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Green Summit

The Green Globe Summit
Provokes Clean Thinking

In May, I joined a group of 45 delegates at the Concorde Opera Hotel in Paris for three days of debate and discussion at the third annual Green Globe World Summit. The group included senior Green Globe organisers, partners and members, from Australia, Abu Dhabi, Sri Lanka, Barbados, Aruba, China, Germany, France, Holland, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Portugal, Switzerland and Sweden—all experts in a broad range of sustainable tourism-related fields.
In recent decades, tourism has become more sophisticated, and travelers everywhere have become increasingly aware of the potentially harmful impacts of tourism on the planet. 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 surrounding environment and local community. Pioneering hotels and resorts, responding to this consumer awareness and concerned about the effect their activities are having on the planet, have been looking for ways to better understand and minimize their negative impacts and to demonstrate their efforts to their customers.
The Green Globe certification system was developed in the early 1990s, when the concept of ecotourism was in its infancy. Green Globe aimed to provide a structure for hotels and resorts to measure and improve their environmental and social performance and to provide credible and reputable certification of these achievements. Over the next ten years, the system gained momentum and became widespread internationally, particularly in Asia and the Caribbean. In the past three years, the programme has been revitalised, expanded and restructured.
There are now a dizzying range of competing certification programmes for hoteliers and other businesses to choose from. Since the 1990s, we’ve seen the introduction of a plethora of systems which aim to certify the sustainability credentials of a destination. Unfortunately, there is great potential for “greenwashing”—or the deceptive use of green marketing in order to promote a misleading perception. Some systems are more rigorous or meaningful than others. The main benefit of the Green Globe system over other similar programmes is the wide-ranging and extensive scope of the standards, which cover sustainable management practices (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).
The new, improved certification programme is comprised of 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 requirement for a significant improvement each year. The annual audit is carried out by an independent accredited auditor, who provides third-party inspection and validation.

Understandably, hoteliers can be perplexed when faced with the wide range of certification systems. At the Paris Summit, it was encouraging to hear the experiences of a number of hotel operators who had chosen the Green Globe system. Ewald Biemans, owner of the Bucuti Beach Resort in Aruba, gave a detailed rundown of an incredible range of environmental and social measures he has undertaken at his property, using Green Globe as a framework, from simple but extensive energy and water-saving measures to waste-reduction policies, to a number of initiatives supporting local biodiversity and animal welfare. Ola Ivarsson, CEO of the Swiss Moevenpick Hotels and Resorts, talked about his company’s very impressive employee training programmes and highlighted some recent successes in their hotels in Jordan and Qatar.
The global perspective on sustainable tourism was discussed, with thought-provoking presentations by executives from the United Nation’s Global Sustainable Tourism Council and by Professor Geoffrey Lipman, advisor to the World Tourism Organisation, the World Economic Forum and one of the world’s leading thinkers on the subject. Professor Lipman’s central point was to remind us that the stark imperative of stabilizing climate change has to be the starting point for all strategy and that the complexity, scale and scope of transformation required, between now and 2050, in every production, consumption and investment activity on earth is almost incomprehensible. He went on to talk about the potential for the travel and tourism value chain to be a positive catalyst and agent for “green growth,” particularly for poor states, with a critical role to play in advancing sustainable development and reducing poverty.
It was this kind of big thinking, combined with stories of hands-on, grass roots ventures on every continent, which made the Summit extremely interesting and encouraging. With renewed energy and confidence, Green Globe looks set to make significant advances in the Caribbean region over the next 12 months. We’ll be working to introduce the system into the BVI, to provide a framework for focused improvement for long-term economic, social and environmental sustainability.

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