Become Certified as a Sustainable Accommodation

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.

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. GSTC does not conduct certification. Certification is conducted by relevant Certification Bodies throughout the world. GSTC accredits those that certify.

Accreditation is a mark of quality that GSTC places on Certification Bodies that choose our independent and neutral process to verify that they certify businesses, in a competent and neutral manner. Some refer to it as ‘certifying the certifiers’.

Learn more about the difference between Certification, Accreditation, and Recognition.

Therefore, being certified by a GSTC Accredited Certification Body means that your accommodation 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.

Certified sustainable hotels should proudly display information regarding their certificate and the certification body that issued it. Doing so informs your stakeholders — from hotel guests to ownership and to your supply chain — that your accommodation is operated with sound management that looks to the future and not merely at today. Those accommodations certified by a GSTC-Accredited Certification Body can use the GSTC logo along with the Certification Body’s mark.

Many owners and buyers of hotel spaces use the GSTC framework and highlight those accommodations certified by GSTC Accredited CBs. Here are a few of them:

  • Hilton: “We continue to identify opportunities to achieve GSTC certification for our hotels to ensure the sustainability of our operations.”
  • TUI Group “encourages all hotels offered to its 27 million customers to obtain certification that meets the GSTC Criteria.”
  • easyJet holidays “is focused on supporting tourism destinations by committing to encouraging 100% of its contracted hotels to achieve certification by a GSTC-Accredited Certification body […] by the end of 2025.”
  • Booking.com is currently highlighting hotels certified by GSTC-Accredited CBs along with other standards that are Recognized by GSTC.

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) 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 clarify: GSTC does NOT certify anything. GSTC provides accreditation to Certification Bodies. Certification and accreditation are different things.

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GSTC-Accredited Certification Bodies for Hotels/Accommodations

Bureau Veritas

Bureau Veritas is 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. The Group has more than 78,000 employees located in more than 1,500 offices and laboratories around the globe. Bureau Veritas helps its clients improve their performance by offering services and innovative solutions, in order to ensure that their assets, products, infrastructure and processes meet standards and regulations in terms of quality, health and safety, environmental protection and social responsibility. Get certified by Bureau Veritas

Control Union

control unionControl 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. Get certified by Control Union

United Certification Systems Limited

UCSL United Certification Systems Limited is 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. The team of certification body involves over 100 professionals with a vast experience in the sustainability sector. UCSL aims to contribute to the environmental well-being of the planet through provision of excellent services to like-minded sustainable businesses. Get certified by UCSL United Certification Systems Limited

Vireo Srl

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. Get certified by Vireo Srl

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Another option is to seek certification to a GSTC-Recognized Standard

There are many sustainable tourism standards out there. The following are sustainable tourism standards are GSTC-Recognized Standards. They 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 Recognition is not a mark like accreditation; rather it is a status GSTC provides to a set of standards that complies with (includes) the GSTC Criteria within their standard. This does NOT relate to the process of certification, nor to accreditation. Why is this important? Because it shows that the set of standards are based on the 4 pillars of the GSTC Criteria: Environment, Social, Cultural, and Management principles. 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. 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.

The following standards have been Recognized as equivalent with the GSTC Industry Criteria for Hotels and Accommodations

NOTE:

  • This is a list of standards. GSTC has NOT analyzed the quality of the process of certification of these standards. except those that are used by GSTC Accredited certification bodies.
  • 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.

Actively Green Standard

The Actively Green standard is the core component used in the Actively Green Sustainable Business Training, Certification and Engagement 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. The program helps businesses incorporate sustainability best practices into their business and contribute to local community climate action initiatives. Another component of the Program is the Mountain IDEAL destination standard for mountain resort communities.

Adventure Green Alaska Standard

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 Standard

Biosphere Tourism is a standard by the Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI), an international organization that has been promoting for more than 20 years responsible tourism at an international level. 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.

Costa Rica Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST) Standard

The Certification for Sustainable Tourism (CST), established by the Costa Rican Tourism Institute in 1997, was created to provide guidelines for hotel properties and service providers to build their business model based on the best sustainable tourism practices – the management and impact of the natural, cultural and social resources of the country. The criteria and indicators that are valued to award certification include: business management; social, cultural and economic management; environmental management; and the management of specific indicators according to category.

Chile Sistema de Distinción en Turismo Sustentable (SERNATUR) Standard

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

The purpose of the EarthCheck Company Standard is to provide organisations 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, and its elements can be integrated with those of other management systems. The Standard ensures a high level of alignment to ISO14001, ISO50001, ISO26000, ISO9001, the GRI, the HCMI, the SDGs, and the GSTC Criteria.

Eco-Certification Malta Standard

The ECO Certification is Malta’s 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. The criteria were updated in 2008, 2012 and again in 2019. The new criteria follow a shift from an environmental scheme to a sustainable scheme covering environmental, social, cultural, economic, quality and health & safety. The main areas covered by the current criteria are: Sustainability management systems; Waste management; Purchasing; Control of chemicals; Energy; Water; Air quality; Noise; Building and green areas; Local culture & national surroundings; and Communication with customers.

Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Certification Standard

Ecotourism Australia’s ECO Certification program has been around since 1996. ECO Certification was created by industry for industry, with collaboration and consultation by academics, industry experts, environmental scientists and tourism operators.

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Ecotourism Kenya Standard

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.

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Global Ecosphere Retreats (GER)

The Long Run’s Global Ecosphere Retreats® (GER) standard covers all 4C (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. Likewise, it is not only about businesses merely mitigating their negative environmental impacts but about positively impacting the well-being of the planet and the people.

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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

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. The entire Green Globe Standard is reviewed and updated twice per calendar year. Green Globe is active in harmonizing with other established sustainability certification programs around the world. The process of harmonization contributes to maintaining core criteria and at the same time addresses regional issues through the adoption of locally developed standards. 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.

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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 prestigious eco-label represents a commitment by businesses that their premises adhere to the strict criteria set by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). A Green Key stands for the promise to its guests that by opting to stay with the Green Key establishment, they are helping to make a difference on an environmental level. 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. 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 Standard

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.

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 Sustainable Tourism 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.