A roadmap to Sustainability Management System for accommodation establishments: Part I

Road map Diagrama para ISO 21401.002

How to implement a Sustainability Management System based on ISO 21401?

First of all it is important to say that a road map present here is not the only way to implement an Sustainability Management System, but this logical structure could be a path to align and transform sustainable practices to improvement competitiveness in your business.

  1. Context internal and external

Start with analysis of the context considering need and expectations of interested parties, identifying key factors related with Marketing, legal, technological, cultural, social, environmental and economic aspects. It is important to understand the context, including how these key factors and interested parties influence your business.

  1. Aspect and impacts

According the type, size and geographical location an accommodation establishment has many aspects to be considering in a Sustainable Management System and each aspect produce one or more impacts in the three dimensions of sustainability (environmental, social and economic). So it is fundamental to analysis the works processes, identifying aspects and evaluate his impacts, specially the significant impacts which it will be control.

  1. Risks and opportunities

Based on the two topics above is possible identifying and understand what are the risk and opportunities for the business. The Sustainable Management System should be able to minimizing risks and maximizing opportunities and help to achieve the business objectives.

  1. Scope

Establish the Scope and define the boundaries and applicability of the sustainability management system.

Note: Besides the first four topics above has been organized in a logical sequence it is useful to understand that all issues are connect.

  1. Policy

A policy for sustainability management system is a kind of declaration made by the top management and needs to be appropriate to the purpose of accommodation establishment and provide a framework for setting sustainability objectives.

  1. Sustainability objectives

Considering all topics bellow now it is time to define objectives which shall be used to become the business more sustainable. Whenever it is possible the objectives should be measurable and it shall be establish plan about how the objectives will be achieve, including activities, responsibilities, resources and deadlines.

(soon part II)

Sustainable Management of accommodation establishments according ISO 21401: 2018 – Sustainability management system for accommodation establishments

novo Infografico para norma ISO 21401.004

The client experience in an accommodation establishments is built through a series of events that begin with selecting the hotel, going through booking and hosting to the relationship with activities pos sales.

As shown in the diagram above part of the construction of this experience can be observed when the client accesses the reception to check in, using the infrastructure and the services available until the check out process. Thus the reception, accommodation, food and beverages and leisure processes are those where there is direct contact with the client. However, many other fundamental processes for the operation of accommodation establishments occur behind the scenes such as: commercial, cleaning services, maintenance, reservations, F & B, procurement, for example. This whole set must be managed with a focus on the business objectives and aligned with the strategy and in compliance with established policies.

The sustainable management of the business involves considering the sustainability aspects, represented in the diagram above, during the processes of take decisions. It is important taking actions to achieve the objectives, minimizing the negative impacts of sustainability for each one of these aspects.

ISO 21401: 2018 (Sustainability Management System for Hosting) describes the elements of a Management System focused on transforming the accommodation establishments into a truly sustainable business.

ISO 21401:2018 – Sustainability management system for accommodation establishments – Requirements

Novos Infograficos para norma ISO 21401.002

ISO 21401:2018 – Sustainability management system for accommodation establishments and Sustainable development Goals (SDG) from UN (United Nations)

infografico para norma iso 21401.005

In 2015, the UN defined the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which have been adopted by Member States and include relevant issues such as human rights, health and safety, environmental protection and the development of local communities and local economy, among others.

The fulfillment of these objectives are part of governmental commitments that obviously also involve the private initiative, because the sustainable development will be through the engagement, participation and contribution of all the interested parties.

ISO 21401: 2018 (Sustainability Management System for Accommodation Establishments) is aligned with Agenda 2030 and its implementation will help organizations achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, essentially managing the main aspects and impacts of sustainability related to the business .

In addition, the accommodation establishments will have as benefits, the strengthening of its businesses, the increase of competitiveness and the improvement of its decisions.

Some examples of connections between ISO 21401 and Sustainable Development Objectives (SDG) are:

ISO 21401 SDG

Environmental Dimension

Natural areas, biodiversity, flora and fauna

preserve its own natural area by implementing conservation practices and take measures to promote flora and fauna conservation.

Solid waste, effluents and emissions

measures to reduce, reuse or recycle solid waste and measures to minimize the impact caused by liquid effluents to the environment and to public health.

Energy efficiency

measures to minimize energy consumption, particularly from non-renewable energy sources.

Conservation and management of water usage

control and record the consumption of water from external sources and from its own sources.


Social Dimension

Local communities

develop or be engaged in voluntary actions or initiatives promoted by communities, governmental and non-governmental organizations, with the objective of contributing to the development of local communities.

Work and income

be committed to the use of local people and production, encouraging local associations, quality and sustainability.

employ, to the greatest extent possible, workers (employees, subcontractors or freelancers) from local or regional communities.

Work conditions

ensure that wages at least meet the minimum wage for the category and that employee facilities meet the minimum conditions of hygiene, safety and comfort.

Cultural aspects

initiatives to promote knowledge, preservation and respect for local culture.

Native population

measures to ensure respect for the habits, rights and traditions of the native population, promoting their effective participation in the management activity process in their land or region, where applicable

Economic Dimension

Economic viability of the organization

implement its activities and services, considering its economic sustainability in the short, medium and long term.

Quality and guest satisfaction

implement products and services considering guest profile and expectations. Planning of products and services shall prioritize social traditions and local hospitality.

Health and safety of guests and workers

establish procedures for continuous risk identification, risk assessment and the implementation of necessary control measures.



ISO 21401:2018 Tourism and related services — Sustainability management system for accommodation establishments – Requirements: A modern vision for management of Accommodation Establishments

site ISO opção 3

The global interest for environmental and social themes increases the desire of people to experience more sustainable services and products. The client, the tourist, is becoming more and more conscious and responsible and would like to enjoy tourism sustainable experiences.

ISO 21401 standard that has just been published was developed to meet the demands of sustainable tourism development and can be used by any type, size and geographic location of accommodation establishments.


This standard will promote the sustainability agenda and will therefore address issues such as human rights, health and safety, environmental protection and development of local economy.  Essentially, by managing accommodations establishments sustainably there will be a huge value to society.

ISO 21401 define a sustainability management system, including the main aspects of sustainability that should be managed by the accommodation establishments, such as:

  • environmental dimension: water consumption, energy, waste generation and protection fauna and flora;
  • social dimension: the generation of work and income, the valorization of culture and the development of the local community;
  • economic dimension: the prevention of accidents with customers and employees, customer satisfaction and the economic viability of the enterprise.

An sustainability management system is a modern way of doing business. Its implementation allows the accommodations establishments to make its strategic decisions based on information and data related to the positive and negative impacts of the environmental, social and economic dimensions. The adoption of this form of management strengthens the decisions made, contributes to business objectives, reduces costs, improves supplier and community relationships, maximizes guest experience and satisfaction, and improves the image and reputation of the business. business.

Accommodation establishments that implement of the Sustainability Management System based on ISO 21401 will be able to attest to its guests and to the whole market that they are sustainable enterprises. Besides that it will bring benefits to all stakeholders, such as:

  • Community
    • Minimization of negative environmental and social impacts at destination;
    • Increase work and income for the community
    • Improvement in the relationship with the accommodation establishments;
  • Employees
    • Improvement of professional qualification and recognition;
    • Increase engagement and satisfaction;
    • Improvement of the quality of the work environment;
  • Suppliers
    • Increase partnership
    • Development of local suppliers
    • Strengthening the local economy
  • Guests
    • Maximization of satisfaction
    • Increased quality of services
    • Improvement of the tourist experience
  • Local Government
    • Development of destination
    • Strengthening the image of destination
    • Gain competitiveness for the destination;
  • Accommodation establishments
    • Decrease in operating costs
    • Strengthening Business Management
    • Improvement of operational controls
    • Reduce risk and increase opportunities
    • Improvement of the brand image
    • Certification of the Sustainability Management System

The management of the sustainability of Accommodation establishment is the most adequate solution to face the current challenges and to take advantage of the opportunities of the market. To start applying the ISO 21401 standard, it is recommended:

  1. Get to know your Hotel from the point of view of sustainability

Make a diagnosis of the sustainability practices adopted, the current model of business management and how sustainability is applied.

From this, carry out a mapping of the main activities developed in the enterprise, relating the aspects and impacts related to sustainability involved with these activities, always thinking about the three dimensions involved: environmental, social and economic.

  1. Implement Sustainability Indicators

You should quantify the performance of current sustainable management practices. For this, choose and implement a set of sustainability indicators related to the aspects to assess if the practices are actually reducing the negative impacts. This will increase the quality of management decisions to be made.

  1. Define sustainability goals

After identifying the impacts related to the operation of the Hotel and measuring by means of indicators the results it is time to define sustainability goals. Such as reducing water consumption by 10% or increasing guest satisfaction to 90%.

  1. Implement the Sustainability Management System

Implement the requirements of the Management System (ISO 21401) to connect the business strategy with the identified aspects and impacts, objectives, indicators and sustainability practices.

  1. Improve Hotel Performance.

Based on the results obtained and considering all aspects and impacts of sustainability related to your business, plan and implement new sustainable practices and produce improvements in the management of your business.

Have a sustainable management! Make your Hotel environmentally responsible, socially just and economically viable!

A brief history of the ISO 21401 standard for Sustainability Management System for Hotels

WG13 23th

This year was approved for publication in the ISO/TC 228, the future standard ISO 21401 – Tourism and related services – Sustainability management system for accommodation establishments – Requirements.

This will end one more phase of a 20 years history.

Phase 1 – The bases for Sustainable Tourism (Brazil)

In 1999, a movement led by WWF-Brasil and the SOS Mata Atlântica was created in Brazil to promote more sustainable tourism.

Between 2000 and 2002, a series of workshops and public consultations was carried out by the movement, producing the Principles of Sustainable Tourism. After that the Brazilian Council for Sustainable Tourism (CBTS) was created to develop a strategy for the certification of sustainable tourism in Brazil and to establish socio-environmental quality standards appropriate to the Brazilian reality.

Phase 2 – Means of hosting as a focus for Sustainable Tourism

In 2003, the Institute of Hospitality (IH) was created a Sustainable Tourism Certification Program (PCTS), which produced a series of tools for the development of sustainable tourism. The strategy was to start with medium and small hotels as a way to increase competitiveness and create the bases for sustainable tourism in 19 Brazilian destinations simultaneously. Between 2003 and 2004, based on the Principles of Sustainable Tourism, a standard called NIH – 54: Sustainability Management System for hotels was created with the participation of all interested parties (CBTS, NGOs, Private Sector Entities, Employee Representatives, Government, Specialists and representatives of local communities).

To support that strategy, a technical assistance program was developed for the hotels, which included methodology for implementing the standard, 19 courses for the training of 375 consultants and the preparation of 7 guides and manuals to support the implementation of the established methodology. This program was applied in 365 hotels in 19 distinct destinations in Brazil between the years of 2004 and 2007.

Phase 3 – Recognition of the Certification of Sustainable Hotels

In 2005 was created by ABNT a Brazilian Standard Commission for Sustainability of Hotels, which produced based on the NIH – 54 standard, the Brazilian standard NBR 15401 Sustainability Management System for Hotels.

Between 2007 and 2009, the Certification Program of Sustainability for Hotels was established within the Brazilian Conformity Assessment System and the certification of Hotels started to be recognized by Inmetro (Brazilian Accreditation Body). During this period, more than 100 auditors was training to audit an Sustainability Management System.

Phase 4 – Sustainable Tourism at an international level

Inspired by the Rio + 20 event, held in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian Standard Commission for Sustainability of Hotels was reactivated and the process of updating the NBR 15401 began. During this process, the members of the ABNT Committee decided send this document as a suggestion for creating an international standard.

In 2014, Brazil started the process in the ISO/TC 228 and two years late (2016), the member of ISO approved a creation of working group Sustainable Tourism (WG 13). After two years and half and 5 meetings (May/2016 – Kuala Lumpur, October/2016 – Rio de Janeiro, May/2017 – Panama City, October 2017 – Madrid and May/2018 – Buenos Aires) with participation more than 60 experts from 26 different countries, the work has been completed.

Phase 5 – The future

Now a new phase will begin with publication the ISO 21401. I hope that other countries can be inspired and use this future international standard for the sustainable development of tourism.

Uma breve história da norma ISO 21401 para Sistema de Gestão da Sustentabilidade de Meios de Hospedagem

WG13 23th

Como já havia antecipado, este ano foi aprovada para publicação no Comitê de Turismo da ISO (TC 228), a futura norma de Sistema de Gestão da Sustentabilidade de Meios de Hospedagem, a ISO 21401 – Tourism and related services — Sustainability management system for accommodation establishments — Requirements , prevista para Dezembro deste ano.

Este documento quando publicado irá encerrar mais uma fase de uma história de quase 20 anos. Vejamos:

Fase 1 – As bases para o Turismo Sustentável

Em 1999 foi criado no Brasil um movimento liderado pela WWF-Brasil e a Fundação SOS Mata Atlântica em prol do desenvolvimento de um turismo mais sustentável, convocando outras organizações não governamentais, a iniciativa privada, acadêmicos e especialistas a discutir o tema.

Entre 2000 e 2002 em uma série de workshops e consultas públicas realizadas pelo movimento nos quatro cantos do país, gerou de forma participativa, o que se chamou dos Princípios de Turismo Sustentável. Como consequência natural foi constituído na ocasião o Conselho Brasileiro de Turismo Sustentável – CBTS, com objetivo de desenvolver estratégia única e ampla para a certificação do turismo sustentável no Brasil e para o estabelecimento de padrões de qualidade socioambiental adequados à realidade brasileira.

Fase 2 – Meios de hospedagem como foco para o Turismo Sustentável

Em 2003 foi criado pelo Instituto de Hospitalidade o PCTS – Programa de Certificação de Turismo Sustentável, que produziu uma série de instrumentos para o desenvolvimento sustentável do turismo. A estratégia foi iniciar pelos Meios de hospedagem de médio e pequeno porte como forma de aumentar a competitividade e criar as bases para o turismo sustentável em 19 Destinos turísticos brasileiros simultaneamente. Entre 2003 e 2004 foi então criada, com base nos Princípios do Turismo Sustentável, a norma NIH – 54 de Sistema de Gestão da Sustentabilidade com a participação do CBTS, ONG’s, Entidades de Classe do setor privado, Entidades representantes dos trabalhadores, Governo, Especialistas e representantes de comunidades locais.

Em seguida foi desenvolvido um programa de assistência técnica para os meios de hospedagem, que incluía metodologia para implementação da norma, 19 cursos para formação de 375 consultores e a elaboração de 7 guias e manuais para apoio na implementação da metodologia estabelecida. Este programa foi aplicado em 365 Meios de hospedagem em 19 Destinos turísticos distintos entre os anos de 2004 e 2007.

Fase 3 – Reconhecimento da Certificação de Meios de hospedagem sustentáveis

Paralelamente a fase anterior, em 2005 foi criada a Comissão de Estudos da ABNT para Sustentabilidade de Meios de Hospedagem, a qual produziu com base na norma NIH 54 a norma brasileira NBR 15401, publicada pela ABNT em 2006.

Entre os anos de 2007 e 2009 foi estabelecido o Programa de Certificação de Sustentabilidade de Meios de hospedagem dentro do Sistema Brasileiro de Avaliação da  Conformidade e a certificação dos Meios de hospedagem passou a ter o reconhecimento do Inmetro. Ainda durante este período foram realizados 4 cursos para formação de mais de 100 auditores em Sistema de Gestão da Sustentabilidade de Meios de Hospedagem.

Fase 4 – Turismo Sustentável em nível internacional

Inspirados no evento Rio + 20, realizado no Rio de Janeiro, a Comissão de Estudos da ABNT para Sustentabilidade de Meios de Hospedagem foi reativada e, se iniciou o processo de atualização da norma NBR 15401. Durante este processo os membros da Comissão da ABNT decidiram enviar este documento como sugestão para criação de norma internacional.

Em 2014, já com a nova versão da norma NBR 15401, o Brasil iniciou o processo participando ativamente no Comitê de turismo da ISO e, em 2016, foi criado o grupo de trabalho WG 13 – Sustainable Tourism com este objetivo. Após 5 reuniões (Maio/2016 – Kuala Lumpur; Outubro/2016 – Rio de Janeiro; Maio/2017 – Cidade do Panamá; Outubro/2017 – Madrid e Maio/2018 – Buenos Aires), com a participação de 60 especialistas, de 26 diferentes países, o trabalho foi concluído, com a produção da norma ISO 21401.

Fase 5 –  O futuro

Agora iniciaremos uma nova e estimulante fase com a publicação de um documento internacional, baseado na experiência exitosa do Brasil na abordagem de turismo sustentável. Espero que os demais países possam se inspirar e usar esta norma internacional para o desenvolvimento sustentável do turismo.