Just three years after EarthCheck issued a rallying cry for environmental action at the University of Madeira, the region has achieved EarthCheck Silver Certification as a sustainable tourism destination.
An Autonomous Region of Portugal, Madeira is a mountainous archipelago known for its award-winning wine, fertile volcanic soils, rich cultural heritage and breathtaking natural beauty. (‘Madeira’ is the Portuguese word for wood – the archipelago takes its name from the forests that navigators encountered in the 15th century.)
EarthCheck is the world’s leading scientific benchmarking certification and advisory group for sustainable travel and tourism. Speaking at the Future of Tourism conference held at the University of Madeira in September 2019, EarthCheck Vice President Business Development & Sales André Russ called on the region’s tourism sector to take action.
“We are now at a crossroads,” he said. “We need to take collective action to protect and conserve our use of natural resources and to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. The evidence is now clear – the time for environmental stewardship and action has come.”
Madeira entered the EarthCheck Sustainable Destinations program in 2021, and established its Destination Authority to manage and coordinate its sustainability policy and long-term action plan in January 2022.
Cora Teixeira, Director of Tourism Qualification Services for Madeira’s Tourism Board and the Destination Authority Coordinator, said several stakeholders within the region have been involved in the certification process.
“It brings together a wide range of entities,” Ms Teixeira said, “including representatives of the regional government; representatives from the municipalities; public, associative or private entities and non-governmental organisations – about 80 entities, in total.”
Ms Teixeira said sustainable experiences have become increasingly important for visitors to the region.
“Sustainability is a key element of the travel agenda,” she said. “There is a growing demand for more conscious travel experiences, and we have the perception that when travellers are planning their holidays, they are seeking more sustainable experiences. They’re looking for information on how to better engage with local cultures and communities, and they want to know they’ve had a positive impact on the destinations and communities they visit.”
By achieving Silver Certification through the EarthCheck Sustainable Destinations program, EarthCheck CEO and founder Stewart Moore said the region has demonstrated its commitment to safeguarding its environmental, cultural, social and economic wellbeing.
“EarthCheck certification confirms Madeira’s credibility as a place where genuinely sustainable experiences can be found,” Mr Moore said. “EarthCheck’s independent audit verifies and authenticates what Madeira has been doing to make a difference.”
Silver Certification verifies the destination has monitored, measured and continually improved the following metrics over the last year:
- Energy efficiency, conservation and management
- Greenhouse gas emissions
- Air quality protection, noise control and light pollution
- Management of freshwater resources
- Wastewater management, drainage and streams
- Ecosystem conservation and management
- Land use planning and development
- Solid waste management
- Management of environmentally harmful substances
- Cultural and social management
- Economic management
Madeira’s Silver Certification follows several years of efforts to foster sustainable development within the archipelago, including the accreditation of Santana and Porto Santo as UNESCO Biosphere Reserves in 2011 and 2020, respectively, and the creation of the largest marine reserve in Europe and the Northern Atlantic surrounding The Savage Islands in 2021.
The region has also embraced the circular economy in its approach to waste management; is increasing its percentage of renewable energy resources; and is working with local NGOs to promote various cultural, educational and environmental activities that benefit the development of the local community.
Ms Teixeira said Madeira aims to achieve the next level of EarthCheck certification, Gold, within five years.
“Sustainability is a journey, and a process of continuous improvement,” she said. “It requires ongoing dedication to the preservation of our natural and cultural resources for future generations, which is why the Autonomous Region of Madeira will continue to demonstrate the progress and evolution of this journey through our annual audit.”
“We look forward to continuing that journey with Madeira,” Stewart Moore added, “and helping them to direct their sustainability efforts and initiatives towards the areas where they can make the biggest impact.”
Learn more about how your organisation can achieve EarthCheck certification here.