2010 Innovation Award Finalist: Rainforest Alliance
Organization: Rainforest Alliance
Nominated by: Jessica Webb, Rainforest Alliance (Organization Category)
The Rainforest Alliance provides tourism entrepreneurs and community-based businesses in Latin America with the tools and training they need to become more environmentally and socially responsible, to compete in the marketplace and to contribute to the conservation of the local cultures and nature. Last year, we launched the Rainforest Alliance Verified program, which includes the following services:
- Training modules – from one day seminars to multi-day workshops, we provide tourism businesses with the tools and know-how they need to manage their business sustainably through best practices
- Technical Assistance – businesses work together with our qualified sustainable tourism assessors to create a sustainability management plan tailored to the business’ needs
- Verification Visits – an assessor makes an on-site visit to evaluate the business on its application of sustainability practices, so that management can see where they are doing well and where they need to improve
- Marketing benefits – businesses that fulfill certain requirements (see below) are eligible to receive promotional benefits from the Rainforest Alliance, including use of the Rainforest Alliance Verified mark, representation in local and international trade shows, and inclusion in promotional Web sites and printed materials
All of our tools and modules are aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria.
Topics covered include:
- Clean technologies
- Waste management and recycling
- Carbon offsetting
- Preserving and reviving local culture and heritage
- Quality in service
- Administration and planning
- Biodiversity conservation
- Green marketing
- Gender equality as a mirror of the social commitment of the business
By working on improving their environmental, social and economic practices, tourism businesses:
- Ensure the future of their water and energy sources and natural and cultural treasures so that they can thrive for years to come
- Improve their bottom line and cut costs by learning how to save energy, use less water, and reduce staff turnover
- Give their guests a more authentic, memorable and satisfying experience, by assuring them that they can feel good about choosing their business
- Prepare for certification with one of the members of the Sustainable Tourism Certification Network of the Americas or, in the future, a Tourism Sustainability Council accredited program
- Improve their competitiveness by reaching international markets that are increasingly demanding sustainable services
- Receive marketing and promotional benefits from the Rainforest Alliance (see our brochure for more details)
What do tourism businesses gain from the implementation of best practices and what costs do they incur? To answer this frequently asked question, the Rainforest Alliance developed a study, entitled Best Management Practices in Tourism Businesses: Their Benefits and Implications, which examined 14 hotels of various sizes, types of locations and market niches in Belize, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Guatemala and Nicaragua that are participating in our verification program. The analysis found that, through the application of best practices, these tourism businesses reduced their operating costs and improved both the quality of their service and their company’s image.
Here are some of the study’s specific findings:
- Seventy-one percent of the hotels decreased their water consumption, and 31 percent reduced the amount of money they spent on water.
- The hotels saved an average of $2,781 on their water bills. One hotel in Nicaragua reported an annual savings of $7,900.
- Ninety-three percent of the properties reported a decrease in energy consumption, even though 15 percent of them expanded their installations.
- The reduction in electricity consumption resulted in lower power costs for 64 percent of the hotels, with an average annual savings of $5,255. One Nicaraguan hotel saved $17,300.
- Seventy-one percent of the businesses reduced solid waste, while the remaining 29 percent maintained stable waste levels, even though their occupancy rates increased.
- The decrease in garbage production also generated savings, with 79 percent of the businesses repurposing discarded materials, such as glass food jars that were reused as vases.
- At 83 percent of the hotels, managers supported conservation efforts in protected areas, which they believe improved their competitiveness.
- All of the hotels purchased goods and services from small and medium local enterprises, and 64 percent of them saved money in transportation costs.
- All of the businesses hired local workers, and hotel administrators found that employees were more motivated after attending training sessions; 93 percent of the hotels reported a decrease in staff turnover.
Video: Testimonials from tourism entrepreneurs and interviews with Rainforest Alliance staff.
Report: “The Costs and Benefits of Implementing Best Management Practices for Tourism Businesses”