HOTEL BUSINESS REVIEW

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Certifiably Sustainable

Choosing Reputable Travel Certifications

By Alex Smith Chief Operating Officer, Legacy Vacation Resorts | June 2024

The B Corp Logo proudly displayed at the Legacy Vacation Resorts Indian Shores Location

Travelers today who are researching destinations, accommodations and attractions for their vacations are met with a barrage of icons, badges and branded partnerships that make some sort of claim about the sustainability of that organization.

Some may be as benign as an ‘eco-stamp of approval’ while others bear the mark of a more stringent set of standards. As hotel operators, it is imperative that we maintain a transparent and accountable relationship with our guests to clearly define how we are working toward benefitting people and the planet.

This effort is more important than ever now that select countries and lawmakers are introducing policy require proof and other methods of verification against any claims a business makes towards eco-friendliness or sustainability. Greenwashing runs rampant in the tourism industry and many companies are saying all the right things while doing all the wrong ones behind the scenes. By investing time and effort into securing the best and most trusted certifications, you will ultimately avoid issues down the road and become more desirable to potential customers.

B Corp Certification - Setting the Highest Levels of Environmental and Social Performance

Administered by the non-profit B Lab®, Certified B Corporations are for-profit businesses that voluntarily meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose through third-party review. Certified B Corporations, or ‘B Corps’ as they are referred to, are leaders in the global movement for an inclusive, equitable, and regenerative economy. Unlike other certifications for businesses, B Lab is unique in their ability to measure a company’s entire social and environmental impact in order to grant verified approval.

B Corp Certification is a designation that a business is meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability, and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials. In order to achieve certification, a company must demonstrate high social and environmental performance by achieving a B Impact Assessment score of 80 or above and passing a risk review. Businesses must also make a legal commitment by changing their corporate governance structure to be accountable to all stakeholders not just shareholders, and achieve benefit corporation status if available in their jurisdiction. In addition, a company is expected to exhibit transparency by allowing information about their performance measured against B Lab’s standards to be publicly available on their B Corp profile on B Lab’s website.

As leaders in the movement for economic systems change, B Corps reap remarkable benefits. They build trust with consumers, communities, and suppliers; attract and retain employees; and draw mission-aligned investors. As they are required to undergo the verification process every three years in order to recertify, B Corps are by definition also focused on continuous improvement, leading to their long-term resiliency. One thing that truly makes the B Corp Certification stand out among other designations is that the view of the company is holistic. The assessment is not exclusively focused on a single social or environmental issue, but instead covers a very broad range of different programs and initiatives across ESG.

The process to achieve and maintain certification requires engaging teams and departments across your company. Taking business size and profile into account, verification involves documentation of your company’s business model and information about your operations, structure, and various work processes, as well as review of potential public complaints and possible site visits. Recertification confirms these standards continue to be met on an ongoing basis, so a company cannot simply rest on their laurels on the one-time certification but must prove continued growth in impact.

While this process seems rigorous, it is for good reason. B Corp Certification remains one of the most trusted business verifications in the field. For the travel industry, there is an added bonus of being in a very exclusive club. To date, there are only 164 Certified B Corps in tourism worldwide. This means consumers who are looking for the absolute best brands in social and environmental performance will have an easy time finding your company as they plan their trips.

Here at Legacy Vacation Resorts, we originally certified as a B Corp in 2019 with 88.6 points. During our first B Corp Recertification in 2022 we achieved a 42% increase in our B Corp score with 126.0 points - a testament to our team’s work towards creating a better tourism industry. With that new figure we became the highest scoring B Corp Hotel Chain in the world. However, despite this achievement our leadership team is ever-focused on the future. The B Corp framework and the requirement to recertify every three years helps us to push ourselves in finding ways to create even more tangible positive impact for people and the planet through each of our business decisions, all supported by fellow B Corps across the global tourism industry.

GSTC Criteria by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council®

Another incredibly valued and respected organization for measuring the impact of travel companies is the Global Sustainable Tourism Council® (GSTC). Their GSTC Criteria helps businesses further identify quality and trusted certifications across the world. GSTC is involved in the Certification of businesses, Accreditation of certification bodies, and Recognition of standards.

It is important to clarify that GSTC Recognition is not a mark like accreditation, but instead is a status GSTC provides to a set of standards that are equivalent to the GSTC Criteria. They review other certifications against their four pillars of the GSTC Criteria: Environment, Social, Cultural, and Management principles. The process involves Certification Bodies choosing to go through GSTC’s independent and neutral process to verify that they certify businesses, such as hotels or tour operators, or destinations, in a thorough, trusted and neutral manner. GSTC takes on a stringent analysis of the Certification Body’s processes to ensure you that they issue certifications based on merit, neutrality and truthfulness as opposed to a pay-to-play model.

GSTC Accredited Certification Bodies are becoming more and more popular with tourism entities who are seeking a trusted way to share their sustainability practices. Many owners and buyers of hotel spaces use the GSTC framework and highlight those accommodations certified by GSTC Accredited Certification bodies including Hilton, TUI Group, easyJet holidays and Mandarin Oriental to name a few.

To become certified by a GSTC accredited model, hoteliers must first choose a Certification Body from the GSTC accredited list and then work with that Certification Body to achieve full compliance. Once Certified by that group, the business will also be able to display the GSTC logo upon completion of a licensing agreement with the GSTC. A list of GSTC Accredited Certification Bodies for Hotel/Accommodation can be found here.

EarthCheck

Since 1987 EarthCheck has assisted businesses, communities and governments to deliver sustainable, clean, safe and prosperous destinations for travelers to visit, live, work and play. It has become the world’s leading scientific benchmarking certification and advisory group for sustainable travel and tourism and is an incredibly trusted certification. The organization helps tourism businesses and destinations become more sustainable through certification, consulting, training and software solutions and is well respected by travelers, brands and destinations globally. Their goal is to help consumers make informed decisions about the tourism experiences they choose and the places they stay.

EarthCheck delivers Science-backed sustainability solutions for the tourism industry delivered by experts in the field. When a travel business displays an EarthCheck certification badge, it is known that they have been through a rigorous science-backed, people-focused sustainability certification process. EarthCheck’s process is intentional and guided - through each step companies are given the tools they need to measure their impact and then make decisions to improve their processes in a way that will save money, resources and help better the planet.

This certification option works for any company on a path to sustainability, no matter their current programs or level of understanding. Whether they’re just starting or well on their way to reaching net zero, becoming EarthCheck Certified will help any tourism business showcase its commitment to a sustainability pathway, and enhance incredible tourism experiences for customers year after year.

The rigorous science-backed, people-focused certification process has been embraced by the world’s most recognized travel and tourism brands and helps them demonstrate their sustainability commitment long-term. EarthCheck’s sustainability experts work with their brand partners to engage both teams and stakeholder to establish sustainability policies, benchmark current operations, certify against their standards and will then audit and promote your certification level annually.

Community Over Competition

At LVR we are consistently impressed by how collaborative the B Corp network is, one of the reasons why we decided upon this particular certification. It is truly a community where travel professionals can share best practices, case studies and pathways to positive impact. In our co-founded nonprofit B Tourism, the global B Corp travel community convenes monthly to welcome special guest speakers and learn about more ways in which to use travel as a force for good. We also utilize our B Tourism group to help spread awareness for B Corps in travel with consumers, provide resources to fellow travel companies seeking certification and grow the B Corp tourism network globally. Our team meets people where they are to deliver actionable strategies to use their business to help people and the planet.

No matter which certification you pursue, the most important thing to remember is selecting an option that is verified, accountable and transparent. Consumers today are seeking out more ethical and sustainable companies that are committed to using the power of their business to solve environmental and societal issues. These consumers can sniff out greenwashing from a mile away and being identified as a business that espouses false claims about eco-friendliness can permanently tarnish your brand and reputation.

Companies that adopt purpose-driven principles can expect to become more resilient, attracting loyal customers and even more loyal employees - creating a trusted brand that will continue to evolve with the shifting consumer mindset in the travel industry. And the businesses that do well while doing good? Well, those are the ones who can reshape the industry and create a new generation of traveler.

Mr. Smith

Alex Smith is the Chief Operating Officer of Legacy Vacation Resorts and is tasked with leading operations for the B Corp Certified Hospitality company while also maintaining a triple bottom line of people, planet and profit. The multi-state business with more than 300 employees and 1,200 keys across eight states serves more than 300,000 guests annually at their eight resort locations, and Mr. Smith oversees each one as well as the corporate headquarters while ensuring all elements are aligned with their mission to use travel as a force for good. He is a values-driven professional striving to leverage his rich experience and use his creative thinking and problem-solving abilities to re-imagine the travel and tourism industry. In his time with the company, Mr. Smith assisted with structuring organizational and operational changes and enhancements that led LVR to becoming the second-highest scoring B Corp hospitality company in the world.

Extended Biography & Contact Information

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In the event that you have chosen to have your membership automatically rebilled, unless and until you notify HotelExecutive that you wish to cancel or terminate your membership to HotelExecutive, you hereby agree and authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to automatically renew your membership to HotelExecutive on a continuing basis and to charge your credit card (or other payment means you have selected) to pay for the ongoing cost of your membership. You hereby further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card (or other approved payment means you have selected) for any and all purchases of products, services and entertainment provided to in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive.

13. PRIVACY POLICY

The following is the Privacy Policy for HotelExecutive

We can be reached via telephone, email, or online at our contact page. When you visit our site we do not log any information regarding your domain or email address. Information Sharing: We do not share user information with any third parties other than via press release distribution as described below.

Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

Cookies: Our system requires the use of cookies to enable the user to log back into our website to access information from the newswire, without having to log in each time using the required username and password.

If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

Ad Servers: We do not partner with or have any relationship with any ad server companies. From time to time, we may use customer information for new uses not previously disclosed in our privacy notice. If our information practices change at any time, we will post the policy changes to our website to notify you of these changes and provide you with the ability to opt out of these new uses. If you are concerned about how your information is used, you should check back at our website periodically.

Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

Security: We always use industry-standard encryption technologies while transferring and receiving user data exchanged with our site. We have appropriate security measures in place in our physical facilities to protect against the loss, misuse, or alteration of information that we have collected from you on our site. We do not store credit card information in our systems.

If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

Kirk Pederson
Jeffery Smith
Joshua Zinder
Albert Rothman
Alexander Urrunaga
Diarmuid Dwyer
Mary Holt
Nora Minichino
Tim  Gerhold
Cleo Clarke
Kristin Fields
Valerie Bolton
Raianne Reiss
Coming up in March 1970...