As in many fields, there are many labels on sustainable tourism. It is therefore essential to know them better in order to find your way around. This is why I propose to review and present them to you. However, it is not compulsory to have a label to be an ecological tourist accommodation committed to an environmentally friendly approach. Some people do not wish to take this step because they lack the means, time or desire to do so. Others believe that it is a guarantee of the seriousness of their approach.
As there is not only one label, there is not only one way of apprehending these certifications and on our site you will find establishments benefiting from these approvals or not.
However, so that you have all the cards in your hand when you visit the sites of these accommodations, it seemed important to me to present the various sustainable tourism labels that exist today and that guarantee that these establishments are committed to a responsible approach.
- What is a label?
- What are the European and international labels?
- What are the French labels?
What is a label?
A label is a mark that can be applied to a product or service if it meets certain criteria. These criteria must be detailed and specified in a set of specifications. A control must be carried out to justify the respect of these criteria.
In France, in theory, labels must be officially recognised by publication in the Journal Officiel. The controls must be carried out by a third party certifier to guarantee the independence and neutrality of the results.
However, today the term is overused and is also used in the case of designations or approvals issued by private bodies. This does not call into question the commitment of the companies that receive these approvals. However, it can add confusion to communication and understanding by the general public because of the proliferation of “labels”. People no longer know which saint to follow.
I will therefore try to present to you today the main sustainable tourism labels and approvals that you can find in tourist accommodation. They all have different levels of constraints and their own particularities, but they all work in the same direction: to promote tourist establishments that are committed to respecting the environment.
What are the European and international sustainable tourism labels?
Green Globe is an international label recognised by the World Tourism Organisation. It was created in 1993 following the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. It applies to all companies in the tourism market. It applies to all companies in the tourism market, including accommodation, transport companies, conference rooms, etc.
The specifications are based on 25 criteria divided into 4 main categories: sustainable management, social/economic, cultural heritage and environment. The certifications are carried out by independent and accredited auditors.
There are also 3 levels of certification:
- Certified member ;
- Gold membership when a company meets all the criteria and maintains this level for 5 years;
- Platinum membership for companies that meet all criteria for 10 consecutive years.
Green Key / Clef verte
The Green Key label was also created at the beginning of the 1990s, and more precisely in 1994 in Denmark. Originally it was dedicated to the hotel sector, but since the beginning of the 2000s campsites, restaurants and amusement parks have been added.
For each type of structure there is a specific reference framework. Each one has more than a hundred criteria, “Imperative” or “Recommended”, which are divided into 7 themes:
- Environmental policy
- Environmental awareness
- water management
- waste sorting
- Energy management
- Responsible purchasing
- Living environment
The application for the label takes about a year. The application must be submitted before March, and the audit will be carried out between April and September by a consultant auditor. The jury meets in October to decide whether or not to authorise the candidate to use the Green Key label.
Bio-Hotels is a European association that has defined a set of food standards. The ecological management of member establishments, including the reduction of water and energy consumption and the recycling of waste, is regularly monitored. Indeed, this certification covers organic and regional products, so eating healthily in eco-friendly hotels is essential. Bio-Hotels certified hotels only use certified organic products.
The minimum requirements to be met in three areas established by Bio-Hotels:
- food and beverages (local cuisine, organic food and beverages…)
- cosmetics (only natural cosmetics that meet the following standards or those of comparable certification companies (BDIH, Ecocert, ABG, ICEA, NaTrue).
- sustainability (electricity from environmentally friendly sources, recycled paper or paper from sustainable forestry, maximum value of 40 kg CO2 calculated per guest per night)
European Ecolabel accommodation
The European Ecolabel for tourist accommodation, created in 1992 by the European Commission, has been in existence since 2003 for tourist accommodation and since 2005 for campsite services. It is the only label common to all European countries. The certification, in France, by AFNOR (Association Français de Normalisation) is awarded to accommodation that meets ecological requirements. Indeed, these accommodations offer ecological holidays and a lower environmental impact.
This label therefore guarantees a high quality of the services offered for the protection of the environment by promoting products that respect health and the environment.
The criteria to be met for the award of this certification :
- low energy consumption ;
- low water consumption;
- waste management: selective sorting and appropriate disposal
- the use of renewable energy: solar, thermal, photovoltaic;
- the use of appropriate substances for the respect of the environment: products labelled organic;
- raising customer awareness by offering them meals based on local or organic products, educational activities on respect for the environment, etc.
What are the French sustainable tourism labels?
The Ecogîte label, created in 2003, is a global environmental quality of rural tourism structures. The accommodations concern, whether or not they are located in natural parks, rural gîtes, guest rooms, stopover gîtes and campsites, labelled Gîtes de France.
This label, recognised as a very good choice by the ADEME (agency for ecological transition), calls upon notions of economy, ecosystem and bioconstruction. Indeed, the use of materials comes from renewable resources in order to allow everyone to understand the current environmental concerns as well as the existing techniques or materials.
- to make as many people as possible aware of the environmental impacts ;
- control the management of structures (water, energy, etc.);
- protect the local, regional and global environment by reducing the consumption of structures.
The environmental criteria taken into account are :
- The accommodation must be adapted to its site and the surrounding environment;
- For the respect of the environment, the use of healthy and local materials;
- The management of energy and water must be minimal in order to avoid high consumption;
- Renewable energies implemented in the structure;
- Waste sorting;
- Awareness raising and sharing of values with the users remain essential.
Les Gîtes Panda
The Gîte Panda label was created in 1993 by WWF-France. It covers several types of accommodation such as rural gîtes, guest rooms and holiday gîtes. This is a sustainable tourism project that aims to raise awareness of environmental protection and conservation. Indeed, the owners of these gîtes are committed to protecting and enhancing the natural environment and the species that surround them.
This label is a certification awarded under certain conditions:
- The environmental setting of the lodge must be of high quality;
- The awareness of tourists should be raised by people who are in a good position to do so;
- The lodge should provide materials to enrich the culture of the guests through documents on the richness of the heritage and observation equipment.
The Gîte Panda label is based on 4 major criteria:
- preserve a healthy environment
- use eco-responsible materials and renewable energy;
- manage the gite ecologically: sorting waste, composting, energy and water management, using organic and biodegradable products;
- to make tourists aware of the need to respect the environment: educational activities
Via Natura, created in 2006, is a French association of ecotourism campsites committed to the respect of the environment. Indeed, the three campsite managers share the same values:
- love of nature ;
- respect for the environment;
- the desire to share a passion (cider making, horse training, lavender production or eco-construction for example…).
Sharing their passion for nature, their ecological design and raising awareness as much as possible are therefore essential issues. Moreover, these campsites on a human scale have common values and criteria to fulfil. As a result, the association’s charter includes 6 commitments:
- put people at the centre of their values and respect nature;
- to offer a preserved natural site;
- to help understand and interpret the environment that welcomes you by providing documentation on the fauna and flora, equipment and places for observation, by organising activities and nature outings and environmental education;
- practice fair tourism with their local partners;
- Participate in sustainable tourism (sorting waste, using reasonable resources (water, electricity), limiting travel);
- support associations and events that are environmentally friendly.
Regional nature park values / Valeurs parc naturel régional
Valeurs parc, a label awarded by regional nature parks throughout France. This label is reserved for parks based on sustainable tourism and economic development and offers the choice of ethical and eco-responsible consumption based on essential values:
- the territorial anchorage ;
- the human dimension;
- the preservation of heritage.
It concerns agricultural products as well as handicrafts, accommodation and tourist services and educational activities…
It is a quality label that meets specific criteria and values. Indeed, the parks must be committed to respecting nature, the human and social dimension and thus be able to continuously improve the management of their activities.
Is certification of your tourist accommodation important to you, especially in the context of responsible holidays? Did you know about these accommodations? Don’t hesitate to let us know about others if any are missing in this article via the comments.