One Planet Sustainable Tourism Programme 2019 Annual Magazine

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Using Standards to Scale Sustainability in Tourism

There are countless standards and certification schemes for sustainable tourism in the world. This provides opportunities, but can also create confusion. For this reason, UNEP and UNWTO joined forces with industry leaders and the conservation community. Together, they created the GSTC as a Council and the GSTC Criteria (standards) as a means of alleviating this confusion.

The GSTC criteria comply with the codes of the ISEAL Alliance. They were modeled after the example of WWF’s Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which created credible eco-labeling of sustainably produced wood and paper. Similarly to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) that did the same for fish and seafood.

The GSTC Criteria are the most credible global standards for sustainable tourism based on a highly inclusive development process. They provide a holistic definition of sustainability in tourism that is applied to benchmark, measure, train, educate and certify. The criteria are used for eco-labeling for supply chain development based on impartiality and for guidance for effective destination stewardship.

The use of the GSTC Criteria is designed to operate at any scale. It is already applied by SMEs as well as the likes of TUI Group, Hilton Hotels, Transat; plus nationally by ministries of tourism in Indonesia, Japan, Chile, Norway, Botswana, and others.

Those businesses and destinations that use the GSTC framework also influence their stakeholders: destinations encourage accommodations and tour operators to follow the GSTC Criteria; tour operators influence the hotels that they use to follow the GSTC Criteria; hotels influence their product procurement following sustainability practices.

For example, Royal Caribbean Cruiselines and MSC Cruises have implemented preferred contracting of suppliers certified to the GSTC Criteria for working with land tour operators, and it is having dramatic impacts. To get or keep those contracts, the tour operators are altering their business practices to comply with the full GSTC Criteria. This means that they’re not limiting their sustainability focus to just plastics or clean energy, but the full and comprehensive GSTC Criteria.