The Future of Sustainability Certification: Micro-Certification?
— 14 experts shared their view
Over the past 20 years, the hospitality industry has experienced a continuous increase in various 'stamps of approval', especially at the sustainable front. A few large certification bodies with extensive criteria catalogues dominate the market but hoteliers and consumers alike are still struggling to differentiate the reputable and credible ones from the home-made seals of approval. A growing number of hotel chains and independent operators have opted for external, third-party certification in regards to their hygiene and sanitation standards in light of the current pandemic. Is there an increased interest in micro-certification? Why not look for a plastic-free certification? What about a carbon natural certification or a water-efficient certification? A plant-based restaurant certification? So micro certifications with low-barriers of entry for hoteliers who could build their sustainability endeavours along micro-certification, like pieces of a puzzle. Would micro-certification facilitate consumers' understanding of the meaning and intention of certification?
Founder & CEO, Astrapto
We can learn from how other sectors are grappling with this. After I read the question, I went to my pantry for a selection of items with various certifications - an average of 4 per product. Some labels I always look for (Certified Organic or Humane), others I try to find (B Corp), and others aren't necessary but serve as a trust-building bonus (labels related to allergens or a hodgepodge of ingredient specific ones). In my research on food startups with social and environmental missions, I heard the continual tension (based on budget/resources) between the label they wanted because it represented their ethos or origin story and those the consumer recognized and demanded. You can guess what won the day.
Does the mere presence of labels convey trust or do I, as a consumer, need to be familiar with each one? And, like food, are there a few most people recognize and seek out and the rest would only matter to those who care deeply about a particular aspect? Can one certification automatically convey others? In food, Certified Organic (USDA, at least) means it's automatically non-GMO (but note you'll often see BOTH on a package because of consumer expectations and price justification). Many 'big' certs really do/can cover the same criteria in the micro certs; it's a matter of interpretation, audit, and enforcement. More questions than answers but let's apply best practices from other industries as they show us how customers recognize, process, and act on the presence of certifications.