For several months, you have been taking steps towards environmental sustainability at your tourist accommodation. You advocate for daily eco-friendly actions such as turning off lights when leaving the room, choosing showers over baths, and sorting waste. Today, you want to take it a step further, but you’re unsure about what actions to implement. Have you considered environmental labels? The European Ecolabel, Green Key, Green Globe, Ecogîte, Panda Cottage, or even Hotels au Naturel… All of these logos aim to ensure the reduced environmental impact of your accommodation and highlight your commitment. Follow the guide and explore labels for sustainable tourism: objectives, criteria, and conditions, the certification process, we’ve got you covered!
An Environmental Label: an Asset for Your Tourist Accommodation
Because it’s essential to understand before taking action, let’s start by asking ourselves. What is a green label? Why join a responsible tourism label? Here are the answers.
The ecological label: A guarantee of environmental respect
In general, an environmental label (also known as a green or ecological label) refers to a tag that identifies a product or service as environmentally friendly. In other words, the label aims to ensure a low ecological impact.
Although there are many environmental labels, not all are equal. A few indicators can help you recognize a reliable label. For example:
- A label that complies with ISO 14024 standards (ecolabel).
- Certification granted by an independent organization.
- A process that considers multiple criteria aimed at reducing environmental impacts throughout the accommodation’s lifecycle (not just at a single stage).
- Regular inspections…
3 Good Reasons to Obtain a Sustainable Tourism Label
1. Showcase your environmental efforts to your customers and staff
If you’re reading these lines, you’re probably already on the path to ecological transition. You’ve likely implemented solutions to reduce your water or energy consumption, preserve nature, and more. However, you might be hesitating to join a label because you know it requires a significant investment. Is it really worth it? Yes, because your efforts will be rewarded!
By choosing a recognized label for your tourist accommodation, you benefit from the expertise and reputation of the brand. On one hand, you realize a shared project with your employees, and on the other, you highlight your actions to minimize your impact on the environment. Your team and your customers will appreciate your commitment.
2. Raise awareness among travelers and promote responsible tourism
Joining a green label also allows you to raise awareness among your guests about environmental conservation. By committing, you act in accordance with your values and convey a message. As a true ambassador of the logo or brand, you promote sustainable tourism: energy savings, biodiversity conservation, local heritage development…
The goal? Encourage tourists to respect the environment during their vacations, and beyond. Hopefully, these travelers will bring back good habits they adopted during their stay and continue their actions once they return home. In the end, everyone benefits: it’s good for you, the vacationers, and the planet!
3. Meet the growing demand of tourists and stand out from the competition
In the face of climate urgency, environmental concerns are increasingly prominent in our consciousness. The good news is that there is a growing demand for eco-responsible tourism. In 2022, the third edition of the tourism observatory revealed that 82% of travelers claim they are willing to choose an eco-friendly accommodation or one with a green label for more responsible travel. At least in theory… In reality, only a small number of respondents take action. The barriers? Limited offerings, poorly or not promoted initiatives, fear of greenwashing (misleading information about supposed eco-friendly practices), and more.
With your environmental label, you position yourself as an eco-accommodation that goes the extra mile to reduce its environmental impact, supported by solid evidence of commitment! You then match the sustainable establishment that eco-conscious travelers are looking for in search of eco-responsible vacations. You gain the trust of your clientele, and you stand out from the competition.
Each on Its Own Path, Each with Its Responsible Tourism Label…
As you’ve understood, holding a sustainable tourism label offers numerous advantages and serves a common interest. However, with various labels available, which one should you choose? What are their goals, who are they intended for, and how can you obtain them? What steps should you follow? We provide answers to these questions in the rest of the article.
“European Ecolabel” for Tourist Accommodations, an Excellent Label
Created in 1992 by the European Commission, the European Ecolabel aims to guarantee products and services with reduced environmental impact, promoting responsible production and consumption. It is the only official ecological label shared by all European Union countries.
Since 2003, the European Ecolabel for Tourist Accommodations has been applicable to all types of establishments, including hotels, holiday resorts, youth hostels, campgrounds, cottages, and bed and breakfasts.
To receive the European Ecolabel, your accommodation must meet rigorous criteria. The standard takes into account 67 environmental criteria (22 mandatory and 45 optional), divided into five categories:
- General Management: Environmental management, staff training, customer information, maintenance of appliances and heating devices, consumption monitoring.
- Energy Consumption Reduction: Renewable electricity supply, heating, lighting.
- Water Consumption Reduction: Sanitation, laundry cleaning.
- Waste and Wastewater Reduction and Sorting.
- Other Criteria: Promotion of eco-friendly transportation, information about the European Ecolabel, and more.
Meeting these criteria demonstrates your commitment to reducing the environmental impact of your accommodation and providing sustainable services to your customers.
“Clef Verte,” the First International Sustainable Tourism Label for Accommodations and Restaurants
Developed in France by Teragir since 1998, the international Clef Verte program (known as Green Key in other countries) aims to reduce the environmental impact of accommodations and restaurants and raise awareness among travelers. Due to its long history and the number of certified establishments, Clef Verte is the first sustainable tourism label for tourist accommodations in France. As of early 2023, 1,077 French establishments trust it. The Clef Verte label is awarded by an independent jury composed of leading organizations in the field of responsible tourism, such as Atout France.
The criteria for obtaining the Clef Verte label include approximately sixty mandatory criteria divided into seven thematic areas:
- Environmental Policy: General environmental management, staff training, social responsibility.
- Environmental Awareness: Guest information, nature activities, displaying eco-friendly practices.
- Water Management: Resource management and sanitation, faucet capacities, irrigation.
- Waste Management: Waste sorting, volume reduction.
- Energy Management: Resource management, heating and cooling, household equipment, lighting.
- Responsible Purchases: Food, maintenance, stationery, furniture, other purchases.
- Living Environment: Interior and exterior environment.
In addition to these mandatory requirements, Clef Verte also includes recommended criteria to encourage winners to continue their efforts year after year (continuous improvement).
The requirements for the Clef Verte label vary depending on the type of establishment (campground, hotel, cottage or bed and breakfast, tourist residence, village or holiday center, youth hostel). To learn about the criteria specific to your establishment, please refer to the corresponding grid, available on the Clef Verte website.
“Green Globe”: The International Ecological Label for Tourism Professionals, Including Hotels and Holiday Resorts
Since 1992, Green Globe has been working for sustainable tourism around the world. This global certification is awarded to professionals in the travel industry, including hotels, vacation clubs, spas, golf courses, cruise ships, and more.
The criteria for receiving Green Globe certification include:
- 44 criteria and 385 compliance indicators specific to each type of establishment.
- 4 thematic areas: Sustainable Management, Social/Economic, Cultural Heritage, Environment.
- 3 membership statuses: “Standard,” “Gold” awarded after 5 years of certification, and “Platinum” granted after 10 years, based on continuous improvement.
- Over 200 members in Europe.
To qualify for Green Globe certification, you must meet more than 50% of the indicators.
“Hotels au Naturel”: The Label for Eco-Friendly Hotel Establishments Located in Exceptional Locations
Since 1998, the “Hôtels au Naturel” brand has been committed to promoting sustainable tourism, based on values grounded in the local environment, humanity, and environmental respect. This label is intended for passionate hoteliers who are dedicated to promoting local cultural heritage, providing exceptional guest service and comfort, and preserving nature. The uniqueness of these hotels lies in their human-scale accommodations, strategically located in privileged sites that harmoniously blend with their natural surroundings.
If you share the values of the label and aspire to become a “Hôtel au Naturel,” meeting the expectations of slow tourism enthusiasts, you must adhere to four essential conditions:
- Your establishment is located in an exceptional area: within or on the border of a regional natural park or a national park (current or future), in a UNESCO-listed area, and so on.
- Your hotel has a minimum of a 2-star classification.
- Your structure is integrated with the environment.
- You offer eco-responsible practices: environmental management, nature preservation, and local community development.