So many labels, so much confusion
It’s a jungle out there. There are over 400 labels known worldwide. (For a review of each of these labels, see the Eco Label Index site)
Many people comment that with so many labels, it’s hard to know what is ‘good’. Yet, certifications can provide real value to meetings industry professionals seeking to improve business performance.
For Suppliers: Eco Certifications provide practical guidance for integrating sustainability into their operations in a fundamental way. An investment in a certification system can save money while helping to earn credibility in the marketplace. Labels should not, though, supplant constructive dialogue between buyers and suppliers. If sustainability goals are to be met, an ever increasing amount of collaboration and innovation will be required.
For planners: Because most eco labels require a sustainability policy and documentation showing performance improvement over time, they provide planners some reassurance that leaders on site are at least somewhat engaged in the supporting of responsible business practices. Planners can reasonably ask for statistics and examples of actions. Certification, in this way, lowers risk for planners.
Green Globe: Green Globe offers a good balance of environmentally sound practices with a focus on social responsibility criteria. Event planners gain indication that the certified supplier has good systems in place for a responsible business. Green Globe has different criteria for different kinds of businesses, including offices. That said, criteria for planner offices are not particularly agressive. This label is a better indication for the level of leadership engagement in sustainability at hotels and conference venues.
Green Key: Originally designed to help leisure travelers better access environmentally responsible locations and activities, this certification is exclusively focused on ‘green’ aspects of business impacts and engagements. The requirements of Green Key are such that it represents a good first point of entry for businesses seeking to get started with sustainable practices. While international, Green Key has been localized to only a few regions and is not widely recognized in Asia or Southern Europe.
BS8901 / ISO 20121/14001: These are internationally recognized management standards that are regarded as being robust and holistic. Critics point out that, because the individual organization set the scope and level of improvement required, a business could technically meet certification with only nominal levels of real improvement. Still, the requirement of solid, proven processes is a strong indicator of leadership engagement and commitment to sustainability.
Nordic Swan: The most rigorous standard for environmental sustainability, the Nordic Swan does not yet integrate requirement for social responsibility issues such as fair wages, diversity, or labour rights. It is a regional label, localized to Scandinavia and does not currently offer certification options for venues. It is a strong indicator of good leadership and planners are encouraged to consider this when organizing events in Scandinavia.
EU Flower: Developed with good intentions, and requiring a good commitment to environmental sustainability, the EU Flower label is not widely recognized or understood by most in the meetings and events industry. It lacks criteria for social responsibility and does not offer criteria for meeting venues.
- Eco labels are valuable indicators of leadership engagement and well run businesses
- Eco labels help businesses save money
- Eco labels don’t replace the need for dialogue between planner and supplier
- Seek out certified suppliers as a first choice to reduce risk to your business or event
Do you have experience with certification labels you can share? Would you like to suggest changes to any of the above? Let us know in the comments section.