How to be certified as a sustainable accommodation provider

How to be certified as a sustainable accommodation provider

According to’s 2019 Sustainable Travel Report, 70 percent of global travelers say they would be more likely to book an accommodation knowing it was eco-friendly, whether they were looking for a sustainable stay or not. 

However, when it comes to recognizing a sustainable place to stay, almost three quarters of global travelers say that they are not aware of the existence of eco-labels for vacation accommodations, while well over a third affirm that an international standard for identifying eco-friendly accommodation would help encourage them to travel more sustainably, and 62 percent would feel better about staying in an accommodation if they knew it had an eco-label.

Sustainability certification (what some call eco-label) is a voluntary, third-party assessment, through an audit, of an accommodation for conformity to a sustainable tourism standard. 

Certified sustainable hotels should display information regarding their certificate and the certification body that issued it. 

How To Become Certified

Hotels and accommodations that wish to become certified as sustainable hotels or sustainable accommodations should follow these steps:

1 – Choose a Certification Body (CB).

2 – Achieve full requirements compliance, your operation will receive its Certification by a Global Sustainable Tourism Council-Accredited CB.

The Certification Bodies listed below have gone through GSTC Accreditation to certify hotels as sustainable. 

Bureau Veritas: A world leader in testing, inspection and certification services. Since its creation in 1828, Bureau Veritas has been supporting its clients on every continent to continually improve their performance via certification of management systems, product certifications and customized audits. 

Control Union: Offers a global one-stop-shop for a wide range of certification programs, including agriculture, food, feed, forest products, textiles and bio energy. In 2016, Control Union Certifications became the first Accredited CAB for the GSTC Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators, which provide the highest level in terms of credibility within the GSTC Integrity program. 

United Certification Systems Limited: An independent international certification body registered in Cyprus and operating in Eastern and Western Europe, Russia, Middle East, India and China. UCSL currently provides tourism (GSTC), marine (ASC, MSC) and Global Sustainable Enterprise System (GSES) certification services and develops its involvement in other spheres such as biofuel, water and metals. 

Seek certification for a GSTC-Recognized Standard

There are many sustainable tourism standards out there that hotels can consult for recognition. The following sustainable tourism standards are GSTC-Recognized Standards. 

Biosphere Responsible Tourism Standard
Biosphere Tourism is a standard by the Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI), an international organization that has been promoting responsible tourism for more than 20 years. Through the Biosphere brand, the RTI promotes Sustainable Development by measuring the contribution of tourism to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations and the indications of the Paris Agreement against Climate Change.

EarthCheck Company Standard
The purpose of the EarthCheck Company Standard is to provide organizations with a framework for environmental and social sustainability. This Standard includes requirements specific to other management systems, such as quality, environment, occupational health and safety, risk management and corporate social reporting. The Standard ensures a high level of alignment to ISO14001, ISO50001, ISO26000, ISO9001, the GRI, the HCMI, the SDGs, and the GSTC Criteria.

Global Ecosphere Retreats (GER)
The Long Run’s Global Ecosphere Retreats (GER) standard covers conservation, community, culture and commerce aspects of sustainability in tourism with equal weight. The standard is a vehicle to support nature-based tourism businesses’ in their journey of continuous improvement.

GREAT Green Deal Certification
The GREAT Green Deal Sustainable Certification Program (GGD) represents a way of doing business while taking care of all stakeholders involved in the tourism operations. The GGD standard has more than 400 indicators that provide hotel and tour operators a map that take executives and entrepreneurs on a path to be more successful in their business while being responsible.

Green Globe
The Green Globe Standard has been developed and improved over the past 25 years and includes 44 core criteria supported by over 380 compliance indicators. The applicable indicators vary by type of certification, geographical area as well as local factors. Green Globe is active in harmonizing with other established sustainability certification programs around the world. The Green Globe Standard is based on the following international standards and agreements: GSTC Criteria; Baseline Criteria of the Sustainable Tourism Certification Network of the Americas; Agenda 21; ISO 9001 / 14001 / 19011.

Green Growth 2050
Green Growth 2050 has been developed to meet the needs of tourism and travel businesses seeking today’s solutions to the issues driving social, cultural and environmental change. The Green Growth 2050 Global Standard and Sustainability Reporting Framework is an international online solution designed to allow travel and tourism organisations to assess the overall sustainability and CSR performance of their existing individual properties and portfolios.

Green Key Criteria by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE)
The Green Key award is a leading standard for excellence in the field of environmental responsibility and sustainable operation within the tourism industry. This eco-label represents a commitment by businesses that their premises adhere to the strict criteria set by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). Green Key is a voluntary eco-label awarded to more than 3,200 hotels and other establishments in 65 countries

Green Key Eco-Rating by Green Key Global
Green Key Global is a leading international environmental certification body offering a suite of sustainability programs designed specifically for the lodging industry. For more than 20 years its flagship program, the Green Key Eco-Rating Program, has been evaluating, auditing and certifying lodging properties based on their commitment to sustainable operations. Green Key Global also works diligently to educate members on the value these initiatives have on an environmental, social, cultural and economic level. An affordable, comprehensive assessment for independent and branded properties of all sizes, the Green Key Program strives to inspire and complement ongoing CSR activities of its members.

GreenStep Sustainable Tourism Standard
GreenStep’s Sustainable Tourism standard is part of their broader Sustainable Tourism 2030 initiative, which provides programs and services for destinations, tourism businesses, and accommodation providers. The standard enables tourism businesses and accommodations to measure their sustainability performance in several key categories; management, social, economic, natural, cultural, and environmental. To become certified, businesses must receive a virtual assessment, submit evidence, and attain a minimum score.

Green Tourism Active Standard
Green Tourism Active (GT-Active) is a global sustainability assessment and certification organisation. The GTA certification programs offer a forward thinking and leading global standard with in-depth focus on environmental, socio-economic, cultural and conservation performance and compliance in accordance with rigorous GSTC criteria and leading international developments. GTA focuses on sustainable travel and tourism partners and destinations.

Hostelling International’s Quality and Sustainability Standard
Hostelling International, and its member associations commit to intensifying their efforts to achieve a worldwide network of sustainable organizations and hostels. HI has developed Hostelling International Quality & Sustainability, a label that stands for a commitment to provide an experience of high quality, with a positive effect on local economy, communities and the environment. The accreditation is based on assessment criteria aiming to: demonstrate effective sustainable management; maximize social and economic benefits to the local community, cultural heritage and environment and minimize negative impacts; conserve biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes.

Travelife Standard for Hotels & Accommodations
The Travelife for Hotels & Accommodations international certification scheme works with its members to increase their sustainability. The Travelife criteria cover environmental, social and economic business impacts, and a hotel’s success in meeting these criteria is assessed by independent auditors. Hotels meeting the Travelife standard can promote their business with the Travelife ‘Gold’ and ‘Award of Excellence’ certification marks, helping consumers easily identify more sustainable accommodation.

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