Eco-awards Namibia: No Greenwashing Like At

28 Mar 2024

Environmentally conscious Namibia holidaymakers can rely on Namibia's Eco-Awards Namibia sustainability seal of approval when choosing their accommodation. This was assured by Hazel Milne, the coordinator of the Eco-Awards program, when asked by The criteria for categorisation are in line with international standards and are checked by independent inspectors on site.

The question was prompted by the decision of the global booking portal to stop its 'Travel Sustainable' programme sustainability label for accommodation with immediate effect following accusations of greenwashing (more on the term greenwashing on Wikipedia).

Booking Search Etosha
Has stopped its 'Travel Sustainably' label due to accusations of greenwashing: booking portal  Photo: Screenshot

The Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) had previously labelled the programme as misleading. In particular, it criticised the fact that it was not clear to consumers what exactly the sustainability label entailed. At Booking, accommodations received several 'leaves' in their listings, depending on the extent of their sustainable orientation. Booking announced that it would revise its programme (see report by Dutch TravMagazine).

Stopping the label not only damages Booking's image, but that of the entire travel industry. This further case of possible greenwashing is also unsettling for consumers: can sustainability labels be trusted at all?

Eco-Awards Namibia includes inspections

Therefore, interviewed Hazel Milne, long-time program coordinator of Eco-Awards Namibia, the Namibian sustainability seal of approval.

Eco-Awards Namibia sustainability label international standards inspection
Ties in with international standards and includes inspections: The Namibian sustainability seal Eco-Awards Namibia.  Photo: Screenshot To your knowledge, what were the main reasons why Booking was accused of greenwashing?

Hazel Milne: The ACM probably views's sustainability rating as greenwashing because it feels the rating is misleading or exaggerated in relation to the company's actual environmental practices. Greenwashing occurs when a company exaggerates or misrepresents its commitment to sustainability in order to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers without making significant changes to its operations. The 'ratings' claimed by also appear to be mainly self-assessments, with very little or no third-party verification. What is the main difference between the Eco-Awards Namibia seal and's 'Travel Sustainable' programme?

Hazel Milne: and many other booking platforms only require a self-assessment from the providers they represent. There is very little or no subjective review. Eco-Awards Namibia also requires a self-assessment from its members, but this is followed by a comprehensive independent review. A trained auditor inspects the accommodation according to very specific criteria in all eight areas of sustainability. This audit is then followed by an external review by representatives from more than five Eco-Awards Namibia partners – to name but a few: University of Namibia (UNAM), Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), International University of Management (IUM), Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) and Tour and Safari Association of Namibia (TASA).

Eco-Awards Namibia tying in with international standards Are Eco-Awards Namibia's sustainability criteria based on scientific standards?

Hazel Milne: The criteria are based on the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) standards. The current criteria were revised a few years ago together with partners such as Fair Trade Tourism in South Africa, Botswana Tourism and Sustainable Tourism Tanzania. The aim is to create a mutually recognised standard for sustainable tourism in Africa. How does Eco-Awards Namibia ensure its credibility?

Hazel Milne: With the objectivity of the assessment and review process, together with the transparency – especially in the final report that is sent back to the accommodation with all the notes from the assessor and the review committee. Thank you for the information.

More about the Namibian sustainability label can be found on the website of Eco-Awards Namibia.

Sven-Eric Stender

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