Ecotourism Certification Standards: Deconstructing Green Globe

The Green Globe program grew out of the 1992 United Nations Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit, where 182 heads of state from around the world endorsed the Agenda 21 principles of sustainable development. Subsequently, Green Globe International, which is a publicly traded company based out of Los Angeles, California, branded its sustainability and benchmarking program, carbon footprint calculation and offset program, and consulting services to help companies achieve certification. Green Globe is aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria and provides certification for hotels, conference centers, attractions, tour operators, businesses, cruises, and spas.

Award process:

The certification process begins when a company becomes a Green Globe member so that they can receive access to certification criteria, benchmarking tools, environmental training, and listings of third-party, independent audit, consulting, and marketing professionals that are reauthorized on an annual basis. Registration varies from $750 to $5000 depending on the size of the travel organization and does not include consulting and audit fees. Once registered, businesses can begin the evaluation and certification process by uploading documentation that addresses the 337 compliance indicators that are applied to 41 individual sustainability criteria across 4 categories:

  1. Sustainable Management – including the implementation of a sustainability management system, legal compliance with all relevant regulations, employee training policies, customer satisfaction policies, accuracy of promotional materials, local design and construction requirements, interpretation of natural surroundings and local culture, communications strategy, and health and safety policies.
  2. Social/Economic – including community development, local employment, fair trade, support of local entrepreneurs, respect of local communities, policies against exploitation, equitable hiring, and employee protection.
  3. Cultural Heritage – including code of behavior for visits to historically sensitive sites, use of archeological artifacts, protection of sites, and incorporation of culture.
  4. Environmental – including conserving resources, reducing pollution, and conserving of ecosystems and landscapes.

All certifications are verified independently by accredited third-party auditors in accordance with ISO/IEC 17021 and the procedure is offered in 6 languages: English, Spanish, French, German, Portuguese, and more recently Chinese.

Every company that has been awarded a Green Globe certification must reapply within three months of expiration.

Click for a listing of tour operator companies that have received Green Globe certification.

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