With more than 30,000 supplier clients in 85 countries, Ecocert is recognised worldwide for the certification of natural and organic food and food products, services and management systems. It’s also widely known in the organic cosmetics sector, where under the Ecocert Greenlife division, it certifies over 1,000 brands which, it says, represents 75 per cent of the market. Now, this specialist company has turned its attention to spa operations with the launch of its Being label to help consumers recognise high-quality spa facilities which are respectful of the environment.
Having trialled the label in France, Ecocert is now looking to roll it out globally. Valerie Lemarie, the general manager of Ecocert Greenlife reveals the details.
Why did you launch the Being label?
More consumers are looking for wellness centres where they can experience ‘real wellbeing’ – relaxation using healthy, natural products in a space/business that’s environmentally friendly.
It’s difficult to quantify the demand, but we know it’s a growing industry as cosmetic brands have created eco-friendly product lines; many establishments offer organic/natural treatments; and specialist websites, magazines (Organic Spa) and associations (the Green Spa Network) have launched.
How did you develop it?
It took us two years in total. Ecocert already has certifications for golf, catering, forest management and other operations, but to form the technical criteria for Being, we put together a committee of 12 spa, wellbeing and hospitality professionals (see p50). Their input on quality of service, treatment protocols and staff management was a great help. We also sought feedback from the public about what they’d want the label to cover.
What difficulties did you face?
The main challenge was making sure the criteria met with the various regulations that are already enforced around the world – from health and safety protocols through to swimming pool, cosmetics and labour laws.
What’s the criteria?
For Level 1 – Ecological Spa we have 50 basic criteria (see opposite) which focus on services/the condition of treatments (10); products purchased, used or sold by the spa establishments (13); and site management (27). Then spas at Level 2 – Excellence: Organic & Ecological Spa should meet all criteria at Level 1 plus six additional standards. Three of these should be based on exceeding the compulsory criteria, such as having more than one natural and organic product and treatment offering. The other three can be chosen by the spa and be specific to its operation, such as committing to using renewable energy sources like solar panels, or sourcing more products locally.
How does Being differ to Green Globe’s spa benchmarks?
Our’s is the first standard to focus specifically on spas – Green Globe is an adaptation of resort and hospitality management (see SB08/2 p74) – it’s also the first to give guarantees to the end-user.
What are the minimum requirements for site management?
At the very least, spas should record water and energy consumption, the quantity of waste and identify areas for improvement. Various other criteria include efficient insulation of heat experiences, use of low energy lights and regulation of water chemicals.
What are your requirements for staff competence?
Therapists need to be sufficiently qualified and deliver on protocols to ensure quality of service. Each therapist needs a job description and clear development plans for on-going training and qualifications.
What’s the certification process?
We’ve created a free online self-assessment questionnaire covering 24 points which operators can fill out to see what criteria they already meet and what they can improve on; along with details of which criteria they don’t meet and what they need to do to pass.
We also offer training courses for operators wanting to fully understand the Being standard and the certification steps.
Once the questionnaire’s been filled out, we need documented evidence of operators are meeting criteria. We’ll then conduct a site inspection and highlight any areas that need extra work in a conformity report. Once we’re satisfied that the spa has passed the criteria, we’ll issue them with a certificate and Being plaque.
We have two office-based people and eight field inspectors in our Organic & Ecological Spas Department to oversee this process.
How much does certification cost?
It’s a fixed yearly fee which ranges from €800-€6,000 (US$1,050-US$7,900, £687-£5,150) depending on the size and type of the spa. A discount is available for operators with multiple sites.
What does the fee cover?
The documentary review, inspection visit and report, issue of the Being nameplate and as well as promotional tools such as stickers, brochures and our soon to launch website.
How are spas monitored thereafter?
There will be at least one anonymous visit or unannounced inspection a year.
What are the advantages of having a Being certification?
There are many! This certification has the benefit of the backing from Ecocert – a globally recognised certification body; and an expert in natural and organic certification.
With 23 criteria based on the wellbeing of customers and quality of treatments, the Being certification will indicate that you are a spa that takes care of your clients. The standard could be used as a point of differentiation – to point out your environmental commitment in your spa operation, while analysing environmental practices such as waste, water and electricity management often helps reduce costs. Involving your team in the process can also help to motivate them by giving them a common goal.
How are you raising awareness of it?
Via Ecocert’s website, a Facebook page, at conferences/trade shows and through advertising. Towards the end of 2013 we will also be launching a dedicated Being website, which will include a public-facing register of Being-certified facilities.
How many spas are certified?
At the moment we only have a few, including Eco Spa Melvita in Paris and Carnac Thalasso & Spa Resort Hôtel in Bretagne. However, 15 more are already going through the process and we’re aiming to have 50 certified in the next 12 months.
We’ve also developed the Being Program to help fast track certification. At a fixed cost of €800 (US$1,050, £689), this involves online training, regular follow up and access to our network of certified suppliers and consultants to get operators through certification within two years.
What countries and companies will you target?
Europe, the US and Asia are our main focus, but as Ecocert is present in more than 85 countries we’re not ruling anything out.
In terms of companies, we’ll be targeting eco-chic spas and those in luxury hotels and resorts. We think that if a spa claims to be high-end, then it’s already going to be offering organic/natural products and that it will be mindful of how its operations are impacting on the environment.