An initiative launched 16 years ago to promote sustainable tourism and stop ordinary people being ripped off by ‘greenwash’ has been named the “most credible” certification program in the world.
An investigation into the ethics and expertise of 158 schemes used by businesses to boost their environmentally-friendly credentials has named the Perth-based Green Tourism Business Scheme as the global leader in the fight against misleading marketing in the tourism industry.
The UK certification body beat rival contenders from as far a field as South Africa, Romania, Norway, Switzerland, Australia, Japan, Peru and Botswana.
A 50-page Tourism & Greenwash Report, published by independent industry think-tank TotemTourism, reveals the extent to which big business and small firms go to paint themselves as socially responsible to the growing number of environmentally conscious consumers. It’s estimated the tourism industry will account for at least $2 trillion of global GDP this year and create more than 120 million jobs worldwide.
The report claims that in response to public expectations of greater corporate responsibility all sorts of businesses, from small B&Bs to massive global players – including airlines, hotel groups, OTAs, tour operators and travel agents, have been lining up to highlight their goodness, greenness and fair practices. As a result there has been a boom in the number of green branding certifications and other schemes designed to lend weight and authenticate marketing statements.
However, analysis of the various green certification schemes by independent experts has revealed many are worthless as they rely on self-certification in return for a membership fee or have no third-party verification at all.
Valere Tjolle, publisher of the Greenwash report, said: “Green tourism clearly has massive advantages for everybody – destinations, tourists and the industry – but to be really sustainable it needs to be marketed transparently and honestly.
“The growing practice of Greenwash debases the whole sustainable tourism movement and reduces the opportunities for everybody.”
However, not all certification bodies pander to greenwash and the TotemTourism report has revealed the 20 most reliable and dependable in the world with the UK’s Green Tourism at the top of the list.
Green Tourism, developed by directors Jon Proctor and Andrea Nicholas, was launched in conjunction with VisitScotland in 1997. It is now the largest Sustainable Tourism Certification program of its kind in the world with more than 2,400 members across the UK and Ireland.
Many of its pioneering ideas have been adopted by similar programs in Canada, Sweden, Eire and New Zealand.
Andrea Nicholas said: “Our system was ahead of its time when it was introduced and has been helping businesses meet visitor expectations by making them more environmentally efficient ever since.
“With the current increase in businesses wanting to get on to the green bandwagon the Green Tourism provides a trustworthy green choice in which consumers can be confident that the business has been checked and is making significant efforts to reduce their environmental impact”.
Green Tourism is unique among all the schemes for ensuring members are independently assessed by a qualified environmental auditor before being awarded a bronze, silver or gold award.
Members are assessed on an array of criteria, including the installation of efficient lighting and heating, the promotion of nature conservation, using renewable energy, recycled paper products, eco-friendly cleaning products, local produce and community involvement.
GTBS claims that in addition to typical cost savings of up to 20 per cent research has shown hotels and B&Bs which achieve their accreditation achieve occupancy rates almost a fifth higher than other accommodation providers.
Do you look for ‘green credentials’ when choosing your holiday destination?