AMEX GBT sees growing demand for sustainable venue certification
The TMC works with GSTC to highlight the benefits of adopting a sustainability accreditation framework in empowering change.
[From left, Vibhav Singh (Amex GBT) and Roi Ariel (GSTC). Photo Credit: ITB Asia]
The value of embracing the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) framework is becoming increasingly evident as meeting planners witness a rising demand for accredited venue certification from their clients.
Roi Ariel, General Manager of GSTC, and Vibhav Singh, Principal Consultant – Commercial Lead at Global Business Consulting, American Express Global Business Travel (AMEX GBT), shared insights into this growing trend.
AMEX GBT, which first joined GSTC around three years ago, was one of the pioneering travel management companies in this domain. Managing hotels for individual clients and those procured globally on behalf of customers, AMEX GBT has already secured GSTC certification for 22% of its total global programme cache of approximately 35,000 hotels. The TMC aims to achieve 25% certification by 2025 and is on track to surpass this goal soon.
When conducting hotel RFPs for clients, AMEX GBT assesses factors such as average carbon footprint, water consumption, and other criteria aligned with the GSTC framework. Singh explained that hotels meeting GSTC-Recognised standards receive a score of 5, while those with GSTC-Accredited standards earn a score of 6.
AMEX GBT employs an Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) index ranging from 1 to 6, with higher scores indicating greater sustainability. The index covers various aspects, including sustainability planning, societal impact, ecosystem conservation, waste and water management, energy conservation, carbon emissions, responsible purchasing, and diversity and inclusion.
Low scores don’t automatically disqualify hotels, as AMEX GBT identifies gaps and highlights a hotel’s strengths to clients. Singh emphasised that these scores are context-dependent; for example, a French hotel might naturally have a lower carbon footprint due to reliance on nuclear energy compared to hotels in India that use fossil fuels.
“My client asked recently why a particular property has a low score and then we were able to dig deeper to give them advice,” said Singh.
Icons on booking tools help clients to identify preferred hotels which meet GSTC sustainability standard. In conversations with hotels and chains, AMEX GBT communicates its goals in sustainability and how this is going to benefit the hotel and chain partners.
“So far, we have received a lot of queries from hotels and chains. Many of them have gone back to GSTC asking for their guidance for which is the right certification for them. It takes time if a hotel decides to get certified, as there could be changes needed in their premises and supply chain and businesses, which today, do not meet the GSTC framework of criteria. But with these changes, maybe one or two years down the line, they will be eligible for certification. This is a gradual process that we are aware of.” said Vibhav Singh, Principal Consultant – Commercial lead, Global Business Consulting, AMEX GBT.
Growing number of certification bodies
When it comes to certification, GSTC will only accredit professional certification bodies. Hence, with an increasing demand for such services, these third-party certification bodies are also increasing in number globally.
Said Ariel: “This is where a lot of certification bodies are opening themselves to external review for organisations to see how they certify.” Among the well-known players are Control Union and Bureau Veritas.