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Eco-Rating Certification Program

Eco-Rating Certification Program

Background

The Eco-rating Scheme is a sustainable tourism certification program that aims to promote responsible tourism in Kenya. The program was launched in 2002 by Ecotourism Kenya in cooperation with tourism stakeholders in Kenya with a prime focus of recognizing best practices in business practices, conservation, community and cultural performance by tourism accommodation facilities. The accommodation facilities that apply and meet the criteria set are awarded Bronze, Silver or Gold certification based on their performance. Eco-rating refers to a systematic approach for verifying a tourism organization’s environmental, economic and socio-cultural performance when evaluated against an agreed set if criteria. The evaluation is meant to determine how responsible the operations of the facility are.

The Eco-rating Certification criterion has been aligned to the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC) formed under the umbrella of the United Nations (UN) but is adapted to suit Kenya’s local context. Under the Eco-rating Certification Scheme, a systematic procedure is followed. This seeks to assess a tourism accommodation facility performance in promoting sustainable business practices, conservation, community engagement and enhancing cultural performance.

Who can participate in the Scheme?

The Eco-rating Certification Scheme is designed for all tourism accommodation facilities that want to incorporate best practices to enhance sustainable tourism practices in their business. The types of accommodation that qualify for rating under this program include: 

  • Hotels
  • Lodges
  • Camps
  • Bush homes /homestays
  • Bandas

What are the objectives of the Scheme?

The overall objective of the Eco-rating Scheme is to achieve highest levels of environmental, economic and social practices within the tourism industry for sustainable growth of the sector. Specific objectives of the Scheme include:

a)   Increasing awareness of environmentally and socially sound business practices (educational/ change of attitude towards environmental governance and social responsibility).

b)   Enhancing the socio-economic development of the local communities where these facilities are located (developmental).

c)    Increasing contribution of tourism to community development (developmental).

d)   Enhancing contribution of tourism practices to conservation of the natural resources upon which tourism is dependent (conservation).

e)   Improving destination image, hence attracting more potential tourists (marketing advantage).

What are the best practices (values) of the Scheme?

Best practice refers to highest quality, excellence or superior practices in a particular field. Under the Eco-rating Scheme, best practices include:

  • Protecting, conserving and investing in the environment
  • Reducing, reuse and recycling waste
  • Preventing pollution
  • Responsible use of resources such as land, water, energy, culture etc.
  • Investment in people (employees and local population)
  • Local people empowerment programs
  • Fair (favorable) workplace policies
  • Fair business practices
  • Support for local economy trade linkages with local communities/economy
  • Responsible tourism Education environment

What are the potential benefits of being Eco-rated?

  1. Publicity in the publications, website and events of Ecotourism Kenya her partners
  2. Technical advice (feedback) from the evaluation process
  3. Potential for competitive advantage (from using the label)
  4. Improved operational efficiency and reduced operating costs (from saving of energy etc.)
  5. Motivation of staff and management through associated trainings offered to eco- rated facilities
  6. A recognized means of identifying genuine responsible tourism products
  7. Environmental conservation and preservation of culture
  8. Improved local community relations
  9. Higher company profile, respect and credibility
  10. Business sustainability (as resources are used responsibly)
  11. Mechanism to support local environmental conservation values
  12. Pre- audit training for prospective eco- rating certification applicants

What are the criteria used?

The criteria cover conservation, community well-being, culture and business practice(s). Emphasis has been given to sustainable use of resources, protection of the environment and support to local economies through linkages and building of capacity of local communities and employees.

What are the levels of certification?

There are three progressive eco-rating levels of certification, namely: Bronze, Silver and Gold.

Level 1: Bronze Eco-rating Certification

Bronze eco-rating certification is the entry level, awarded to facilities that demonstrate awareness of and commitment in business practices, conservation, community well-being and cultural performance. In order to qualify for Bronze Eco-rating Certification a facility must:

  • Meet all necessary legal requirements including compliance with the Environmental Management and Coordination Act, 1999.
  • Scored at least 40% in the Eco-rating Questionnaire
  • Have a demonstrable level of awareness of and commitment to conserving the environment, managing waste, preventing pollution, using resources responsibly (water, energy etc.) and investing in local economies
  • Have no outstanding formal complaint against them lodged by a recognized entity and related to any of the Eco-rating certification criteria

Level 2: Silver Eco-rating Certification

Silver eco-rating certification is an intermediary level that is awarded to facilities that demonstrates a move towards achieving excellence in business practices, conservation, community well-being and cultural performance. In order to qualify for Silver Eco-rating Certification a facility must:

  • Meet all the Bronze Certification requirements
  • Scored at least 60% of the points in the Eco-rating Questionnaire
  • Have clearly outlined policies and strategies for conserving the environment, managing wastes, preventing pollution, using resources responsibly (water, energy etc.), educating visitors, and investing in local communities & economies
  • Demonstrate effective practices for conserving the environment, using resources responsibly and investing in local communities & economies

Level 3: Gold Eco-rating Certification

Gold eco-rating certification rating is the highest level of certification and is awarded to a facility that has achieved superior and replicable levels of excellence in business practices, conservation, community well-being and cultural performance. In order to qualify for Gold Eco-rating Certification a facility must:

  • Meet all the Silver eco-rating certification requirements and should have attained Silver eco-rating certification for at least six (6) months.
  • Scored least 80% of the points in the Eco-rating Questionnaire.
  • Demonstrate success in abiding by the laid-down policies for conserving the environment, managing wastes, preventing pollution, using resources responsibly (water, energy etc.), educating visitors, and investing in local communities & economies.
  • Demonstrate innovative and outstanding levels of excellence/ best practices in environmental conservation, responsible resource use and investment in local communities & economies.

How does the Scheme work?

I. Application

An interested accommodation facility contacts the Eco-rating certification secretariat at Ecotourism Kenya, expressing their interest in eco-rating certification. The prospective applicant receives an eco-rating certification application questionnaire, which they are, required to fill and return to the Eco-rating certification secretariat in soft and/or hard copy, within two weeks.

II. Desk Evaluation

The Eco-rating certification secretariat at Ecotourism Kenya scopes the application questionnaire within a week of receipt to confirm that they meet the Eco-rating certification requirements as stipulated. Any arising issues are communicated to the applicant accordingly. Once the Eco-rating certification application is approved, the applicant is required to pay a non-refundable application fee of USD 150 before a site audit is conducted.

III. Facility Site Audit

After approval of the application, the Eco-rating certification secretariat plans a facility site audit at least within one month. A team of Eco-rating certification auditors conduct the site audit which may take 1 – 2days depending on the size of the facility. To facilitate the audit, the applicant may be required to provide accommodation to the auditors. The team of auditors then compiles an Eco-rating audit report of the facility from the information collated in the desk evaluation and site audits.

IV. Eco-rating Committee Evaluation

The Eco-rating certification secretariat presents the Eco-rating report for evaluation to the Eco-rating committee, within one month of the audit. The committee evaluates the report in accordance to the Eco-rating certification criteria, and based on the scoring an eco-rating certification is awarded with accompanying recommendations.

V. Outcome

The applying facility is notified of the outcome within two months of the facility site audit. The outcome can be a confirmation of the Eco-rating certification award, the deferment of the Eco-rating certification award pending the enactment of listed recommendations or a denial of the Eco-rating certification award. Successful applicants are required to pay the Eco-rating certification fee of their respective Eco-rating certification award within 14 working days. Deferred applicants are expected to re-apply within 6 months to avoid nullification of their application.

Upon payment of the full fees, all successful applicants receive the appropriate Eco-rating Certificate award, the respective Eco-rating certification emblem and the Eco-rating evaluation report. They are required to display and use the appropriate Eco-rating Scheme emblems on their promotional material.

How long do ratings last?

Certification is valid for 24 months from date of award. This date is indicated in the certificate. A new application for evaluation must therefore be lodged at least three months before expiry of validity.

Who manages the Scheme?

The day-to-day management of the Scheme is done by the Ecotourism Kenya secretariat with support from the Eco-rating committee. The Eco-rating/evaluation committee provides second party verification of certification.

How do I apply?

To apply for Eco-rating, request for an information package from Ecotourism Kenya by sending an e-mail to ecorating@ecotourismkenya.org

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