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Québec City Convention Centre earns Biosphere certification

Facility is first in North America to earn the distinction that follows UN guidelines

The Québec City Convention Centre has earned Biosphere certification. (Courtesy CNW Group/Société du Centre des congrès de Québec)
The Québec City Convention Centre has earned Biosphere certification. (Courtesy Société du Centre des congrès de Québec. Photo by Pascale Rosenthal)

The Québec City Convention Centre (QCCC) has been recognized as a site for sustainable tourism, becoming the first facility of its kind in North America to attain Biosphere certification.

In December 2023, the QCCC earned the certification for meeting the requirements from the Responsible Tourism Institute, a Spain-based non-profit which promotes sustainable tourism.

Biosphere measures how an organization is adhering to the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a company and a destination.

Opened in 1996 and managed by the Quebec government, QCCC is a 600,000-square-foot building that hosts approximately 250 events and attracts more than 200,000 visitors per year.

It holds LEED and BOMA BEST certifications, highlighting its energy efficiency, greenhouse gas emissions mitigation and water use reductions.

“We think that it’s important for customer services that we can offer something different than just building certifications,” Ann Cantin, QCCC’s communications director, told Sustainable Biz Canada.

QCCC’s sustainability steps

Since its opening, QCCC has more than halved its greenhouse gas emissions, reduced its energy consumption by almost 30 per cent and slashed water use by over 70 per cent according to Marc Poirier, the building management director at QCCC.

It made the accomplishments through fine tuning its energy operations via an automated energy control system and energy-efficient lighting, and replacing natural-gas-powered heating equipment with electrical equipment.

Waste was minimized with recycling and composting programs, a sorting system and the distribution of surplus food to charitable organizations.

QCCC earned LEED Gold for commercial interiors, LEED Silver for existing buildings and BOMA BEST Level 3 certifications to validate the sustainability initiatives.

But QCCC’s team wanted to go beyond certifications which focus exclusively on the building and its operations. Cantin said QCCC has the aim of proving its leadership in the global convention business with sustainable services.

Achieving Biosphere certification

Jérémie Hagen-Veilleux was brought on as a consultant to acquire the Biosphere certification, which encompasses a wider scope of activities. Hagen-Veilleux, who also spoke to Sustainable Biz Canada, described Biosphere as the only methodology that works on all the SDGs across 169 targets.

First, QCCC had to demonstrate it is contributing to the 17 SDGs across a “wide variety of activities that are proposed by Biosphere,” Hagen-Veilleux said.

The team could either prove QCCC was implementing the activities or suggest alternatives of its own. But when QCCC team members researched the requirements, they realized many of the key actions were already implemented, such as reducing its energy use, donating food, managing waste and offering sustainable transportation.

Some activities were not counted as sustainable by QCCC, but were allowed on the Biosphere platform, such as the well-being of employees and employee training initiatives. QCCC also recognized it had already taken steps to support those SDG goals, such as organizing an annual sporting event open its employees, holding workshops on healthy habits, and supporting the right to unionize.

Most of the work to earn Biosphere certification did not focus on achieving sustainability, but on data collection and planning, Hagen-Veilleux said.

Biosphere is not only a recognition system, but a management system, he said. It has been “interesting” to implement the management system and broader consideration of sustainability and well-being practices, he added.

Sustainability in QCCC's DNA

With new building technology emerging, Poirier said QCCC’s team wants to verify if the performance can be further upgraded, and address socioeconomic issues as well.

“We want to make sure that sustainable development issues stay in the DNA of the QCCC teams, all the employees, suppliers, and to prove our leadership in the Quebec City region as a promoter of sustainability opportunities and development,” he concluded.

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