The key to sustainable tourism

Created in Denmark in 1994, the Green Key ecological award is granted on an annual basis to over 3,200 hotels and other establishments in 65 countries and acknowledges the environmental sustainability of 100 Portuguese hotels and restaurants.

An initiative within the scope of the Foundation for Environmental Education, based in Denmark and run in Portugal by the Blue Flag of Europe Association, the Green Key programme is an example of corporate initiatives designed to promote the environmental sustainability of our planet. The award fosters sustainable tourism through the acknowledgement of tourist establishments, local accommodations, camping sites, restaurants and congress centres that implement good environmental and social practices, highlighting environmental management at their establishments and promoting environmental education for sustainability.


According to Teresa Ferreira, a Green Key coordinator in Portugal, the programme, which takes place on an annual basis, involves the implementation of 120 social and environmental requirements by the competing establishments. These requirements range from their degree of involvement with the communities in which they are active to their energy and water consumption, waste disposal and management activities. It consists of a written test, later verified at each of the businesses by members of the organisation, conducted with the aim of changing the behaviour of everyone involved with each and every one of these establishments, including suppliers, managers, employees and customers. “Compliance with the 120 requirements leads companies to be more energy efficient and to save energy, water and other resources and, as a result, to reduce costs”, explains Teresa Ferreira, adding that, in parallel, they begin to attract more customers concerned with the social and environmental sustainability of our planet.


How do companies find out what they have to do to become more sustainable? “In the case of hotel establishments, they need to look at all the criteria in relation to energy and water consumption per room, for example, to try and see where they can save”, says Teresa Ferreira, adding that the programme´s organisers can provide clues on the best way to do this and what types of equipment can be used to achieve these goals. She also explains that the Green Key organisation is implementing a consumption registration platform, which will enable competing and award-winning establishments to measure their own consumption by comparing it with that of similar units. “This applies to energy efficiency and other items such as water, waste and even ecological footprints”, she explains.
Green Key has been in Portugal since 2007. In terms of the number of establishments involved, we are currently ranked fifth among the 65 countries in which the programme is active. “This is the result, of course, of our work, but it also illustrates the commitment of the country´s entrepreneurs to the issue of environmental and social sustainability”, concludes Teresa Ferreira.

Access the list of the enterprises that have been granted the award in Portugal here.