Members of the Green Destinations Certification Programme and pursuing Green Destinations Certification are subject to the following procedure.
Upon signing a Certification Agreement, applicant destinations receive login details for the GD Assessment & Reporting System, a manual to guide the applicant around the platform, and shall proceed through the following steps of the assessment and certification procedure.
The destination coordinator completes the online Green Destinations Standard and Indicator reports. Assessment is done according to the reporting instructions and Guidance provided at each individual criterion or indicator, including the explanation of compliance and upload of supporting documentation. After the destination coordinator has completed all criteria and reviewable indicators, s/he notifies GD Secretariat and request a verification.
The Operating Organisation performs a technical check to see a) whether the self-assessment has been performed at sufficient detailed level to request verification; and b) to see whether the assessment has the potential of leading to an Award level.
If this is the case, the Verification procedure (3) starts within 10 working days after submission of the self-assessment.
If this is not the case, the destination shall be notified via e-mail within 10 working days after submission of the self-assessment, including details of any omissions.
The technical check shall also define whether the applicant’s information and evidence is likely to result in ‘Certified’ (100% compliance with GD Standard). If this is the case and the applicant has indicated upon registration to pursue ‘Certified’ status, a Verification and Audit procedure shall follow (5).
“Green Destinations Certified” status is the ultimate type of recognition and is awarded to destinations who comply with all mandatory Green Destinations Standard (policy) criteria.
In order to assure the independent nature of the Green Destinations Certified status, this status will only be assigned after an on-site audit by an independent 3rd party Auditor, ordered Green Destinations. This on-site audit will be repeated every 2nd year.
The audit shall be communicated by e-mail to the destinations at least 3 months prior to the planned audit performance, allowing both applicant and auditor to prepare for the audit.
“Certification” and associated license to use the ‘GSTC Certified’ logo can only be issued by Green Destinations as the Certification Body. Operating Organisations (Green Destinations license holders and ‘Representatives’) are not entitled to issue certification (the scope of Green Destinations’ GSTC ‘Approval’ status to issue Certification is not including outsourced certification activities).
The procedure to select and allocate auditors to applicant destinations is as follows:
i. An online verification (Desk-audit) of the destination’s self-assessment, checked for completeness by Green Destinations, shall be performed by a Green Destinations registered auditor as preparation for the on-site audit.
Based on the submitted online information and documentation, the auditor shall notify the Destination of any identified non compliances and request any explanation of unclear information.
This allows the destination to prepare for the on-site audit and gather missing data.
ii. At the beginning of the audit, the auditor begins with an opening meeting involving key stakeholders, including the sustainability manager, destination manager and other key members of staff.
iii. The auditor conducts the audit, which will include:
iv. The auditor ends the audit with a closing meeting with key staff is held in which:
v. If the auditor needs to contact an external stakeholder(s), they advise the member at the closing meeting.
After the audit
vi. If needed, the auditor advises the Operating Organisation that they will contact external stakeholders before they submit their audit report, which the Operating Organisation will confirm with the Member by email;
vii. The auditor completes the audit report within 14 days of the final audit date and submits it to the Operating Organisation. The report will explain where the Member meets or does not meet the requirements of the Green Destinations standard.
Based on the results from the Verification, the auditor issues an Audit report to the Operating Organisation, that will evaluate the auditor’s report and make a motivated Advice on the ‘Certified’ status to the Green Destinations Awards & Certification Committee. The Secretary of the Committee shall appoint a Committee Rapporteur, who will review the Verification report and the Advice, and may raise queries to the auditor on assessment details. A second Rapporteur will be appointed by the Operating Organisation. The Rapporteurs will take a final decision on behalf of CB. If the two Rapporteurs cannot come to an agreement within one month, the Secretary of the Committee will appoint a third Rapporteur.
In case of ‘Green Destinations Certified’ status, the Committee Rapporteurs have several options for their final verdict:
All criteria have been met. Non-essential corrections might be needed which will be evaluated during the next scheduled audit.
There are (essential) non-conformities, but they could be corrected. The destination is enabled to correct certain elements within a defined time period. Once corrected they are checked by the Operating Organisation, and reported to the Secretary of the Committee. Based on compliance the Certification is provided.
Certification is provided but the destination is requested to correct certain elements within a defined period of time (to be agreed beforehand with the destination). In case the corrections are not done the Operating Organisation may withdraw or suspend the Certified status.
The destination does not comply with the mandatory criteria and non-conformities are serious in nature or number. Compliance on the short term is not expected. The process is completed and the destination should request for a new certification if they wish to do so, or the destination can request to be issued a pre-certification Award based on its audited scores.
In case of B) Postponed Certification; or B) Conditional Certification; Green Destinations shall invite the Member to correct any non-conformity identified within a specified time period and to inform Green Destinations when this rectification has been completed.
The review of post-audit improvements is done principally by the Secretariat, supported by the Certification Committee and involved auditor. If non-conformities are not corrected within the specified time frame, the destination will automatically invited for a re-audit.
Post-audit improvements’ guidelines shall effectively manage the verification process.
Applicants that have been granted an Award or Certification status shall receive:
The Certification document shall identify:
The successful applicant hall be consulted about the presentation of their Certificate and an Award Flag at a local, national or international Award ceremony. Award presentations can also take place at an appropriate tourism fair (e.g. Vakantiebeurs Utrecht, FITUR Madrid, ITB Berlin, WTM London).
Awarded Destinations can order extra flags and banners (at a cost basis), which can be displayed throughout the destination’s territory during a 24-months period, until renewal of the Award or Certification status is required.
Upon issuing the Award, the Destination shall be featured on at least the following channels:
Green Destinations certification is valid for 3 years, but the first recertification shall take place within 2 years after the initial certification is granted. 18 Months after application the Awarded destination shall be encouraged to thoroughly update the information and evidence on the Green Destinations online platform. The assessment of the re-application shall follow the same procedure as outlined above and take into consideration the coherence between the improvements indicated in the previous one and the integration of the suggestions and the recommendations made by the Operating Organisation on behalf of the CB.
When a Member is due for re-verification, the Operating Organisation:
Auditor selection process
In principle Green Destinations shall not allocate the same auditor to for Award & Certification Renewal
Auditing and Certification process
For the re-verification Green Destinations will further follow the initial audit and certification process as described in step 3.
Awarded or Certified destinations are required to always keep an updated file of their status towards the mandatory criteria in the online system and to immediately notify the Operating Organisation in case it does not anymore comply with the certification standard on the basis on which it has been certified.
The Operating Organisation remains the right to conduct an audit more frequently in case serious doubts occur. The costs for such audit are with the Operating Organisation. In case however serious non-conformities are found which would result in the suspending the certificate, the destination is required to pay for the cost of such audit.
NB. The Green Destinations Indicators Database which contributes to the award level definition (e.g. the number of themes with a score of 8 out of 10) is a dynamic system with many scores based on the scaled performance of all destinations in the system. This means that if over time destinations are improving their performance, the scores of those destinations that are lagging behind may fall. This means that Awards are issued based on the score at the moment of assessment, and theoretically similar performance may result in a different score (and thus Award level) at the time of award renewal.
It is also important for applicants to realise that the Green Destinations Indicators Database is annually improved in order to better cover up-to-date considerations about sustainability and relevant criteria, and to increase harmonisation with collaborating schemes such as ETIS and GSTC.
 Travelife is a Certification Programme for Tour Operators and Hotels, and a GD Partner.