Danish City of Aalborg Takes a Giant Leap
Forward on the Global Destination Sustainability Index

July 23, 2020

Musikkens Hus (The House of Music)

IMAGE: Vibeke Tvilling Aaen


In the latest Global Destination Sustainability Index (GDS-Index), Aalborg—Capital of North Denmark—jumped to fifth place on the prestigious top 20 list. The ranking is the result of a joint effort to develop the city within the context of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


Aalborg, situated in the northernmost part of Denmark, is a city with a working culture born out of coal and steel as well as strong maritime and industrial traditions. Through the years, the city has evolved from an industrial town to a global innovation centre for modern and creative businesses—and simultaneously, a charming city with a rich culture, world-class architecture and unique experiences, which has been named the Happiest City in Europe on more than one occasion.


The ambition in Aalborg is to practise and promote social, economic and environmental sustainability, which includes working towards the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals. This has resulted in international recognition of the city’s sustainability achievements and its ranking in the top five in the worldwide GDS-Index 2019.


The northern Danish city was ranked fifth-best in the category ‘Leadership in Sustainability’ and third-best in the ‘Best Improver’ category, due to Aalborg’s impressive 15-rank jump all the way to the top of the latest GDS-Index.


“Aalborg is a shining example of a smart destination, where the city’s tourism organisation, municipality and supply chain are working together to create a better place to visit, meet and live in. In a short time they have catalysed stakeholder engagement, and laid plans for a better, more regenerative and inclusive future. Most importantly, they are already educating the value chain, sharing best practices and driving certification within the destination. Their performance improvement is highlighted by their jump into the fifth place of the GDS-Index,” says Guy Bigwood, who is the Managing Director of the Global Destination Sustainability Index.



IMAGE: VisitAalborg

Cooperation Across Business Fields


Following its transformation to a global city of knowledge and industry—and its investments in sustainability and digitalisation, combined with willpower and cooperation—Aalborg is now a city with an intense focus on green energy, circular economy, environmental construction, green mobility, social responsibility and sustainable business models. Aalborg is also home to some of the world’s leading energy and ICT scientists as well as world-leading companies in advanced technology such as wind energy, the utilities sector and industrial development.


In Aalborg, the city collectively works together on promoting the green transition. A wide variety of players in the city are taking sustainable responsibility and supporting each other in making a difference. For instance, a partnership involving several of the most prominent players in the city, including Aalborg Municipality, Aalborg Supply, Port of Aalborg, Danish Industry Aalborg and Aalborg University, has recently decided to establish a cooperation platform named Green Hub Denmark. The aim of the initiative is to promote the creation of new jobs and civic green transition through development, tests and application of sustainable technologies across utilities, businesses and consumers.


“Collaborating across different fields of business really suits Aalborg. As a port, we attend to the needs of tourists, businesses and the entire city in general, so we are obviously very interested in making sure that visitors in Aalborg have a great experience,” says Claus Holstein, CEO of the Port of Aalborg.



IMAGE: VisitAalborg

Focus on Development and Sustainability


As a member of the GDS-Index, VisitAalborg, in collaboration with Center for Green Transition, annually reports Aalborg’s collective achievements based on specific questions within several selected fields. The city’s performance is thus dependent on joint efforts, for instance via Green Hub Denmark, in order to maintain Aalborg’s status as a sustainable destination.


In recent years, Aalborg has established itself as a frontrunner in the implementation of sustainable initiatives, which implies that green initiatives are always the starting point—not optional. This means that Aalborg is probably the easiest place to be sustainable in the world, and so the city must remain: “In Aalborg, we can be proud of our development as a city and our high ambition to be part of the leading destinations in Europe, driven by green business and city development as well as partnerships and communities. With the high ranking on the GDS-Index, Aalborg now receives the recognition it deserves,” says Anja Mathiasen, Interim CEO of VisitAalborg.


“However, such a ranking comes with an obligation, and it is thus crucial that we successfully maintain this development while at the same time dare to aim even higher and set new goals. Our ambition in the immediate future is to achieve a Green Tourism Organization Certificate, which is awarded to tourist organisations that excel in sustainable and responsible tourism, and concurrently stay focused on developing the city within UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.”




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