Certification for tourism businesses
Not all eco-certifications are equal: How to spot the champions and the charlatans
Travellers are increasingly seeking out locations that protect the environment, support local economies and promote social equity. But there has also been an increase in greenwashing, with businesses irresponsibly using terms like ‘organic’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘carbon-neutral, ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ in their marketing.
And since there are no regulations against greenwashing (yet) and no globally accepted standards to prevent it, it’s becoming increasingly difficult for environmentally and socially conscious travellers to identify the champions and the charlatans.
So, to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability to their stakeholders, many tourism and hospitality businesses are turning to certification to back up their green claims.
What is certification in tourism?
Certification in tourism and hospitality involves evaluating and certifying a property’s sustainability performance based on a set of predefined criteria or standards.
These include things like energy and water consumption, waste management practices, community engagement, biodiversity conservation and local sourcing.
Getting certified is not only a way to help conscious travellers make responsible choices, but it also encourages properties to adopt more eco-friendly practices in their operations if they want to keep their certification.
Other benefits of eco-certification include:
Beware the fly-by-night certifier
It’s clear why more and more tourism businesses are opting to have their sustainability initiatives certified. But because certification has become such a sought-after concept among travellers, there’s been an explosion in organisations that offer certifications, making it difficult to know which ones to trust.
In fact, there are over 200 awards, certifications and ‘stamps of approval’ across the world that businesses use to “prove” that they are sustainable, but as with most things, not all certifications are made equal.
So, how do you know which ones to trust? Which are legit and which are just greenwashing?
Your best bet is to check whether the certifying body is recognised by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), which sets the global standard for such accreditations.
Currently, the GSTC only recognises 43 standards, and only six certification bodies have been accredited: Bureau Veritas, Control Union, UCSL, Vireo, EarthCheck and Green Destinations.
These organisations will certify a property across four broad categories:
- Sustainable management,
- Socioeconomic benefits to local communities,
- Cultural heritage protection and
- Environmental sustainability.
Common threads in these categories include having robust monitoring and reporting systems, supporting local businesses, protecting sensitive environments and managing tourists’ interaction with wildlife.
For over a decade, Preferred by Nature’s tourism Standard for Sustainable Travel Activities has helped tourism businesses to address sustainability challenges. The standard was recently updated and redesigned to align with Preferred by Nature Sustainability Framework while maintaining its alignment with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) Criteria.
B Corp certification is among the most common and transparent ways to measure a company’s social and environmental impact. When applying for B Corp certification, a company undergoes stringent testing to prove that it practises good business and is taking steps to be a force for social and environmental good.
Read the Weeva hub article on B Corp for background on the organisation.
How to get certified
Once you’ve engaged an accredited certification body, your business will undergo a thorough assessment, which can include on-site audits, documentation reviews and stakeholder engagement.
Through this process, you’ll identify areas for improvement and measures you can implement to reduce your impact, improve social responsibility and support local communities.
Once the assessment is complete, you’ll be given a rating based on your sustainability performance, from basic to advanced.
Getting certified is easier when using the Weeva sustainability management platform. From a single solution, you can learn about, measure and improve your impact with step-by-step guides, dashboards and trackers, giving you all the information you need to apply for certification. Start your free trial today.