ (Jones 2017) – the long-term positive impact every event should be striving for.

Below are a few examples of long-term initiatives, developed by the city and the tourism and hospitality industry coming together in the lead up to COP26, to deliver sustainable legacy for the city, the local communities and the city visitors.

SEC (Scottish Event Campus) – the host venue to COP26 – launched the new Food Strategy in July 2021. The strategy includes commitments to:

  • fully reusable or recyclable packaging by 2023,
  • reducing food waste to under 1% and diverting it from landfill to anaerobic digestion processing, and
  • sourcing high quality and environmentally friendly local produce with 80% of food coming from Scotland and with a broader range of plant-based options (SEC 2021).
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Plate Up for Glasgow is an awareness-raising campaign, run by Glasgow Chamber of Commerce, Experience Glasgow and Visit Scotland and the hospitality industry (over 40 hotels and restaurants across the city). The campaign’s commitment is to reduce food waste by including specially created dishes or drinks in the menus, with as little waste sent to landfill as possible (Plate up for Glasgow 2021). The campaign’s website also offers excellent engagement tools such as: advice on how to reduce food waste at home, meet the superstar suppliers and join the campaign. Next year the campaign will be measured for sustainability impact.

Much work has been done by Glasgow Convention Bureau and Visit Scotland with industry partners with regards to sustainability accreditation, using two established third-party accreditation bodies – Green Tourism and Green Keys. GCB has subsequently done a survey amongst their members, asking them if COP26 has inspired them to get sustainability accreditation or/ and improve their practices, and 65% answered positively (Crawford 2021).

Another powerful industry initiative is The Glasgow Declaration, launched at COP26 by Visit Scotland and The Travel Foundation with the commitment for a decade of tourism climate action scaled down across the entire sector (Tourism Declares Emergency 2021).

As part of People Make Glasgow Greener strategy, developed by Glasgow Convention Bureau (GCB 2021), numerous online educational tools have been introduced in order to:

  • identify and promote to conference organisers the network of sustainable businesses across the city (Go Greener Toolkit)
  • assist with correct carbon footprint measuring
  • suggest long term carbon offsetting solutions, like My Park Scotland
  • provide tools and resources for the planning of hybrid conferences (Hybrid Glasgow Hub)

Often large events can be disengaged from the local communities and even provide disruption in their everyday lives. Much emphasis in the planning of COP26 in Glasgow has been placed on ensuring positive social impact and community cohesion, as well as environmental goals. Numerous long term community initiatives introduced by Glasgow City Council and partners as part of Get Ready Glasgow campaign (2021) serve the purpose of engaging the local population with the event and its legacy, working collaboratively towards UN Sustainable Development Goals and improving the quality of life in Glasgow in the long run. Just a few examples of such creative and community-led initiatives are:

  • Our Dear Green Space podcast for young people featuring inspirational talks by scientists, sport stars and celebrities exploring the themes of Cop26
  • Pilot scheme of on street secure cycle parking to tackle lack of home storage for bikes
  • Water refill stations initiative by City to Sea non-for-profit organisation, operating across the city to reduce single use plastic bottles
  • Solar powered electronic LED road signage which activate when cyclists approach alerting vehicles of their presence 
  • ‘Revolve’ ranking for high standards in cleanliness, safety and service to promote second-hand shopping, developed by Zero Waste Scotland
  • Community clean up hubs stocked with equipment and information on correct waste disposal, set up by Keep Scotland Beautiful
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Glasgow COP26 is a good example of Triple Bottom Line approach in event planning – with equal consideration for the planet, the people and the sustainable economic development of the place. It is also a great example of the legacy of events to not just achieve immediate goals, but to act as powerful platforms for reinforcing values and building social capital (Orefice 2018).

Emerging recent academic research in events and sustainability highlights that event professionals need to move away from the question of how to make an individual event more sustainable, towards the question of how events can contribute to the global sustainability agenda, including all the three pillars – environmental, social and economic (Mair and Smith 2021) – and Glasgow COP26 has given the industry a great example of how this can be done.

References List

Special thanks to Aileen Crawford, Glasgow Convention Bureau, for assisting with research for this article.

GET READY GLASGOW. 2021. (website) available at: [accessed on 04.11.21]

GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL. 2020. ‘Glasgow declared a Global Green City’. In News Archive 2020, 19th October 2020 (online) available at: [accessed on 04.11.21]

GLOBAL DESTINATION SUSTAINABILITY MOVEMENT. 2021. ‘Global Destination Sustainability Index 2021’. In Ranking and Results (online) available at: [accessed on 04.11.21]

JONES, Meegan. 2017. Sustainable Event Management: a Practical Guide. Third edition. London: Routledge

MAIR, Judith and Andrew SMITH. 2021. 'Events and sustainability: why making events more sustainable is not enough'. In Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 29:11-12, 1739-1755

OREFICE, Chiara. 2018. Designing for events – a new perspective on event design. In International Journal of Event and Festival Management. Vol. 9 No. 1, pp. 20-33

PEOPLE MAKE GLASGOW GREENER. 2021. (website) available at: [accessed on 04.11.21]

PLATE UP FOR GLASGOW. 2021. (website) available at: [accessed on 04.11.21]

SEC. 2021. ‘SEC introduces new food strategy with sustainability at its heart’. In News, 19th July 2021 (online) available at: [accessed on 04.11.21]

SUSTAINABLE GLASGOW. 2021. (website) available at: [accessed on 04.11.21]

TOIRISM DECLARES CLIMATE EMERGENCY. 2021. (website) available at: [accessed on 04.11.21]

UK COP26. 2021. ‘COP26 Explained’ (online) available at: [accessed on 04.11.21]

UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGE. 2015. ‘The Paris Agreement’. In Process and Meetings (online) available at: [accessed on 04.11.21]

UNITED NATIONS CLIMATE CHANGE. 1994. ‘What is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change?’ In Process and Meetings (online) available at: [accessed on 04.11.21]

Written by

Olga Walker

Olga Walker

Managing Director

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