Certification of sustainable tourism is very popular nowadays, but what does it means? Certification is a mechanism to ensure that particular company, product or service comply with specified requirements. In the case of sustainable tourism, certification means that a company adopt sustainable practices or has a sustainability management system.
In the last 15 years a lot of certifications schemes about sustainable tourism has been developed. Today is easy to find more than a 100, but most of them fall into two groups: the first focused on attesting that the company has certain sustainable practices and the second that the company has a sustainability management system implemented and effective. The main difference between this two groups is about sustainable practices where the first take in consideration specific and predeterminate sustainable practices and the second looks for the business management and results.
To achieve certification, the company must demonstrate that it meets the requirements. Obviously, to begin this process, the company needs to do its homework, initially knowing the requirements that base the certification desired, going through a self-assessment of its business and, mainly, implementing measures to meet these requirements. Thus, the company will increase the chance of being certified and may use certification as a marketing and communication tool with the market in which it operates or intends to act.
The certification is performed by an independent organization, called certification body, whose business is assessment and attest to the market that the company is sustainable.
However, it is important to note that certification should not be an end in itself, but rather the natural consequence for the company that meets the requirements and therefore can be called sustainable. In fact, meeting sustainability requirements has the power to transform the company and bring benefits far beyond the certificate itself.
Examples of certification benefits:
- Improved image
- Brand Strengthening
- Improved business management
- Strengthening partnership with stakeholders
- Spontaneous media
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Increased employee engagement
- Reduction of operating costs
- Improved results
Another relevant aspect of sustainability certification is that invariably the company has a very positive influence on the territory in which it is operating. Thus, sustainability ends up creating a network, where all stakeholders gain, be they collaborators, local community, suppliers, tourists, NGOs, local public power, among others.
A business certification process involves, in general, the following steps:
- Request for certification
- Sending company documentation
- Technical analysis of documentation
- Conducting an audit
- Analysis of results
- Grant of Certificate
- Maintenance audits (during the period of validity of the certificate)
There are many types of certification in sustainable tourism and the company must evaluate which certification adds value to your business and helps in communication with the market and clients.
Certification of Accommodations
The certification of accommodations has the function of ensuring that the accommodation has a sustainability management system implemented and effective. This certification is valid for any type, size and geographic location of hosting medium and is based on an international standard, ISO 21401: 2018 – Sustainability Management System for Hosting.
By implementing the requirements of this standard, the accommodation will have the benefits of strengthening its business and improving the decision-making process, which will be done in a more modern and complete way, simultaneously looking at the three dimensions of sustainability (environmental, socio-cultural and economic).
A sustainability management system assumes the development of sustainability policy and objectives, based on the internal and external contexts of the enterprise, stakeholder needs, risks and opportunities and based on the negative and positive aspects and impacts of the business. Obviously, this should be led by the top management of the accommodation, which should demonstrate its commitment, provide resources, define responsibility and authorities, and plan sustainability actions in an environmentally responsible, socially just and economically viable way.
In addition, the Sustainability Management System must include the competencies of employees, the implementation of work process controls, communication methods and the development and evaluation of suppliers. It is essential for it to be used effectively, documented and has classic monitoring, analysis and continuous improvement elements in management systems: performance evaluation, internal audit, critical review, non-compliance and corrective actions.
An accommodation managed through a Sustainability Management System will allow the development of a truly sustainable business and adapted to the current challenges of tourism.
After the implementation of this standard, the accommodation that wishes to be certified will pass an audit process planned by the certification body, which will send auditors to assess the compliance of the management and the practices adopted in relation to the sustainability requirements.
Certification of adventure tourism providers
For adventure tourism companies it is possible to be certified based on the international standard ISO 20611: 2018 – Good practices of sustainability. In this case it is not necessary to implement a complete management system, but rather to demonstrate that it adopts sustainable practices in its operation for the three dimensions: environmental, social and economic.
Practices should be adopted with the objective of reducing the impacts generated by the company’s tourism operations, such as:
- Environmental dimension – use of natural resources, water and energy consumption, protection of biodiversity and natural habitats;
- Social dimension – respect for employees and the local community, promotion and respect of local culture, working conditions;
- Economic dimension – adoption of fair trade practices, management of financial risks of the business, generation of work.