A super depressing showing on the Global Destination Sustainability Index. An impending major international event – taking up all available capacity and then some. The niggling belief that a very small team might not actually make much of a difference and the nullifying effect of being a relatively small part of a much bigger operation, which will surely independently carry the bulk of the load?
Back in 2019, Liverpool Convention Bureau, part of Marketing Liverpool, which are in turn part of Liverpool City Council, were beginning to get serious about sustainability. The Global Destination Sustainability Index figures have just been released and Liverpool City Region’s score was ranked pretty fat down the list, compared to many other UK cities. Next came the pandemic, posing a multitude of never before seen obstacles for our visitor economy.
Finally in the post-pandemic phase in 2023, Liverpool’s Eurovision Host City bid was triumphant, turning the team’s attention towards one of the world’s most popular music contests and, potentially, away from our team’s sustainability ambitions. But Jenny Jensen, Marketing Liverpool’s Head of Business Tourism and her ever-industrious team are more than used to multitasking. Here Jenny tells us about standing firm on sustainability, taking the first steps and her plan to bring Liverpool City Region’s Visitor Economy along with us on our journey. “There’s always a way to move forward,” explains Jenny. “There’s a tonne of help available along the way and everyone can make a difference.”
How did this project come about?
“Marketing Liverpool is still at the beginning of our journey, partly driven by a personal interest in making tourism and events more sustainable but also driven by clients actively looking for sustainable destinations and venues for their next events. The planet is in crisis and all industries need to step up and make better decisions for the benefit of all.”
What were the first steps? What resources were among the most useful?
“Firstly, we needed to establish our baseline. So we submitted information to the GDS index – our first submission scored poorly but this helped us to see where we were doing well as a destination and identify where we were falling short as a region. This gave us a really good starting point and actually collating the evidence opened up doors to connect with individuals across the city region who were already doing great things in this space. The 2030hub has also been an invaluable source of advice on getting started and tackling some of the issues.”
Tell me about the advice they gave. How did you put this into action?
“One of the big gaps for us was around educating and supporting our visitor economy venues, hotels and suppliers. To remedy this, the 2030hub helped us set up a Visitor Economy Taskforce which is now expanding and is responsible for creating a strategic action plan for the sector. It is really important that businesses within the tourism sector create and drive the change needed. It can’t simply be a top-down approach from bodies like Marketing Liverpool. Everyone needs to buy in and believe in it. The 2030hub has also helped with education for businesses and we have started a series of Green Tourism webinars to support partners.”
Tell me about your ‘Green Tourism Webinar series.
“Our first webinar was on accreditation and we welcomed the Managing Director of Green Tourism, Scott Maclean, to speak about their scheme. Our second webinar will be on the Circular Economy on 10th July and right now we are planning a third one around communications. We are looking to keep our content relevant to a wide variety of businesses in the sector, so we are keen to hear more from our partners so that we can find out exactly what they would like to see in future that would help them on their sustainability journey.”
You’ve developed an online sustainability survey. What information will this gather? How will it be used?
“The survey will help us capture the current sustainability landscape of businesses within Liverpool City Region, further establish what we are doing well and where there may be further gaps. Using this data, we can look at how we offer support to help bridge those gaps. We hope to repeat the survey annually, to enable us to continually monitor progress in the future.”
Marketing Liverpool is determined to soon become ‘Green Tourism Accredited’. What does this accreditation mean?
“The Green Tourism certification programme recognises the commitment of tourism businesses which are actively working to become more sustainable, with Bronze, Silver and Gold awards, which are acknowledged worldwide as an indicator of good environmentally-friendly practice, and are a great way of progressing on a green journey, as well as acting as a hallmark of ‘green quality’, attracting custom from increasing numbers of eco-minded visitors.
“Green Tourism offer practical advice and lots of support on things like saving energy and changing dated and unsustainable ways of doing things and what we’ve found is that this can actually be much more straightforward than you might think. We want acting responsibly to become second nature to businesses across Liverpool’s Visitor Economy, and becoming a member of Green Tourism is a great first step to getting greener.
Tell me more about the Liverpool City Region Sustainability Task Force. Who’s involved? What initiatives are they developing?
“The task force is made up of key individuals from across the city region, from both the public and private sector, representing all areas of the visitor economy – hotels, venues, attractions and our universities. They currently working together to establish an action plan for the sector and I think this type of partnership working is the future. Even the seismic chance of becoming sustainable is infinitely more possible when you collaborate effectively.”
What are the next steps? How can people and businesses start their own journey towards sustainability?
“The next step for the task force is ‘Global Goals Week’. Working closely with local suppliers has been identified as a priority by Taskforce members. As a result, we are hoping to soon organise a new initiative that will help facilitate this, so watch this space! In terms of starting your own journey, I believe people just need to do something, even if it’s one small thing today, like joining our next webinar.
“A good piece of advice is to not wait until everything is perfect. Be the one to make the change. The very first thing I did was create an internal working group, inviting people from across the business to join and we discussed ideas around how we make Marketing Liverpool and the work we do more sustainable and that was a great start. I’d also recommend completing some training.
“There are also lots of free courses and resources online that can help. Even simply talking to people who are already working in this space can be a great help, as these people already have lots of ideas on the best ways to kick-start your company’s sustainability journey. It’s always just a question of prioritising and keeping things moving along. Here at Marketing Liverpool we ‘roll with the punches’ in terms of the work coming in but having a broad commitment to move this project forward and getting the support we need to do so much easier for us. It’s actually been quite an inspiring project.
In case you missed it, you can watch our first ‘Build Back Greener’ sustainability webinar below.
Register for our latest sustainability webinar on the circular economy, to be held on the 10th July 12.30 – 14.00 BST HERE.