|2021 marks the eighth IAGTO Sustainability Awards in partnership with GEO Foundation, and you can read all about it in GEO’s press release and on our IAGTO Awards site.
Here I just thought that I would give my personal reflection on IAGTO’s sustainability journey so far. I believe it was just over a decade ago when I was asked to speak on behalf of golf tourism on the issue of sustainability at a public conference on the issue. I conducted a quick survey of our golf course members and was blown away by how many interesting, yet largely untold, stories they had to tell on sustainability in all its guises, but particularly in protecting nature.
In the process of doing so I came across many different excellent sustainability organizations working with golf courses and I realized that we needed to find the right one to partner with. As a former zoologist I relished this challenge and soon it became abundantly clear that there was only one contender, and in 2012 we announced GEO Foundation as IAGTO’s partner in sustainability.
The Chief Executive of GEO, Jonathan Smith, and I were in agreement that we needed to give the tools to golf courses in golf destinations to both assess where they stood in nature protection, resource efficiency and community engagement, and then to improve those conditions every year, year on year. We agreed that it was essential to remove all obstacles to entry into this sustainability journey in order to ensure that every golf course could play its part.
We were methodical and two years later, in 2014, we staged our first IAGTO Sustainability Awards, with the dual objectives of rewarding the best efforts in sustainability and, just as importantly, showcasing best practices in order to encourage and inform others. We already had the high profile platform of the IAGTO ‘Golf Tourism’ Awards and so this took off at a canter!
Over the intervening years more than 300 IAGTO member golf courses have engaged with GEO to systematically advance their sustainability programs each year, and there have been some quite extraordinary award winners along the way.
Only last month the COP26 climate conference took place in Glasgow, focusing the world’s attention once more on the journey to net zero. GEO had already proposed to add a Climate Action award to the three pillars of Nature, Resources and Community and the announcement of Carnoustie Golf Links as the first recipient of this Award today was another milestone for us.
There is so much more to do, and we’re on the clock, but IAGTO member golf courses are making a significant contribution and we would like to see this accelerate over the coming years and expand beyond the golf facilities themselves.