FAQ: Recognition, Approval & Accreditation

FAQ: GSTC Recognition & Approval

What is “GSTC-Recognition”?

  • Recognition by the GSTC means evaluating a written, published sustainable tourism standard to ensure that it contains all of the elements of the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC Criteria). We call this being aligned with or equivalent to the GSTC Criteria. The standard can contain more criteria and should reflect local conditions and the industry sector of its scope, but it cannot contain less.

What is “GSTC-Approval”?

  • Approval applies to sustainable tourism certification programs that use a GSTC-Recognized standard and that follow internationally accepted procedures for third-party certification. The businesses, activities, and destinations that have been certified by an Approved organization are also Approved and can use the GSTC name and logo for marketing and promotion.

What is the difference between Recognition and Approval?

  • The GSTC will “Recognize” standards that are fully aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. Because this says nothing about how the standard is verified in the field, an additional process called “Approval” is required to ensure that certified businesses, activities, and destinations comply with the standard and that the certification program complies with good practice in third-party certification.

Who can apply for Recognition?

  • The owner or developer of any formal sustainable tourism standard that is applied in more than one site can apply for recognition that it is aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC Criteria). The standard can be a certification or verification standard, a national or international standard within the ISO system, a private standard developed by a hotel chain or tour operator, or a destination standard applied to multiple businesses and activities. A standard for use within a single hotel, resort or tour is not eligible.

Who can apply for Approval?

  • Any third-party certification program that uses a GSTC-Recognized standard can apply for Approval of its certification procedures and processes. At present, first and second-party conformity assessment programs are not eligible, but the GSTC will follow ISO practices in this respect as they evolve.

Can an environmental management standard be GSTC-Recognized?

  • To be Recognized by the GSTC, a standard should contain performance-based criteria based on the triple bottom-line: economic, sociocultural, and environmental. The standard must have at least one criterion that matches each of the 37 Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC Criteria). Because a simple environmental management standard only considers the environmental section of the GSTC Criteria and generally does not contain performance-based criteria, it cannot be GSTC-Recognized.

Must the criteria of the standard that correspond to the GSTC Criteria be mandatory?

  • A standard can be recognized, even if the criteria are not mandatory. However, for the certification program to be GSTC-Approved and use the GSTC logo and name, the criteria that match each GSTC Criterion must be mandatory, and the program must demonstrate that all certified businesses and activities comply with all the GSTC Criteria.

What if specific GSTC Criteria are not applicable?

  • In some cases, a specific GSTC Criterion might not be applicable, given the scope of the standard and its location. For example, a standard with a scope of urban hotels in Paris would not need to require a code of conduct for indigenous communities. However a standard with a scope of all Europe would need to do so. Another example is that some criteria for lodging establishments might not be applicable for a standard whose scope is specific guided tours.

What if specific GSTC criteria are well fulfilled through legislation and practice in the territory where the standard is used?

  • Standards that are used in more than one country must have criteria that match each GSTC Criterion. However standards that are used in only one country or a smaller region may be able to demonstrate with convincing evidence that (a) the criterion is covered by legislation, (b) the specific laws must be identified, (c) the laws are enforced, and (d) the standard or the auditors’ verification manual requires demonstrated compliance with applicable laws.

What is the cost for a “GSTC-Recognition” assessment of a standard?

  • The cost is $5000 United States dollars ($4000 for GSTC members), which covers the cost of the review of the standard by the staff of the GSTC Secretariat and Accreditation Panel. 

What is the cost for a “GSTC-Approval” assessment of a certification program?

  • The cost is $8000 United States dollars ($7000 for GSTC members) which covers the cost of the review of the certification program’s procedures and processes by the staff of the GSTC Secretariat and Accreditation Panel. To apply for Approval, the certification program must use a GSTC-Recognized standard. The GSTC reserves the right to conduct site visits under some circumstances at the Certification Program's expense.

Who can use the GSTC logo?

  • The GTSC name and logo can and should be used by a certification program that is Approved or Accredited. All the hotels, tour operators, and destinations that they have certified to a GSTC-Recognized standard should also use the GSTC-Approved logo for promotion. Other benefits include participating in the GSTC’s market access program. The logo cannot be used with a GSTC-Recognized standard if the certification program has not been Approved or Accredited.

How long does it take to achieve GSTC-Recognition of a standard and GSTC-Approval of a certification program?

  • It will take no more than three months from the time that the complete application and materials are received to a formal response of acceptance or rejection. If the standard or program does not comply with GSTC requirements, the Secretariat will request additional information during this period. A completed application does not guarantee Recognition or Approval.

How long is the Recognition period for a standard?

  • The Recognition of a standard is permanent, until either the recognized standard changes or the GSTC Criteria change. The second version of the GSTC Criteria will be published in early 2012, and standards will have two years to make any necessary changes. The following revision of the GSTC Criteria is scheduled for 2017.  Recognized standard owners are required to notify the GSTC of any changes to the standard.

How long is the Approval period for a certification program?  

  • GSTC-Approval of a certification program’s procedures and processes will be valid through December 31, 2014, provided that no complaints are received by the GSTC and the results of any site audits are positive. Starting in 2015, certification programs must be accredited by a GSTC-endorsed accreditation body.
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