Far-reaching & Transparent: Biosphere Responsible Tourism Eco-Certification

Of all the eco-certifications available to guiding companies and accommodations worldwide, Biosphere is the only one to have been Approved (versus Recognized) by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council as having an independently verified process that is reliable, transparent and aligned with the universally accepted criteria for sustainable tourism.

What does this mean to consumers who are looking to travel responsibly? It means that by looking for the Biosphere (or GSTC-Approved) label, you can easily select vacation options that are socially, environmentally and economically benefiting communities, employees and customers.

Biosphere certification differs from other certifications because it has incorporated the requirements of quality and environment as required by ISO 9001, ISO 14001 Environmental Management System and other standard setting certifications. Biosphere also includes requirements for sustainable development such as:

  • social responsibility,
  • conservation of cultural property,
  • meeting the expectations of tourists about the destination, and
  • quality of life of the host population.

Biosphere has established criteria for hotels, camp sites, restaurants, golf courses, parks, events and destinations. While the criteria may differ slightly from one type to another, the underlying requirements that are common to all types are:

  • Responsible Tourism Policies that include action plans, staff motivation and training plans, responsible marketing plans, fulfillment of legal and regulatory requirements and a continuous improvement plan
  • Cultural Heritage Plan that includes the integration of the cultural heritage of the area, active cultural conservation of the area and the promotion of visitor’s knowledge
  • Economic & Social Development Plan that promotes the welfare of the community and adopts a responsible attitude with employees
  • Environmental Conservation Plan that includes landscape, biodiversity and soil protection, energy, water and waste management policies, supply chain policies, carbon emissions, noise and light pollution management, and
  • Client Satisfaction System including quality management system, client service and safety policies, and universal access for visitors.

For companies interested in either understanding how implementing sustainable operations can affect their business or pursuing certification, there are six steps:

    1. Initial Self-Assessment: this diagnostic survey assesses the extent of current compliance with the Biosphere criteria
    2. Upgrade Sustainable Operations: based on the results of the diagnostic survey, the company drafts a sustainability policy and action plan that describes the continuous improvement process that will be put in place to measure success again the Biosphere criteria
    3. (Recommended) Internal Audit: once the company has adopted and implemented Biosphere’s minimum requirements, a qualified Biosphere auditor will conduct an internal audit to document possible areas of non-conformity to the Biosphere criteria
    4. External Audit: once the company is ready to have an onsite audit of its operations, a qualified Biosphere auditor will conduct a thorough examination of its business against the criteria
    5. Report Review by Biosphere Technical Committee: the technical committee reviews the auditor’s external audit report and determines whether it will receive certification based on current achievements or will need to upgrade specific policies, operations, or infrastructure instead
    6. Certification Benefits: upon receiving Biosphere certification, the company then is submitted to various green lodging and tourism listing sites for increased exposure.

Biosphere Certified La Cepada Hotel in Spain

La Cepada Hotel – Biosphere Certified in Spain

Click to review our updated eco-certification reference guide that compares more than 20 certifications available worldwide.

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