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Home > Biosphere

Follow Us Down the Path to Biosphere

What is Biosphere?

For Destination Greater Victoria, Biosphere is a third-party destination certification through the Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI) indicating continuous improvement towards the "Horizon 2030" sustainability objectives established by the United Nations. Biosphere certification is a guarantee of environmental, economic, and socio-cultural balance that meets the needs of modern travellers. Biosphere is the first sustainability certification aligned with the 2030 agenda and aims to promote sustainable development actions and programmes in tourism destinations. The path to Biosphere Certification is a commitment to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations.

Greener Together

Making a destination great takes all of us. Travellers around the globe are seeking out sustainable and eco-friendly travel options that match their values. Each year, more than 30 million tourists visit Biosphere destinations and companies. Your participation in the Biosphere program helps our destination stand apart from other Canadian and international destinations. It's easy, it's free for the first year, and it's the right thing to do. The path to Biosphere certification is a straightforward process with great benefits to our members. Your participation is free for the first year, the only investment is your time. There's no need to take on extensive new projects, you'll receive recognition for the great work you're already doing. 

When you're on an island, sometimes you go it alone. But here, we always go it alone together.

FAQs

What is Biosphere and why is Destination Greater Victoria part of the program?

Consumer sentiment toward better environmental practices, quality of life and benefit to community are increasingly playing an important part in decision-making when it comes to travel. Additionally with “green-washing” and other superficial approaches to sustainability common all over the world, it is important to have a reputable third party endorsement of this important work by Destination Greater Victoria and our members.

The Biosphere management and certification system was created in 1997 by the Responsible Tourism Institute (RTI), through an MOU with UNESCO, to teach, provide models for and measure the implementation of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) around the world.

The Biosphere system includes an understanding how important it is for our visitors to know what good sustainability practices are being applied to the destinations they visit and companies they choose.

Biosphere was recently recognized as the best sustainability certification tool in the world (2021) by the University of Sherbrooke, in collaboration with Tourism Durable Quebec.

Is it possible for the Destination or individual businesses to get certified by focusing on a few key SDGs or is it a requirement to have actions under each SDG?

There is no specific road map to become certified, and there is no specific SDG´s you can pursue to become certified quicker. The recommendation is that you upload all the evidence of your efforts. Depending on how your process is going, it may also be helpful to add information on SDG’s that you are working toward but don’t have evidence for yet, or actions that are not yet in optimal status according to the assessment of the platform.

Biosphere aims for Destinations and individual businesses to work on all the SDG´s, with this being said, it’s not a requirement of certification that you have demonstrated work on all of them.

To become certified, Biosphere will evaluate the cumulative effort of all the actions in the SDG´s you have uploaded evidence to, but it’s not mandatory to have evidence in all of them. If you don´t have any actions in some SDG´s, you can look ahead and plan for how you can begin working on them as part of continuous improvement to become a more sustainable business.

How much time will this take me? How much staff time do I need to dedicate to this?

The time will depend on how much work your business has been doing on sustainability initiatives. If it is all new and you are just beginning to plan and implement sustainability initiatives, a reasonable timeline would be one year. If you are already making efforts towards sustainability and have been working with the SDG Framework in your organization, it could take about three months.

The staff time you would want to dedicate will depend on your organization. The process of becoming certified does take some effort, with much of the focus on gathering or building up documentation of your sustainable business practices to upload as evidence.

Recently one hotel in Victoria took two months with one person dedicated full-time to the certification process.

Will I need to work on this in perpetuity?

Biosphere is a process of continuous improvement. Once you get the certification, it is our hope that you will continue working towards being a more sustainable business. If you don’t add any updates during a year, you will not be able to become certified again. To renew your Biosphere certification, you must show that you have continued working on your Sustainability Plan in the Biosphere Platform.

Are there any costs that I don’t know about yet?

Under the Destination Certification program all the Biosphere costs of participating are covered by DGV’s subscription. Should you choose to seek certification for your own business (under Biosphere’s business certification program) you would be responsible for paying for your own subscription. It is our understanding that it is approximately $500 per year for business certification.

It would be helpful to understand how the system quantifies the work the members are doing. How are the SDG/Actions/Evidence weighted?

There is no specific way in which the system quantifies your work, it will depend on all the evidence you have submitted. For example, you can upload evidence for two activities in the same action, and your progress towards being audited will remain the same. But you may add one piece of evidence for another action in another SDG, and you may progress 5% towards being audited.

Biosphere recommends that you reach for “optimal” status in all the SDG´s that you think you are able to and for the others to look for “started” or “improvable” status. You don’t have to work on all the SDG´s to become certified. Of course, it is recommended.

If I enter information into the system under DGV and then later decide to join Biosphere as a business, can my information be ported over into my account, or do I have to re-enter everything?

There is only one platform for information. If you started the process without using DGV’s code, or you want to stop using DGV’s code and join as an individual business, your platform will remain the same. The access to the Biosphere platform is independent for each business and each destination. The information that you have uploaded to the platform will not be erased if you don’t renew your subscription, but you will not be able to access the portal. When you renew, everything will be as it was before. You will only have to upload your evidence once.

If you leave Biosphere, you can request that all your information be erased from the system. It will be removed and it will not be available should you decide to return in the future. At that point you would need to redo the process.

If I already have an account, can I port the key information over to support DGV certification?

If you are a business that has already started working towards your Biosphere Certification, you can ask DGV for our code and it will link your business to the DGV account. It is important that your address is correct and the geo location is activated on your platform, so that your business can be shown on the map of the Greater Victoria.

The destination and company certification process are independent. However the more DGV members that get certified, the higher Biosphere certification recognition the destination will be, eg: Gold or Platinum.

I’m not very technical, how can I get help with the dashboards and process?

In the platform there are some instructional videos that may help you understand how the system works. If you have any specific questions, Biosphere has an expert team that will be able to assist with all the questions that you may have. In your Biosphere account, you will be able to find a contact email to send your questions to.

You can also reach out to DGV for any specific questions you may have, and we will do our best to help.

What about my competitors? Will they be able to see my information, some of this content is proprietary?

The only information that your competitor will be able to see is your public profile on the Biosphere website. You are welcome to go to the portal now and look for other businesses. If you go the link https://www.biospheresustainable.com/en/search and click on any company, you can see the type of information that would be shown from your business.

No confidential information will be shared with anyone, the only people with access to the evidence that you have uploaded are Biosphere auditors and they are required to sign a non-disclosure agreement for the information they see for each business.

What happens if I leave the program? What happens to my data?

There are two ways to leave the program. The first is to stop paying the subscription, in which case your information will still be on the platform but your access to the portal will be removed. This process is recommended if you think you might want to get back in the program again. If you do, all your information will still be there.

The second is to contact Biosphere and cancel your account directly. You can request that all your information deleted.  If you chose to return to Biosphere in the future you would need to upload all your data and redo the certification process.

When the destination gets certified, do I get to display the Biosphere information on my website?

Yes, you will be able to indicate that Greater Victoria is Biosphere certified. You would need to complete your own process for your business to promote your own Biosphere certification.

I’m really a small business compared to others in Victoria, will my participation really make a difference?

Yes, it will. Sustainable tourism is something that requires the efforts of all of us. It is a cumulative effort of all businesses and individuals that will help Greater Victoria be more sustainable.

Additionally, it doesn’t matter the size, as more Victoria businesses become certified, DGV will be able to increase Destination recognition in Biosphere Certification and go for Gold or Platinum designation.

I don’t have time to do this right now, can I join in the future? Will it cost me if I wait?

DGV is part of the program because we're working towards the certification for the destination. By being in the process of becoming Biosphere Certified, we can help other businesses, like yours, that want to follow this path with good practicees and recommendations on how to approach the process.

With DGV being part of the Biosphere Community, we have some benefits in the access to the platform to some or all members of the destination.

Under the Destination Certification program all the Biosphere costs of participating are covered by DGV's subscription for 2023 and 2024. Should you choose to seek certification for your business on (under Biosphere business certification program) you would be responsible for paying for your own subscription. It is our understanding that it is currently approximately $500 per year for business certification.

I want to learn more about Biosphere certification and the process. Where can I go to find out more?

You can find out more about Biosphere at www.biospheresustainable.com

Biosphere is system of management of a destination or company through a process of continuous improvement set to the United Nations’ criteria of sustainability.

In other words, it’s an online platform that will help understand how your business is doing in sustainability and how you can work towards developing more sustainable business practices.

For businesses there are two stages of accreditation. You can be Biosphere Committed and Biosphere Certified. Being Biosphere Committed means that you have started working towards the SDGs and have started to upload evidence of your actions to support your case.

Being Biosphere Certified means that all your actions have been audited by Biosphere and that you have been verified by the Responsible Tourism Institute to have a sustainable business according to Biosphere Standards.