APEC Addresses Greenwashing in Tourism and refers to the importance of GSTC in a new Policy Report

Demand for sustainable tourism has been on the rise, and with it came exaggerated sustainability claims – also known as “greenwashing”. This policy brief addresses the issue by examining the use of environmental certifications to address greenwashing and of accreditation in regulating these certifications. It also attempts to look at the possible role APEC can play in this.

“Certifications vary in terms of quality, contents, criteria and scope, thus causing great confusion among consumers and businesses. Certifications like the Rainforest Alliance and Travelife are of commendable quality as both have global recognition from the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), publish their standards online, and conduct verifications through periodic third-party onsite visits. However, many other certifications do not live up to the same standard.”

“Accreditation plays a crucial role in sorting this confusion by ensuring competency of certification schemes and credibility of standards by certifying the certifiers. It is a process carried out by an authoritative body to certify that a business can conduct its tasks competently. In this case, accrediting a certification provider will allow consumers to trust the quality of the certificate and make an informed and confident purchase decision. To ensure compliance and quality management among the accredited certification programmes, regular monitoring visits and audits are required. An overarching accreditation system will also allow local certificates to be placed in a relatively competitive position against international ones. Businesses can hence improve their green signalling by attaining certifications from accredited providers. This also allows consumers to compare certifications held by different businesses and to identify the credible ones. As a result, consumers can be more confident and better able to recognise legitimate green businesses.”

“The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) was founded in 2007 by the UN World Tourism Organization, UN Environment Programme, Rainforest Alliance and UN Foundation. As an independent NGO, the GSTC plays the role of a global accreditation body for sustainable tourism certification programmes based on the GSTC Criteria and is recognised as a global authority in managing standards for sustainable tourism.”


Read the full policy report by APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation): Recognising Sustainability in Tourism (February, 2019)


GSTC Accredited Certification and their certificate-holders are authorized to display the designated GSTC Logo.