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Green Globe Summit

As the tourism and hospitality industries become more sophisticated, and travellers everywhere become increasingly aware of the potentially harmful impacts of mass tourism on the planet, an urgent need has arisen for improvement in the sustainability of the planning, design, management and operations of hotels, resorts and other travel and tourism companies and related businesses.

When planning a holiday, many people now look for evidence that the hotel or resort they’re heading to is doing the right things when it comes to its interaction with its environment and local community.

As a result of this increasing awareness, a plethora of certification systems which aim to indicate the sustainability credentials of a destination have been introduced. Unfortunately, there is great potential for “greenwash”; some systems are more rigorous or meaningful than others. It can be confusing for the traveller to make a judgment when planning a vacation. At OBMI, we’ve been investigating the suitability of various systems to the Caribbean region, in order to advise property owners on the best way to go green and gain recognition for making the effort.

 

Although the LEED programme, now widely established in the US and internationally, has great potential to be used here for certification of commercial or government buildings, it’s not so applicable to resort properties. LEED is great for helping to improve the green qualities of the building design itself, but it doesn’t deal with social or community issues, it doesn’t look at operational and management aspects, and it currently doesn’t allow for long-term assessment of the building’s performance. We have come to the conclusion that, as an alternative to LEED, the best certification programme for use with hotels and resorts in this region is the Green Globe standard.

Green Globe was developed in the early 1990s, when the concept of “sustainable tourism” was in its infancy. Pioneering tourism operators, concerned about the effect their operations were having on the environment and how best to measure that impact, were often categorized into special interest tourism. Green Globe aimed to provide a way forward for these organisations, to measure their environmental impact and then develop and implement strategies to reduce those impacts. Over the next ten years, the system gained momentum and became widespread internationally, particularly in Asia and the Caribbean. In the past two years, the programme has been revitalised, expanded and restructured.

In May 2010, I joined a group of 45 delegates in Kassel, Germany, for three days of debate and discussion at the second Green Globe summit meeting. Senior Green Globe organizers, partners and members were brought together to review a draft of the new certification standards and to consider the future for the organisation. The group included experts in a broad range of ecotourism-related fields, and a large contingent of specialists in certification and auditing standards.

 

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The new, improved certification programme is comprised of an extensive set of criteria, with 339 indicators—standards which the property should aim to meet. In order to achieve certification, the business needs to comply with 50% of the standards, including a number of critical, mandatory indicators. This certification must then be maintained on an annual basis, with a 5% improvement each year. The annual audit is carried out by an independent accredited auditor who provides third party inspection and validation.

One of the great benefits of the Green Globe system is the wide-ranging and extensive scope of the standards, which cover sustainable management ractices (legal compliance, staff training, communications, health and safety), design and construction, social and economic issues (community development, local employment, fair trade, exploitation, employee protection), cultural heritage (historical sites and artifacts, incorporation of local culture), and environmental practices (conserving resources, reducing pollution, conserving biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes).

So far, in the Caribbean region, there are over 120 properties certified—from Antigua, Aruba and Barbados through Jamaica and Mexico to St Lucia and St Vincent. No properties are certified yet in the BVI, but we will be working to rectify this. Since its inception, the Green Globe brand has represented the best in environmental responsibility. The brand and its associated programmess hold even greater promise as the world further embraces the need for sustainability and a serious response to global climate change as essential core values. 

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