With sustainability hot on the agenda for hotels across the region, Guido Bauer, CEO, Green Globe tells Sophia Soltani how sustainable practices in the hospitality sector are even easier to abide by and why hotels are taking fundamental steps towards becoming Green Globe Certified
Can you tell us a little bit about Green Globe?
The Green Globe program traces its roots back to the United Nations Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992, where 182 heads of state from around the world endorsed the Agenda 21 principles of sustainable development. Green Globe was created by the World Travel & Tourism Council so that this global industry could meet these new sustainability objectives.
Today, Green Globe provides certification, training and education, and marketing services in 83 countries worldwide. Based in Los Angeles, California and with partners in Mexico, South America, South Africa, Middle East, the Caribbean and Europe, Green Globe provides certification for the sustainable operations and management of travel and tourism companies and their related supplier businesses. Green Globe also maintains a global network of independent auditors who provide third party inspection and validation.
Why is Green Globe different to other certifications?
Green Globe was first set up to internationally develop a standard and a set of criteria that defined sustainability within travel and tourism. This rigorous and practical standard has been used by businesses for almost twenty years, significantly longer than any other green certification.
Today, Green Globe is active in harmonising with other localised sustainability certification programs around the world. The process of harmonisation contributes to maintaining core criteria and at the same time address regional issues through the adoption of locally developed standards.
How often does Green Globe review and update the criteria requirements and key indicators and why is it important to update them?
Green Globe updates its standards and key indicators twice annually, to ensure it encompasses recent and applicable global norms in sustainability. The Green Globe Standard V1.7 includes 44 mandatory core criteria supported by over 380 compliance indicators. The applicable indicators vary by type of certification, geographical area as well as local factors.
The Green Globe Standard is based on the following international standards and agreements:
- Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria
- Global Partnership for Sustainable Tourism Criteria (STC Partnership)
- Baseline Criteria of the Sustainable Tourism Certification Network of the Americas
- Agenda 21 and principles for Sustainable Development endorsed by 182 Governments at the United Nations Rio de Janeiro Earth Summit in 1992
- ISO 9001 / 14001 / 19011 (International Standard Organisation)
To guarantee compliance to the highest international standards, a third-party independent auditor is appointed to work with clients on-site. The international standard ISO 19011 provides guidance on the management of audit programs, the conduct of internal and external management systems as well as the competence and evaluation of auditors. Green Globe has drawn on ISO 19011:2002 in the development of its audit program.
Why don’t hotels come up with their own sustainability requirements?
Today many hotel and resort companies do have internal sustainability programs. We work with IHG’s Green Engage and Mövenpick’s Shine Program, just to name two in-house systems. Green Globe auditors often review the activities conducted under these programs against Green Globe criteria, therefore assuring the hotel that it is heading in the right direction
What steps does Green Globe take in order to practice the credentials they preach?
The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) was set up by the United Nations Foundation and oversees the Standards used by all credible sustainability certification organisations to define what is ‘green’. Each year we submit to a GSTC review, along with other industry leaders
Why should hotels within the Middle East aim for a Green Globe certification?
To meet the expectations of the majority of travellers today who want to know their hotels are doing the best by the local community and environment.
Also our hotel members save significant amounts of revenue through quality management and waste reduction and to ensure hotels are seen as part of the leading group of properties in their destination. Many of the top hotels in the Middle East are Green Globe members because they wish to demonstrate their commitment and excellence in hospitality and service.
What would you say are the three things that hotels should do in order to improve their sustainability?
Simple, reduce waste, recycle more, and empower all staff and management to be green leaders in their respective departments.
What are the cost implications for a hotel when ‘going green’?
All Green Globe members find that within the first year of certification, all investment in meeting the sustainability Standard have not only been repaid, but significant revenue is being saved through greater efficiency.
With the region being famous for its luxury hotel supply, do sustainable practices interfere with offering luxury services?
If the definition of luxury is high quality designed to last generations, then this is a significant boost to a region’s sustainability. If luxury is confused with excessive consumption and short term gains then that is not a sustainable approach.
We’ve heard more recently about the generation of ‘green travellers’, who would you say this market actually represents?
All travellers are green travellers. It is impossible to believe that anyone travelling today is not interested in the well being of a country’s people, their culture, heritage and local surrounds. Everyone wants to do the right thing and make the right choice.
What are some of the challenges hotels face in relation to becoming a more sustainable environment?
Apathy is the greatest challenge. Thinking a hotel will have a successful future without a sustainability management plan is unrealistic, but even today some hotel owners and management companies are slow to move.
Do you think that the Middle East will ever become a leader in sustainability?
The Middle East has many opportunities to be a world leader in sustainability. All the key ingredients are present, and as a growing hub for a great share of international transit it may lead by example.
What are some of the problems faced in the region regarding sustainability?
Recycling is always a perennial issue. It is both a combination of consumption patterns and packaging, which we are pleased to say our members are tackling; and lack of recycling facilities which are needed to efficiently turn waste such as plastic, glass and paper into usable material.