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Perthshire-based Green Tourism has run the UK tourism industry’s leading sustainability certification and support programme for more than 25 years. Over 2,500 businesses currently display Green Tourism’s gold, silver, and bronze awards to evidence their commitment to sustainability.
VisitScotland spoke with Scott McLean, Managing Director of Green Tourism to discuss the work of the organisation and its Green Meetings Standard, created specifically for the business events sector.
VisitScotland: Tell us about the work of Green Tourism
Green Tourism assesses businesses across the tourism industry and business events sector against universally recognised, widely respected sustainability standards. From hotels and self-catering accommodations to restaurants, visitor attractions, and event venues, we are committed to supporting their efforts to operate more sustainably.
Those who have been working in the industry for several years will likely have experienced the previous Green Tourism assessment approach, where a member of our technical team would make an on-site visit every couple of years. In consultation with the industry, we refined our approach and introduced our new online portal, ‘GreenCheck’. Our new approach to assessment ensures we can provide businesses with year-round support and ensure that businesses can work through our criteria and submit evidence for assessment at a time which works best for them.
VisitScotland: How do you help businesses become more sustainable?
Our sustainability framework, our suite of resources and – crucially – our year-round technical support, empowers business leaders to plan – and make – sustainability improvements, identify cost reductions, and delegate improvement responsibilities to their teams with confidence.
Our gold, silver and bronze, Green Tourism awards, and our reports, allow customers to compare our members’ sustainability practices with any of our other 2,500 UK members – and of course, the many other businesses who don’t yet have third-party certification.
VisitScotland: How has Green Tourism developed since it started?
With our 25 years’ experience working with hundreds of meetings venues, it was clear to us that those venues wanted to benefit from the credibility offered by the Green Tourism Standard. However, to better resonate with meetings organisers, they needed the Standard and its criteria to be meetings specific.
This was for good reason. We were consistently hearing the same message from member venues: client enquiries about sustainability were increasing. For example, one leading venue told us the top three questions were:
We wanted to help venues answer this last question better and so, be more competitive – by enhancing and evidencing their sustainability practices. So, in 2021, we launched the Green Meetings Standard, with Edinburgh International Conference Centre the first venue to achieve the standard.
The uptake of the Green Meetings Standard has greatly exceeded our initial expectations. To date, more than 700 venues and hotels across the UK use the Standard. We were very clear in the development process that the Green Meetings Standard is our next 25-year commitment, so I’m extremely encouraged by the positive feedback we’ve received from businesses, and by the new partnerships we have built in the sector.
We’re now working more closely with convention bureaux and – perhaps most prominently – after an in-depth review of the associations in the sector, we have agreed a five-year partnership with the Meetings Industry Association (MIA). We concluded that MIA’s approach not only provides exceptional value to their members but also their team and board will bring huge sector-specific experience to inform the development of the Green Meetings Standard.
VisitScotland: What’s next for Green Tourism?
We have two big priorities for the remainder of 2022.
Firstly, we want to ensure that as many Scottish tourism organisations and SMEs involved in the business events sector as possible are aware of the discounted Green Tourism membership for businesses through the VisitScotland Destination Net Zero Programme. We are offering a £500 discount to businesses joining before March 2023, helping them to demonstrate their commitment to responsible tourism practices and meet the needs of visitors, who are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of sustainability.
We also want to continue to engage with event organisers and consumers to educate them on how to identify sustainable businesses and the benefits of working with them – and hopefully encourage them to spend their budgets with businesses that hold the Green Meetings Standard.
To find out more about the Green Meetings Standards visit – www.green-tourism.com/green-meetings