STEP certification is a voluntary procedure through which a facility, product, process, or service is assessed, subjected to an audit, and issued a written guarantee stating it meets complies with specific standards.
STEP certification grants a “marketable” logo to those meeting or exceeding basic standards.
STEP certification is based on both process and performance criteria and meant to verify quality, health & safety, employee engagement, guest communications, environmental management, and social responsibility.
STEP certification is only applicable to a single property, a single business entity, or a single activity unless otherwise noted.
STEP certification is NOT pass/fail.
STEP Certification awards are given based on completion of baseline criteria, verification of sustainability systems, and recommendations from independent assessors based on a percentage of total possible points.
Based on the results from independent reviews, each business has the opportunity to work its way up from the Bronze (Baseline) award all the way to Silver (Intermediate), Gold (Advanced), and Platinum (Industry Leader).
Successful businesses ramp up sustainability investments and make incremental progress over time. Our easy 3-step process provides a framework for setting goals, tracking your progress, and long term planning.
- Activation and Annual License for the Sustainability Management Framework
- Access to the STEP Sustainability Framework and full suite of management tools
- All enrolled businesses must apply for STEP Bronze Certification
- Renewal fee includes required annual monitoring to ensure continued compliance with the standard
- Apply for STEP Bronze Certification via Desk Assessment
- Businesses agree to the terms and conditions of the STEP Certification Contract & Manual
- Businesses prepare and submit verifiable evidence associated with the STEP Baseline Criteria. This includes policy development (e.g. mission statement, sustainability policy, employment, environmental management, etc.) and impact assessments (e.g. customer feedback, waste & recycling, emissions inventory, etc.).
- STEP-Accredited Assessor conducts a remote desk assessment to verify compliance to the baseline criteria and provides a formal evaluation report with feedback and advice on sustainability management planning. NOTE: this assessment may be performed by a second party (i.e. someone who is familiar with the business and not fully independent) or third party (i.e. completely independent of the business)
- If all criteria are in full compliance, a findings report is reviewed by the STEP Evaluation Committee and, upon approval, the Bronze Level Certification is awarded. The Bronze Level Certification is valid for three years and requires annual monitoring to ensure continued compliance with the baseline criteria
- Apply for STEP Silver/Gold/Platinum Certification
via an On-Site Assessment
- Businesses agree to the terms and conditions of the STEP Certification Contract & Manual
- Businesses request a site visit by an independent third party to demonstrate compliance to the criteria beyond the baseline level
- STEP-Accredited Assessor spends the necessary time (2-6 days) to perform an objective assessment of operations and verification of implementation of sustainability management systems. At the end of the assessment, businesses receive an in-depth assessment findings report with qualitative feedback on sustainability management systems, corrective actions (as applicable), and recommendation for certification at the Silver, Gold, or Platinum level
- Businesses have 90 days to address any required or recommended corrective actions. The final findings report is reviewed by the STEP Evaluation Committee to determine the level of certification which is valid for three years and requires annual monitoring.
Certification Ratings & Awards
All businesses that are enrolled in the STEP program have pledged to uphold the GSTC criteria at a minimum. This agreement is not binding and has not been verified. Only businesses that have paid an enrollment fee to access the online STEP Sustainability Framework, completed a self-assessment, and have developed an understanding on sector-specific best practices are eligible for baseline verification. All enrolled organizations are permitted to use the logo below to display ongoing efforts.
All STEP certified businesses have successfully completed a rigorous process that involves a self-assessment, policy development, impact assessments, and objective verification of a specific set of criteria as determined by the businesses operations. Businesses that have paid an assessment fee (desk or on-site), have had a specific set of criteria assessed and verified (desk or on-site), and have had an independent evaluation committee confirm compliance are able to use the logo below to illustrate their alignment and success within the program.
These Eco-certified tourism businesses have completed a self-assessment and submitted documented evidence that satisfies all applicable STEP Baseline Criteria. At this level the organization has only received a remote evaluation and the extent to which they have integrated sustainable business practices into their operations is unknown. The Bronze Level signifies that the business is in legal compliance to operate; they have drafted a sustainability policy; and have completed a triple bottom line impact assessment. For further validation and transparency the organization requires on-site evaluation by a STEP-Accredited Assessor.
These Eco-certified tourism businesses have had a 2nd-party desk assessment conducted by Sustainable Travel International or another STEP-Accredited Assessor which may be connected to the company. An independent evaluation committee has reviewed all assessment findings reports and awarded the eco-certification.
These Eco-certified tourism businesses are in the intermediate stages of sustainability and have been shown to consider environmental and socio-economic impacts in their business decisions, operations, and activities. They have demonstrated adherence to all minimum requirements for eco-certification and have had their operations verified by an independent third-party. The Silver Level signifies that the business has implemented some sustainability management systems to minimize negative and enhance positive impacts. Silver Level is also appropriate for those businesses that are excelling in some areas (e.g. employee engagement) and just embarking on other areas (e.g. community engagement). Although still young in effort, vast improvements are earmarked and should be realized over time.
These Eco-certified tourism businesses have had an on-site assessment from an independent 3rd Party STEP-Accredited Assessor. The Assessor has verified that the organization has met the STEP Baseline criteria the GSTC criteria, numerous Intermediate criteria, and perhaps a few Advanced criteria to accumulate between 20-40% of the total possible points available. An independent evaluation committee has reviewed all assessment findings reports and awarded the eco-certification.
These Eco-certified tourism businesses are advanced in terms of environmental and socio-economic responsibility, cultural sensitivity, and community engagement. They are continuously working to improve their sustainability efforts throughout all business decisions, operations, and activities. The Gold Level recognizes that numerous sustainability management systems have been implemented across the triple bottom line. Gold Level also illustrates that the management and staff are knowledgeable about sustainability issues related to their business and community and they encourage their guests and business partners to be active participants in the organization's ongoing efforts in becoming an industry leader.
These Eco-certified tourism businesses have had an on-site assessment from an independent 3rd Party STEP-Accredited Assessor that has verified that they've met the STEP Baseline criteria, the GSTC criteria, all intermediate criteria, numerous Advanced criteria, and a few Industry Leader criteria to accumulate between 41-70% of the total possible points available. An independent evaluation committee has reviewed all assessment findings reports and awarded the eco-certification.
These Eco-certified tourism businesses are industry leaders. They make sustainable development, environmental, socio-cultural, and economic development issues a priority. They are seen as environmentally innovative and socially responsible. They have an overwhelmingly positive impact on their employees, their community, their business partners, and the environment. The Platinum Level signifies the business has and will continue to invest both time and money to maintain the highest levels of sustainability. The business has a deep commitment to quality, transparency, and accountability and all business decisions, operations, and activities reflect a triple bottom line philosophy.
These Eco-certified tourism businesses have had an on-site assessment from an independent 3rd Party STEP-Accredited Assessor that has verified that they've met the STEP Baseline criteria, the GSTC criteria, all Intermediate criteria, most advanced criteria, and numerous Industry Leader criteria to accumulate 71% or more of the total possible points available. An independent evaluation committee has reviewed all assessment findings reports and awarded the eco-certification.
The Sustainable Tourism Education Program™ (STEP), the STEP Logos & Eco-Labels, and the Sustainable Travel International™ logo are trademarks of Sustainable Travel International. No company or person shall use the marks in connection with a program or service or in any way that indicates the program or service is certified until written authorization is provided by Sustainable Travel International. Sustainable Travel International may pursue legal recourse if the logos or labels are misused.
Enroll today and complete a self-assessment
Learn more about STEP: Sector-Specific Standards
Learn more about STEP: Sustainability Management Framework
Learn more about STEP: Multi Site Operations and Destination
Ready to get started on your path to sustainability?
- Call or email Sustainable Travel International to schedule a consultation.
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