The Road to Eco-Certification for Destinations

01 November 2017

green maze


Why Eco-Certification?


In a market where many are proclaiming their sustainability credentials, audited and recognised eco-certifications assure customers that products and services are backed by a strong, well-managed commitment to sustainable practices. In a nutshell, they set certain standards on sustainable management, and signal to the world that those criteria are being met by your organisation. A certification can also be highly beneficial when applying for grants, awards, licenses or permits!


But It’s A Jungle Out There!


A common feedback we get is that the world of certifications can be confusing for a CVB/DMO to deal with. To date, seven pioneering GDS-Index DMOs/CVBs have achieved an independent third-party certification, with four more in progress. These certifications vary in type from international ones such as ISO 20121, the Green Tourism Award and Green Globe; to regional ones such as the Svensk Miljöbas (Swedish Environmental Diploma), Nordic Swan (Nordic region), Green Leaf (Thailand), ESAIS (Japan), GreenMark (Singapore), Viabnono (Germany), and the list goes in. In reflection, a key question remains for CVBs: What certification to choose and what’s the business benefit from it?


These are questions that many people in our industry are trying to answer. Given that the road to certification can be tricky, here are our top tips based on our experiences and discussions with the various Destinations that have managed to get started:



Tips to Get Started


1. Start local: Nobody is expecting you to get an ISO 20121 certification right off the bat. If this is out of reach, we recommend exploring local or regional ones that are available first. The Scandinavians have been notoriously good at streamlining and concentrating their eco-certification standards to make things easier for everyone. The Nordic Swan offers the certification to 63 different product groups in the Nordic Countries, whereas the Swedish Environmental Base is the one most commonly used by our Swedish Destinations. However you may come across a situation where there are no local or regional certifications available for your CVB/DMO. In that case another option would be to…


2. Reach out and ask around: What do we mean by this? Well firstly it would be useful to look at other CVB’s within the country/region and see whether any of them have obtained an eco-certificiation. If they have, what was their process and can they give recommendations? If not, why not use this opportunity to get your region together and develop one? In fact a number of regions have developed their own standards and certification programs, such as the previously mentioned Nordic Swan and the North American Green Key Eco-Rating Program. The benefits of regional certifications is that they can be developed using international frameworks such as ISO 20121 or GSTC criteria, but adapted to meet the needs and characteristics of your local destinations. However if this is too complicated you can also…


3. Go international: OK, a regional one doesn’t exist and won’t happen, so you’ve decided to investigate other options. This one is likely to require considerably more time and resources, but it will be completely worth it! However the wide variety of international certifications is still a bit confusing, so if you REALLY need help deciding and getting started then you can always…


4. Come to us as a resource: That’s right, the GDS-Index team is here to help you work towards which certification might be the most efficient and useful for your organization!


Special Shoutouts in 2017


To wrap this up, we’d like to give a special shout out to our participating Destinations that have managed the difficult achievement of getting their CVB/DMO certified this year:


  • Malmö Tourism as the first Swedish local tourism organization to receive an ISO 20121 certification, early in 2017. See here for more.


  • Destination Jönköping achieved the Svensk Miljöbas (Swedish Environmental Base) certification in June this year. See here for more.


  • Glasgow Convention Bureau for becoming the first Convention Bureau to receive a Green Tourism Award. See here for more.

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