How to become certified as a sustainable tourism company?

The drive towards sustainability has prompted companies to seek to improve and showcase the environmental performance of their operations. There are two options available to companies to become certified as a sustainable company.

Environmental Certifications

Environmental certifications are issued by an assessment organisation which certifies that certain products, services, processes or management systems are environmentally friendly and adhere to environmental standards and regulations.


The key benefits derived from implementing environmental management systems and becoming certified as a sustainable company include:

  • Compliance with environmental regulations
  • Mitigation of regulatory risks
  • Improving brand reputation
  • Meeting consumer demand and expectations


Ecolabels are voluntary schemes to recognise products and services which comply with certain environmental-related sustainability criteria. They are used to avert greenwashing claims and to ensure credible and reliable corporate communications.

Benefits include:

  • Competitive advantage to the product/brand.
  • Brand reputation.
  • Key information to guide consumer choice

Types of environmental certification

Global Sustainable Tourism Council

The Global Sustainable Tourism Council sets and manages the GSTC environmental standards, which represent the minimum sustainability requirements for global travel and tourism. They are arranged in four pillars:

  1. Sustainable management
  2. Socioeconomic impacts
  3. Cultural impacts
  4. Environmental impacts (including consumption of resources, reducing pollution, and conserving biodiversity and landscapes)

This certification is a guide for tourism businesses, regardless of size and destination, for travelers looking for sustainable tourism as well as for the media to identify sustainable providers.

Sustainable Building Certification

BREEAM: Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Methodology

BREEAM was founded in 1990 and is the first sustainable building certification to be developed. There are currently 591 000 Breeam certifications in 90 countries.

The certification assesses impacts across 10 categories (Management, Health and Wellbeing, Energy, Transport, Water, Materials, Waste, Land

Use, Pollution and Innovation). It gives a final performance rating after applying the weighted environmental factor which takes into account the relative importance of each impact area.

Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)

It is the most widely used classification of environmental buildings. LEED provides a framework for highly energy-efficient, cost-saving, healthy and environmentally friendly buildings. It is a building performance and project management system which provides a full toolkit for the design, construction, operations and performance of environmental buildings.

LEED is a worldwide recognised symbol for environmental leadership and excellence.

ISO Certifications

certified sustainable tourism company

ISO certifications are international standards issued by the international standard-setting organisation International Organization for Standardisation.

ISO 14.001 – Environmental management systems

It is a universal standard that measures in a systematic manner corporate efforts to protect the environment. It also includes tools and systems aimed at assessing production processes and its impacts on the environment with a view to reducing environmental risks.

ISO 50001 – Energy management.

It is a standard which specifies energy management requirements to be integrated within the company management system ranging from energy and raw materials purchases to measures to promote energy savings within the company.

It guarantees the efficiency of implemented measures considering senior management accountability, communication and engagement with all areas of the company, objective-setting, implementation and finally review and ongoing systems improvement.

Types of Ecolabels

EU Ecolabel

The EU ecolabel is a tool for tourist accommodation and camping sites to adhere to certain social and environmental standards.

Green Key

Created by FEE (Foundation for Environmental Education), Green Key is one of the leading ecolabels for the tourism sector. With a track record of over 20 years, it is present in 3200 hotels across 65 countries.

The hotels awarded with the Green Key label meet very high environmental standards.


Global Sustainable Tourism Council. Criterios GSTC–Estándares Globales para la Sostenibilidad de Viajes y Turismo – El Certificado de la Construcción Sostenible. 2020

U.S. Green Building Council – LEED is delivering better buildings. 2021



Green Key – Unlocking sustainability in the hospitality industry. 2021

European Commission – The EU Ecolabel for Tourist Accommodation Services. 

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