Sustainability is on the minds of the world right now. Individuals, small businesses, larger corporations, and governments are all striving to become more eco-conscious to be kind to the earth (and each other). While moving towards sustainability may seem like an intimidating process, there is good news for small business owners considering making a move in this direction – Greenstep Solutions is here for you.

Greenstep was founded in 2008 and to date has worked with 3,000 businesses to provide industry-specific assessments, certifications, tools, and consulting to help small to medium-sized businesses measure and improve their sustainability performance.

In short, they are helping businesses make the small, incremental steps needed to get big results.

“The Greenstep certification program is designed to support small to medium-sized businesses to help them along their sustainable journey,” said Jennifer Burling, Director of Sustainable Tourism from Greenstep Solutions.

The good news for Ontario’s Highlands’ tourism operators is that thanks to Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization's (OHTO) partnership with Greenstep, certification is free for a select number of businesses who wish to pursue Greenstep certification (in region businesses only.) This will help our region move closer to a future where we are all working together for the betterment of our communities, and the environment.

Why Work Towards Sustainability

Working towards sustainability doesn’t necessarily mean making big changes to your operations at the cost of thousands and thousands of dollars. The beautiful part of working with Greenstep is that they are there to show you how you can achieve more in a way that’s manageable for your business.

And there are plenty of reasons to make the effort. The business case for pursuing a more sustainable business operation is clear: research shows that businesses which move in a greener direction reap economic benefits, particularly as both the consumer and labour markets preferentially seek out those businesses that are focused on and prioritize environmentally responsible principles.

Of course, the reason to consider a more environmentally conscious approach goes beyond the direct benefits to your business, and veers into the realm of responsibility. Tourism makes up eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions, worldwide, and the reality is that every business, no matter their size, can do their part to improve that outcome.

“There are many really serious global issues affecting both our communities and our industry and it really is our responsibility to improve and reduce the negative impacts that tourism has on our environment and our communities,” said Jennifer.

Benefits of Certification

According to Jennifer, getting certified adds a little extra authority to your claims of sustainability. When it comes to Greenstep certification, going through the process can help businesses understand where they are in their sustainability journey and how they compare to international standards while identifying low-hanging fruit opportunities for improvement.

It can also help a business maintain a competitive advantage at a time when visitors are preferentially seeking to support those who are prioritizing responsible tourism practices.

“As businesses work their way through Greenstep’s assessment they will get a better understanding of how they’re performing across the four categories of sustainability, management, social and economic, natural and cultural, and environmental,” said Jennifer.

About the Process

The process for certification is not complicated. Businesses can expect to follow the following short process:

  1. Assess your business’ performance in terms of sustainability using globally-recognized criteria.
  2. Have a one-on-one consultation with a Greenstep advisor to understand your business model and sustainability priorities.
  3. Supply evidence based on assessment results.
  4. Receive an Action Plan for improvement over the next two years.
  5. Achieve formal certification and grading designation to showcase your efforts.

Getting Started: Baby Steps

Getting started with Greenstep is easy!

  1. Take the assessment.
  2. Sign the 2030 pledge, a free tool that allows businesses to publicly commit to measuring and improving their sustainability performance before 2030. Then share this on your website and social pages.

Interested in learning more? Here are five key steps to creating an impact plan and sustainability strategy for your business.

For a full program overview, please view the pdf here or contact the OHTO Industry Team by email here.