As more and more hotels are seeking to implement environmentally-friendly practices, many are looking to certifications to help them achieve their goals. The ISO 14001 certification, which is applicable to business across many industries, provides a valuable management system and standards for an organization looking to implement environmental practices. Ewald Biemans, owner of Aruba’s Bucuti Beach Resort, recently answered some questions about ISO 14001 certification and why Bucuti chose to pursue it.
What is the ISO 14001 Certification?
The ISO 14001 certification was published by the International Standards Organization in 1996 and is essentially a road map for organizations seeking to implement a standardized program for environmental operations. Once the plan is implemented within an organization, ISO sends auditors to review the entire program and measure energy consumption, recycling efforts, etc. for certification.
Why did Bucuti Beach Resort opt to pursue this certification?
Bucuti has been ISO 14001 certified since 2003 and was the first Caribbean resort to earn this certification. I have always been incredibly passionate about the environment, which led me to pursue a degree in archaeology, further enhancing my eco-activism. When I designed Bucuti more than 30 years ago, I incorporated environmentally-friendly elements into the resort long before it was a trend to do so. Since technologies are constantly changing, I pursued the ISO 14001 standard to ensure Bucuti remains a leader in sustainable tourism. In such a dynamic industry, the program helps us set standards for improvements and goals to achieve every year.
How does Bucuti maintain its certification?
Once a business or company achieves ISO 14001 certification, the next step is maintaining the system and continuing to improve. One part of maintaining ISO 14001 is certification surveillance. Bucuti is audited on a yearly basis and must pass in order to remain certified.
What role do associates play in the ISO 14001 certification process?
Bucuti’s associates play an integral role in the certification process. Each year when the audits take place and our benchmarks and successes are measured, every associate is thoroughly interviewed on the management system. At Bucuti, we keep our associates motivated and involved every step of the way. We have a Green Team that submits monthly green action plans detailing their department’s environmentally-friendly strategies. Associates who find new ways to save resources receive a portion of the money saved as an end-of-year bonus. The rest of the funds saved go toward sponsorship of local environmental causes. One of the greatest rewards is that our associates benefit from what they learn at work and can implement green practices at home. Implementing a program as intricate as ISO 14001 would be impossible without the full support and participation from associates.
Do your hotel guests notice and appreciate the certification?
Our certification gives Bucuti a competitive edge in the tourism market and does not go unnoticed by our guests. Our guests are smart, sophisticated and appreciate what we do. Many travelers select hotels, and even destinations based on the environmental merits and programs in place. With the ISO 14001 certification attached to Bucuti’s name, guests know that they are staying in a resort that is committed to the environment and can feel less guilty about the carbon footprint they leave. Many hotels claim to be green, but the ISO 14001 standard along with other certifications like Green Globe 21 and DEP programs on a state level in the United States, can help distinguish true green resorts from those who are simply “greenwashing” customers.
What dollar value does the property get out of the certification?
Money is saved as a result of ISO 14001, but the impact on conservation is the most important. While there is a large initial investment, it takes six to 18 months for the payback of such programs. Bucuti saves hundreds of thousands of dollars every year. We have been able to reduce our garbage disposal costs by 60 percent as a result of our resort-wide recycling programs. Bucuti also saves 30 percent on its utilities bill.
Some of the energy saving practices we implement include equipping guestrooms with automatic air conditioner sensors that shut off when doors are open longer than 40 seconds; flowing wastewater from the toilets to the government treatment plant for re-use by businesses and the two golf courses on the island; and collecting all water used in showers, sinks and baths in our grey water recycling system, irradiating it by powerful ultra violet lamps to eliminate bacteria, and then reusing it to irrigate the grounds.
How does the local economy benefit from your certification?
One of the requirements of ISO 14001 is supporting the local economy. At Bucuti, we give back to Aruba in every way possible. Our activities desk actively recommends cultural events, eco-tours and historical tours to guests and supports local artists. We also serve local foods and specialties and we keep Bucuti’s mini market stocked with local products. We sponsor many local environmental groups, including Turtugaruba Aruba’s Sea Turtle Foundation which protects the sea turtles and the island’s Reef Care Foundation, which helps protect the coral reef. Environmental tours of Bucuti are also frequently given to staff from other Aruba resorts as well as to hospitality students from the local schools and universities to encourage them to get involved.
Ewald Biemans, owner of Bucuti Beach Resort in Aruba, has been an environmental advocate for more than 30 years. Bucuti is a leader in sustainable tourism throughout the world, is ISO 14001 certified and has been recognized by notable organizations such as the Caribbean Hotel Assn., American Express and the International Hotel and Restaurant Assn. for its environmentally responsible hotel operations. For more information, visit www.bucuti.com.