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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Google Implements the “Eco-Certified” Tag

Each year, climate change has an increasingly profound effect on our decisions as consumers. Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai shared his personal experiences in a recent press release.

Each year, climate change has an increasingly profound effect on our decisions as consumers.  Google’s CEO Sundar Pichai shared his personal experiences in a recent press release. 

“A few years ago, flooding devastated Chennai [India], where I grew up. Seeing the images of the city — which had experienced extreme drought for so many years of my life — covered in flood waters, really made the impacts of climate change feel much closer to home. Last week, many of us woke up to orange skies in Northern California as wildfires continued to rage up and down the West Coast. The world must act now if we’re going to avert the worst consequences of climate change,” wrote Pichai. 

When one is able to stick to a routine, sustainable living practices are easier to maintain. However, when traveling, finding amenities such as  restaurants, hotels, and transportation that meet your standards of comfort and are also eco-friendly is difficult. Search-engine giant Google has implemented a quick fix to finding environmentally safe hotels by implementing an “Eco-Certified” tag. 

When searching for a hotel, after clicking the “Eco-Certified” tag, an “Eco-Certified” hotel will have a “Sustainability” section under the “About” tab that lists sustainable practices the hotel utilizes. There are an array of areas in which hotels can be considered eco-friendly, such as water conservation, energy efficiency, waste reduction and offering vegetarian meals. 

In addition to these areas, Eco Certifications may be listed under the “Sustainability” tab as well. These are self-disclosed by hotels, and while Google does not independently verify these certifications, they have partnered with organizations such as GreenKey and EarthCheck to conduct certification processes. 

GreenKey is an eco-label in the field of environmental responsibility and sustainable operations within the tourism industry. GreenKey represents a commitment by businesses that their tourism establishments adhere to the strict criteria stipulated by the Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE). EarthCheck is a scientific benchmarking certification and advisory group for travel and tourism.

EarthCheck’s programs are mapped to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) adopted in 2015 by all United Nations member states  and underpinned by Agenda 21, a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by all United Nations member states. Their standards are informed by a number of frameworks, criteria, and standards that present themselves under that Eco Certifications section. EarthCheck audits hotels with an onsite visit for about two to three days approximately every two years, with some needing one visit every year.

These certifications seem to be an asset to both hotels and their travelers by bringing in revenue for hotels and by taking the headache out of finding one away from tourists.

“EarthCheck members benefit from attracting business with bookings from more people interested in making sustainable travel and conferences choices. Our research indicates that more than three in five international leisure travelers – 62% – are actively seeking out tourism operators that adhere to responsible standards when they go on vacation,” said André Russ, vice president of sales at EarthCheck.

Within that 62% who say they seek out responsible tourism, 19% say they “always” do so. These findings also indicate enthusiasm for responsible travel extends beyond North America and Western Europe markets, who have “traditionally been the driver of responsible/ethical tourism,” according to EarthCheck, nearly four in five travelers from Saudi Arabia (79%) and China (78%) report that they seek out responsible tourism operators. 

These certifications and excitement in consumers toward sustainable options have been a dream of Google. The tech company reached carbon neutrality in 2007, and by September 2020, it had removed all carbon emitted since its founding in 1998. A year ago, Pichai made a public statement toward completely operating on carbon-free energy by 2030. 

“We have overlooked natural capital for too long. The value of natural capital – freshwater, clean air, habitat and so forth – needs to be factored into all economic and social decisions. We have enormous opportunities to transition toward the new low-carbon economy. This is where the blue economy of entrepreneurship, innovation, disruption – meets the green economy, such as traditional approaches to sustainable development,” Russ wrote to Green Living.

“Today we see new markets emerging for clean energy, electrified transportation, the repurposing of waste, recycling of plastics, smart roadways and community micro-grids,” Russ continued.“We hear about the circular economy and net positive strategies, where products can be made from non-toxic resources, returned to soil or water and repeatedly placed back into manufacturing processes.”

Collaboration between companies such as Google and organizations such as GreenKey and EarthCheck builds strong leadership, which will guide industries and consumers to take advantage of natural capital and enter the clean-energy space. The first steps are providing consumers and businesses the information and education on their options, and providing tools such as the “Eco-Certified” tag.

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