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Green tourism actions speak louder than words


Jon Proctor, Co-Founder & Technical Director of the Green Tourism Certification Programme says the industry only benefits from verifiable sustainability assessment.

 

Green tourism actions speak louder than words

It’s time for us all to put our money where our mouth is. Too long have we all talked the talk without properly walking the walk.

Front cover image of GT Life first issue August 2014
This article appeared originally in GT Life August issue – click on image to read full edition

While evidence from environmental reporting and climate change research all points towards significant cost savings for individuals, businesses and society as a whole the rate of necessary change continues to be slow.

Over the last 10 years the climate change debate has moved from an accepted recognition that there is a problem to a realisation that society needs to adapt if it is to retain any semblance of current luxurious lifestyles.

However, confusion reigns and one of the main culprits within the tourism industry is the prevalence of ‘Greenwash’. There are too many instances of false claims being made and wording used out of context with the deliberate intention of selling a product or service.

How often have we all seen words such as ‘natural’, ‘recycle-able’, ‘sustainable’ and “carbon neutral” used to extol the virtues of something without any evidence or independent verification? In many cases such words are intended to give a false impression about how green a product or service actually is and they confuse consumers.

There is an urgent need for greater vigilance and a tougher response to unsubstantiated statements if society is to be protected from misleading claims by organisations looking to increase market share rather than genuinely promote responsible sustainability.

Over the last 10 years a number of schemes have been launched which may appear to follow in the footsteps of Green Tourism but have, sadly, wandered so far off track they are in danger of losing their sense of direction completely.

Of all the potentially misleading developments the rise in so-called ‘self assessment’ schemes is probably the most worrying. This is a blatant misuse of the term as they should really be called ‘self-declaration’, ‘self-styled’ or ‘self-serving’.

No self-assessment

Getting something assessed is intrinsically about having another set of eyes look over your work. We all rely on assessments at school but no-one would ever consider pupils self-assessing themselves for their exams or coursework.

Schemes which attempt to take advantage of the growing green marketplace by awarding a grade on the back of a self-declared green tourism audit lack the credibility of an independent assessment. It is little more than ‘Greenwash’ and undermines genuine approaches to encourage greater sustainability.

Independent verification is a must if consumer confidence is to be enhanced. Green Tourism, for example, does a site inspection on each member every two years and continuously strives to develop and raise standards. It is dedicated to the painstaking and thorough work of inspecting member properties and auditing their total range of green practices before any grading is issued.

Real trust is a fundamental and desperately-needed issue. It cannot be created by words alone. Potential clients should be able to make their purchasing decisions on factors that are honest, transparent and unsullied by greenwashed weasel words.

Read more about Green Tourism at www.green-tourism.com

SaveMoneyCutCarbon.com is sponsoring the Green Tourism conference in November, together with Kimberly-Clark and Tridos Bank. Registration opens shortly http://www.green-tourism.com/go-green/events/green-tourism-conference/gtc2014/

 

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