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    Eco-certification for Tourism – The Role of Green Globe, Part I

    By Keith R | September 10, 2006

    Topics: Corporate Social Responsibility, Environmental Protection, Sustainable Tourism | No Comments »

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    In my friend Jaime’s essay on sustainable tourism, he said:

    It is necessary to change, tighten and to enforce the parameters of environmental requirements. In addition to sanctions, the creation of an environmental movement should be encouraged, in association with private international organizations like Green Globe or Blue Flag that conduct independent audits and establish regional classifications, categories and awards for hotels that comply with the norms.

    In this four-part Temas blog entry, I want to examine one of the two private certification organizations he mentioned and its current and prospective activities among the nations of Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). In an upcoming piece I’ll examine another, Blue Flag. If any reader of this blog is aware of other eco-certification programs starting or underway in the tourism sector in LAC nations (such as ISO 14001 certification, for example), please let me know and I’ll take a look them as well.

    What is Green Globe?

    The formal name is actually “Green Globe 21” (GG21), since the organization traces its origins back to the global “Agenda 21” program of action and set of principles adopted by Heads of State at the 1992 UN environment summit held in Rio de Janeiro (“Rio Summit” or “Earth Summit”). Not long thereafter the London-based tourism industry group, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), developed Green Globe and launched it in 1994 as a standalone membership and commitment-based program to promote sustainable development. In 1999 the GG21 Standard was approved and independent auditing of its observance was initiated. “Benchmarking,” or actual measurement of environmental commitments and improvements, was added to the program in 2001.

    Today tourism enterprises participating in GG21 benchmarking and certification can be found on every continent and some 50 countries and territories — in the LAC region, this includes:

    Antigua & Barbuda






    Dominican Republic




    Netherlands Antilles

    St. Kitts & Nevis

    St. Lucia

    Turks & Caicos Islands

    In fact, the Caribbean region (which GG21 defines such that it includes Mexico) currently has more GG21-certified properties than any other region in the world: 57 already certified, and 12 benchmarked (see what this means below) working toward certification and some 22 “affiliates.”

    The overall management of the GG program is run from the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Tourism located in Australia. In the Caribbean area, GG21 is promoted by the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST). In South America, GG21 is promoted from a regional office in Santiago de Chile.

    GG21 certification categories

    GG21 does not restrict its benchmarking and certification to hotels: it has benchmarking indicators and guides for 25 sectors (see box). In the Caribbean region, however, mostly hotels, resorts and other types of “accommodations” have taken on the challenges of the Green Globe processes. By contrast, in South America so far it has appealed more to tour operators. In this blog entry I’m going to illustrate what GG21 does by looking at the hotel certification program.

    Green Globe's logo for certified propertiesWhat Does It Take for Hotels to Get the Right to Use Those Green Globe Logos?

    GG21’s highest award is the “checkmark” (or “tick” as it is called in some countries) logo. This logo certifies that the hotel has finished the long and challenging process with flying colors. Hotels bearing this logo are certified as having

    Often a certified hotel has undergone benchmarking and audits more than once, since the benchmarking process often reveals issues to be addressed before a hotel passes (see below).

    To keep the authorization to use the “tick” logo, a hotel must be re-certified annually.

    To carry the GG21 “benchmarked” logo (which is identical except for the absence of a checkmark). a hotel must have

    To keep this logo, a hotel must be benchmarked annually.

    On What Basis Are Hotels Judged?

    As mentioned above, the hotels must adopt and implement a formal environmental management system (EMS) and policy, train their workers, undertake community

    programs, take steps to reduce their energy and potable water consumption, reduce their waste generation and recycle, and institute tight controls on their use of chemical cleaning agents and pesticides. All these actions must be fully documented and checked/judged by an independent auditor approved by GG21. To get an idea of the types of things the auditor checks, see the box.

    Auditors rate the hotel as either “baseline” (meeting the minima required by the GG21 Standard), “above baseline” or “below baseline.” Hotels often do not meet baseline on all criteria the first time they are benchmarked. If in their first benchmarking they one of their indicator is below Baseline, but by no more than 10%, they will be deemed to have passed but will be required to commit to bringing all benchmark indicators to at or above Baseline rating by the next assessment (no later than a year afterward). If in any assessment a hotel fails in one benchmark, but achieves Baseline or better in all the others, it can use the GG21 logo but must pass all benchmarks by the next annual benchmarking exercise. If the hotel fails to achieve the improvement in time and cannot document a reason for the failure beyond their control (such as hurricane damage), then they lose right to use the appropriate GG21 logo.

    If at any assessment a hotel is rated at below Baseline for two or more benchmarks, it loses the right to display the GG21 logo.

    To fully appreciate the kind of commitments these hotels have undertaken in order to be certified, read Green Globe’s “case study” for Gran Dominicus, the first hotel in the Dominican Republic to receive the logo.

    Why Seek “the Checkmark”?

    To do the right thing? Well, could be. But Green Globe 21 and others suggest other reasons:

    To ascertain whether current Green Globe recipients felt that they really benefited from the process and the use of the logo, CAST recently surveyed 30 properties in the Caribbean that are either benchmarked and/or certified by GG21. The results?

    Next in Part II: Status and Outllook for GG21 accreditation for hotels in the LAC region.

    — Keith R

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