Become Certified as a Sustainable Accommodations
Increasingly, travelers and fellow travel provider clients are seeking confirmation that sustainability practices are in place.
According to Booking.com’s 2019 Sustainable Travel Report, 70% 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 (72%) of global travelers say that they are not aware of the existence of eco-labels for vacation accommodations, while well over a third (37%) of affirm that an international standard for identifying eco-friendly accommodation would help encourage them to travel more sustainably, and 62% would feel better about staying in an accommodation if they knew it had an eco-label.
Being certified by a GSTC Accredited Certification Body means that your tourism product or service complies with the highest social and environmental standards on the market. As public concern grows about the harmful effects and the positive impacts of travel and tourism, certification provides you a credible solution to complex environmental and social issues.
Travel providers should proudly display information regarding their certificate and the certification body that issued it. Doing so informs your stakeholders — from customers to ownership and to your supply chain — that your business is operated with sound management that looks to the future and not merely at today.
Businesses certified by a GSTC-Accredited CB can use the GSTC Chain of Custody logo (CoC) along with the Certification Body’s mark.
How To Become Certified
To become certified, travel and tourism companies and touristic destinations must:
1 – Choose a Certification Body (CB) from the list below — these are organizations that GSTC has accredited based on the quality of their certification process
2 – After working with a CB towards achieving full GSTC requirements compliance, your operation will receive its Certification by GSTC-Accredited CB.
The Certification Bodies listed below have gone through GSTC Accreditation to certify hotels as sustainable. As such, these certifying bodies and their certificate-holders are authorized to display the designated GSTC Logo (upon completion of a licensing agreement with the GSTC).
To be clear: GSTC does NOT certify anything. GSTC provides accreditation to Certification Bodies. Certification and accreditation are different things.
GSTC-Accredited Certification Bodies for Hotels/Accommodations
Control Union Certifications offers a global one-stop-shop for a wide range of certification programmes. We understand the importance of impartiality and objectivity, and how to professionally manage conflicts of interest. From the beginning, sustainability has been the main focus of our certification services. Control Union Certifications presents a wide range of programmes in 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 provides the highest level in terms of credibility within the GSTC Integrity program. This means that Control Union Certifications can certify hotels and tour operators directly against the GSTC Criteria.
Vireo Srl is a certification company whose commercial activities consist of providing Italian and foreign companies with environmental certification services. Vireo provides worldwide recognized environmental certification schemes such as FSC, MSC, and GSTC – as a GSTC-Accredited certification body. The professional approach and deep knowledge of standards are the key elements that mark Viero’s services. Based in Padova, Italy, Vireo has international experience and works with professional and highly qualified auditors.
Another option is to seek certification to a GSTC-Recognized Standard
These are sustainable tourism standards that adhere to and are equivalent to the GSTC Criteria. This means that the GSTC Criteria are included within the set of standards owned by a Certification Body or a local, national, or specialized tourism organization.
GSTC-Recognized means that a sustainable tourism standard has been reviewed by GSTC technical experts and the GSTC Assurance Panel, and deemed equivalent to the GSTC Criteria for sustainable tourism and is administered by a standard owner that meets GSTC requirements. This means that the GSTC has verified that the standard aligns with the GSTC Criteria and that any additional clauses do not contradict GSTC Criteria requirements. GSTC Recognition does not ensure that the certification process is reliable, only that the set of standards used to certify includes the minimum elements to ensure sustainability. A Certifying Body that utilizes a GSTC-Recognized standard may apply for GSTC-Accreditation which relates to the quality and neutrality of their certification process.
The following standards have been Recognized as aligned with the GSTC Industry Criteria for Hotels and Accommodations
- This is a list of standards. GSTC has NOT analyzed the quality of the process of certification of these standards except those that have been accredited by GSTC: Accredited CBs for Accommodations; Accredited CBs for Tour Operators.
- GSTC does NOT certify directly. The GSTC Criteria appear in this list to clarify the point that Certification Bodies that gain accreditation have the option to certify by using their own GSTC-Recognized standard or by using the GSTC Criteria.
The Actively Green standard is the core component used in the Actively Green Sustainable Business Training and Certification Program. It was launched as an innovative legacy initiative of the 2015 FIS Alpine World Ski Championships in Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado, USA through a partnership with Sustainable Travel International and Town of Vail. Another component of the Program is the Mountain IDEAL destination standard for mountain resort communities.
Adventure Green Alaska Standards
Adventure Green Alaska began in 2007 as a statewide effort to grow sustainable tourism in Alaska and promote model businesses practicing economic, environmental and social sustainability. It is Alaska’s only sustainable tourism certification program and was created entirely by volunteers. The program came under the Alaska Travel Industry Association in 2015, whose goal was to grow the program in Alaska and increase the programs credibility through the development of a new level of standards, AGA Summit, that meet the GSTC Criteria for tour operators and accommodations.
Austrian Ecolabel for Tourism
The Austrian Ecolabel for Tourism and Leisure-time Industry was the first national eco-label for tourism worldwide. It was implemented in 1996 by the Austrian Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism. Almost all types of tourism businesses can be awarded for their commitment in the fields of environmentally friendly management and social responsibility through independent third-party audits on site. The Ecolabel for tourist accommodation covers businesses of any size fulfilling an advanced set of criteria developed and regularly updated in a comprehensive stakeholder process involving tourism as well as environmental experts.
Biosphere Responsible Tourism (ITR)
Biosphere Tourism is a standard by the Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI), an international organization that promotes, for more than 20 years, responsible tourism at an international level. For this, it has a Memorandum of Understanding with UNESCO, is a member of the UNWTO and promotes sustainable tourism on all fronts. 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.
Chile Sistema de Distinción en Turismo Sustentable (SERNATUR)
The Chilean national system for distinction of sustainable tourism recognize the efforts of tourist accommodation that have progressed in any field of sustainability, differentiating its members over their competitors while ensuring visitors each organization’s commitment to sustainability.
EarthCheck Company Standard
EarthCheck is used by travel and tourism organisations around the world, to validate their carbon claims and guide their sustainability initiatives. It is the largest environmental benchmarking, certification and management solution in use by this industry and the leading program in-market.
EarthCheck Evaluate Standard
EarthCheck Evaluate assesses an operator’s economic, social and environmental impact. The program is the product of 15 years of market research and experience through EarthCheck’s flagship program, EarthCheck Certified, which has helped clients across 70 countries realize more than $500 million in savings. EarthCheck Evaluate uses internationally recognized criteria to report on management performance covering a wide range of areas including environment, risk and quality management.
The Eco-certification is the national scheme for ensuring the environmental, socioeconomic, and cultural sustainability of hotels and farmhouses on the Maltese Islands. The scheme was launched by the Malta Tourism Authority in 2002 and today represents over 16% of hotel accommodation covering 5-star, 4-star and 3-star categories. The criteria were last revised in June 2012 to be in line with the GSTC criteria making the shift from an environmental scheme to a sustainability scheme. Third party audits are carried out every two years to ensure that the hotels are meeting the requirements of the scheme.
Ecotourism Australia’s ecotourism standard & advanced ecotourism standard
Ecotourism Australia was formed in 1991 as an incorporated non-profit organisation, and is the peak national body for the ecotourism industry. The organisation has a diverse membership that includes key industry sectors and including ecotourism accommodation, tour and attraction operators; tourism planners; protected area managers, and other government agencies; academics and students; tourism, environmental, interpretation and training consultants; local and regional tourism associations and travellers.
Ecotourism Ireland Certification
Ecotourism Ireland is an organisation set up to stimulate the development of ecotourism countrywide. To achieve these ends we have facilitated the development of an ecotourism quality label that we hope will stimulate the development of new ecotourism experiences in Ireland and at the same time defend the ethical values of existing ecotourism operators. In addition the label has been designed to guide visitors travel choices and help them to choose promoters of ecotourism products and the experiences they have on offer.
Ecotourism Kenya Eco-rating Certification
The Ecotourism Kenya Eco-rating Certification Scheme is designed to certify as sustainable accommodations of various types throughout Kenya. This is part of Ecotourism Kenya’s efforts to make nature- and wildlife-based tourism more and more sustainable by applying localized standards that adhere to the universal principles included within the GSTC Criteria.
European Ecotourism Labeling Standard (EETLS)
The European Ecotourism Knowledge Network (ECOLNET) is a 3-year project (2010-2013) co-financed by the European Commission, Lifelong Learning Programme, Transversal Programmes, Key Activity 3 – ICT Networks. ECOLNET has a dual aim: a) to create an Ecotourism network to bring together a variety of stakeholders and b) to develop innovative evaluation tools and learning products for sharing knowledge among the network and facilitating quality certification through the European Ecotourism Labelling Standard (EETLS).
Global Ecosphere Retreats (GER)
The Long Run connects and supports a global community of like-minded organisations and nature-based tourism businesses leading the sustainability movement. It is focussed on businesses that own or significantly support and influence landscapes and marine-scapes of conservation value with a mission to achieve sustainability through the holistic balance of conservation, community, culture and commerce (the 4Cs), guided by the Global Ecosphere Retreats® (GER) standard.
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 takes executives and entrepreneurs on a path to be more successful in their business while being responsible with employees and their families, the community, the cultural heritage and traditions including the environment.
Green Globe provides certification, training & education, and marketing services in over 90 countries worldwide. Based in Los Angeles, California and with representations in Latin & South America, Middle East, the Caribbean, Europe and Asia, Green Globe provides certification for the sustainable operations and management of travel and tourism companies and their related supplier businesses. Separate standards are offered for Hotels/Resorts, Attractions, Organizations, Cruise Ships, Businesses (outside tourism) and Suppliers for the tourism industry. Green Globe also maintains a global network of independent auditors who provide third party inspection and validation. The Green Globe Certification Standard has been developed and improved over the past 25 years and is internationally recognized. Green Globe offers a platform for auditing and consulting companies to expand their business and to be part of an internal company.
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 – Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE)
Green Key is a programme for accommodations and tourism facilities. It is managed by the charity, Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). FEE also runs the Blue Flag programme for beaches, marinas and eco-tourism boats. Green Key criteria fall into two major groups: environmental management (energy, water, waste, cleaning, etc.) and sustainability education of staff, guests and suppliers. Compliance with imperative and an increasing number of guideline criteria are required. Rigorous onsite audits are part of the evaluation process. Green Key was founded in 1994. Today it is a leading label with 2,350+ awarded establishments in 50+ countries. FEE has national operators in 40+ countries of managing the Programme nationally. Green Key represents the positive and successful collaboration between the civil society and the hospitality/tourism sector in joint efforts towards implementing sound sustainability management.
Green Key Eco-Rating
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. In support of this, 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.
Green Star Hotel Certificate
The Green Star Hotel Certificate for tourist’s accommodation businesses is awarded to tourist accommodations in Egypt for their commitment in the field of environmentally friendly management and social responsibility. The Green Star Hotel Certification Programme is a national certification and capacity building programme under the patronage of the Egyptian Ministry of Tourism. It has been developed as a public private project between the key stakeholders from the German and Egyptian tourism market , the Egyptian tourism authorities and the German International Cooperation to enhance the quality and environmental awareness and raise the competiveness and environmental performance of the Egyptian tourist accommodation industry. By starting with the key sector in the Egyptian tourism industry, the hotel sector, a first step is taken to move the whole tourism sector towards more sustainability. On the long run, other sectors such as cruise ships and diving should follow.
Green Tourism Active
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 focusses 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 organisations and hostels. In line with its internationally adopted sustainability charter, HI has developed HI-Q&S (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; maximise social and economic benefits to the local community, cultural heritage and environment and minimise negative impacts; conserve biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes. The HI-Q&S standards engage hostellers in a viable, equitable and bearable way of travelling that supports HI’s values of authenticity, inclusivity, learning and understanding and sustainability.
Hoteles más Verdes (AHT)
Hoteles más Verdes (“Greener Hotels”) is the Sustainability Certification Program of the Asociación de Hoteles de Turismo de Argentina (AHT) that promotes the adoption of sustainable tourism good practices in the hospitality industry since 2010.The program certifies with the Eco-label “Hoteles más Verdes” those hotel companies that prove by auditing good practices of ethical, environmental and socially responsible management with its stakeholders and the host community of the destinations of Argentina.
Mauritian Standard on Sustainable Tourism
The Mauritian Standard on Sustainable Tourism (MS 165:2019) was developed to guide the sustainable development of the tourism industry in Mauritius.The focus of the Sustainability Tourism Standard is to address requirements of the environmental impacts and its effect on land, air, water and other organism and ecosystem of the island. The social-cultural impacts that affect local communities, social structure and cultures as well as economic impacts categorised as direct, indirect or induced. These requirements to be measured, monitored and evaluated for continual improvement of the sustainability of the tourism industry in Mauritius.
NEPCon Sustainable Tourism Standard for Accommodation
The NEPCon Sustainable Tourism Certification for Accommodations is an international scheme owned and managed by Nature, Economy and People Connected (NEPCon), a global non-profit, mission-driven organization that works for sustainable land use and climate friendly solutions in over 100 countries around the world. It recognizes the sustainability efforts of accommodations who are committed to responsible practices in the travel sector. This NEPCon Sustainable Tourism Certification scheme is designed around the principles of sustainable development, addressing key environmental, social, cultural and economic topics; is based on an improved and innovative standard for accommodations (recognized by GSTC) and third-party auditing systems (previously managed by Rainforest Alliance). NEPCon seeks to influence positive and tangible impacts for the environment, the local people and the global travel community and actively contribute to the travel industry efforts in achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label (SSTL)
The Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Label which is a certification programme aims to enhance the quality and sustainability of visitors’ experiences by mitigating tourism’s negative economic, environmental and social impacts on the destination and contributing to the preservation of natural and cultural treasures for the future generations of Seychelles.
TOFTigers Initiative’s Pug mark Eco Certification
The India & South Asian based nature tourism focused organisation, TOFTigers has its PUG Eco- rating certification recognised as a part of its attempts to help use the booming market in nature tourism across India and South Asia as a tool for conservation of forest and wildlife, including tigers. Alongside over 220 of the world’s best known tour operators, agents and lodge members, its promotes a purchasing supply chain campaign to promote better tourism, better training and better monitoring and advises Governments, States, parks, providers and visitors on best practice in nature tourism, to ensure a fair and equitable future for nature, visitors and bordering park communities.
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.
The GSTC Criteria serve as the basis for determining whether other standards are “GSTC Recognized”. That means that by definition the GSTC Criteria can be considered “Recognized.” It also means that any Certification Body that uses the GSTC Criteria for their certification program is using a GSTC Recognized standard. Please note that GSTC Accredited means that a Certification Body uses the GSTC Criteria or another GSTC-Recognized set of standards to certify, AND has undergone a rigorous verification process by the GSTC to verify that their certification program is neutral and competent.