The good, the bad and the ugly of green certification

The good, the bad and the ugly of green certification

Rising interest in environmental responsibility has also led to a rising number of green certifications for hotels. The more popular ones include Green Key, Green Leaf, LEED, EarthCheck, local certifications and guidelines like GRI and ISO. But the list goes on, and when there are several certifications each trying to measure your level of eco-consciousness you begin to wonder if, why and how one might be better than the other. In fact, you begin to wonder what the benefits of certification are at all. These are my thoughts.
Who are green certifications for?
  • Owners and operators who care and find metrics and certifications an easy way to ensure their hotels are actively taking steps to be environmentally sustainable
  • Owners and operators who want to raise the profile of their portfolio
  • A currently small public market, since factors like location, price and quality are still leading decision-making factors
  • Governments pushing for a more eco-conscious tourism industry
What are green certifications good for?
  • They can help communicate your position towards environmental responsibility. 
  • They can help engage, raise awareness and stimulate behavior among key stakeholders, including employees. 
So what are the challenges of green certifications?
  • Receiving a certificate doesn’t mean you’re “green.” 
  • It certainly doesn’t mean you’re more conscious than a hotel that isn’t certified.
  • Several certifications try to say the same thing while using different scopes and boundaries. Without industry-wide standards, are the differences transparent? Is one better than the other?
  • Certifications rarely take into account the nuances of your property. For example, one hotel using on-site solar energy may get more points than another that was built so it could use natural daylight (which doesn’t count as on-site renewable energy).
  • Certifications often benchmark your property against others that have little relevance to yours.
  • Some certifications analyze how your hotel is built, with no regard to how you operate.
  • Certifications are sometimes the culprits behind greenwashing.
  • Are they even legitimate?
  • Is one more recognizable than the other?
  • If you want to be “green,” why can’t you just do it without having to pay for the certification?
With the growing number of certifications is the growing list of uncertainties. Now there are even companies certifying the certificates!