Development of the Scheme

One of the main areas of the development of the scheme was the development of the criteria. Through an agreement with Alcudia, the Malta Tourism Authority adopted and then adapted the criteria to Malta’s scheme. The criteria were first translated and research was conducted to assess their applicability to Malta.


Pilot Study

All the criteria, app. 140, were assessed in 12 hotels – five 5-star, six 4-star and one 3-star. A semi-structured interview took place with the General Managers of these hotels related to the implementation of an ECO-labelling scheme, besides the assessment of the criteria. This research concluded the following results and determined the next course of action.

Positive findings included:-

  1. In general, the ECO-label initiative was seen as a realistic and profitable tool to implement.
  2. The questionnaire was seen as a valuable tool to reducing operating costs in energy, water and waste.
  3. The ECO-label process has been seen as a very good opportunity to raise environmental awareness among employees.
  4. Possibility of benchmarking with others hotels, especially with hotels from abroad, was a greatly appreciated option.
  5. Information on legal and government environmental initiatives has been identified as an urgent need.
  6. There is no relevant difference in environmental performance between hotel categories.

 Negative Findings included:-

  1. Hotels performed low on compliance with the criteria of the Environmental Management System. This confirms the early stage in the awareness phase.
  2. The waste collection (separated waste) is a bottle neck to improve environmental performance.
  3. Information to guests has performed very low which also confirms the low level of management awareness on environmental issues.
  4. Guest environmental awareness is not reflected in management priorities.


Establishing the Basics of the Scheme

 The findings of the pilot study and information on the criteria determined the following action taken:-

  1. All criteria were reviewed and most of them reworded.
  2. A new classification of criteria in 3 levels instead of 2 has been established: AREA - SUB AREA - ITEMS.
  3. Some items were eliminated.
  4. Some items were placed in other areas and sub areas.
  5. New tools have been created to help hotels to communicate better with guests and tour operators.
  6. A training programme for Environmental Co-ordinators has been designed.
  7. An Environmental scorecard was designed for the certified hotels to support benchmarking and improvement.
  8. Information on ROI (Return on Investment) was to be included in the information and in the improvement process.
  9. The ECO-label software needs to be redesigned (into a website with benchmarking tools)
  10. A weighting system for criteria will be developed to create a balance of the environmental impact on operations and on the guests themselves.

 The re-organisation of the criteria led to a list of 130 criteria in 10 areas of assessment as follows:-

  1. Environmental Management System – 9 criteria
  2. Waste – 20 criteria
  3. Products & Materials – 21 criteria
  4. Energy – 25 criteria
  5. Water – 13 criteria
  6. Air Quality – 4 criteria
  7. Noise Pollution – 7 criteria
  8. Buildings and Green Areas – 14 criteria
  9. Local Culture -9 criteria
  10.  Guest Information – 7 criteria


Creating a Weighted System for the Criteria

Following the emergence of this need in the pilot study, the process of creating a weighted system for the criteria began with research on tourist perception of each of the criteria. This was done in order to determine the interest of guests.

All the criteria were weighted against their environmental performance using two tools: an Environmental Impact Matrix (table 1 below) and a Green Impact Matrix (table 2 below).

Environmental Impact Matrix:

Each criterion was placed in the first matrix which categorises the magnitude of the harm the indicator does to the environment against how often the harm takes place, for example, disposing of batteries incorrectly scores high on its impact on the environment but low on its frequency.

This information was compiled to create a balance of the environmental impact on operations and on the guests themselves.

Green Impact Matrix:

The next step was to fit the guest perception of the criteria to establish a balanced criteria list against the environmental impact. The matrices which resulted from these two processes are shown in Table 1 and Table 2 below.

The two matrices were used primarily as tools to identify which criteria needed to be compulsory and which criteria did not need to be compulsory. The secondary use of these tools was in the marketing of the scheme to show hotels that the scheme was designed taking into account the tourist perception.

To further support the claim for the importance of environmental care to tourists, a total of 403 tourists were questioned on their perception of environmentally friendly accommodation, providing further ground work on which the scheme could be planned.

Table 1:  Environmental Impact Matrix

Weighting System      
Environmental Impact
Matrix Magnitude
Very High High Medium Low Very Low
Frequency Very Frequent 25 20 15 10 5
Frequent 20 16 12 8 4
Medium 15 12 9 6 3
More Often 10 8 6 4 2
Rarely 5 4 3 2 1
Weighting Explanation
25 Very Important  
20 Important  
15 Medium  
10 Not Important  
5 Not Important at all  

Table 2:  Green Impact Matrix

Weighting system  
Green Impact Matrix
Matrix 2 Guest Perception
Very Important Important Medium Not important Not important at all
Environmental Impact Very Important 44 items - 33% of items      
Medium     67% items    
Not Important     86 items    
Not Important at all          
Weighting Explanation
Compulsory These items should be completely fulfilled
Extra These items are extra points for the hotel

Finalising the scheme requirements

Following the research phase it was agreed that, in order to join the scheme, hotels needed to meet the compulsory criteria as established by the Green Matrix and comply with at least 65% of the total criteria (of 130). It was agreed that following compliance, the hotel would need to appoint an ECO-coordinator and this employee must attend a 1-day training session. The hotels were also required to abide by the Green Policy. It was also agreed that to remain part of the scheme, hotels would need to improve their performance continuously.

A system or process for the implementation of the scheme was developed and the scheme was launched to the trade in 2002.

Criteria Update - 2008

Six years after the launch of the ECO Certification scheme, it was felt that the scheme criteria needed to be revised. This was in part due to some of the criteria becoming legislation as well as due to innovation and new knowledge in the environmental field.

As a result, some of the criteria were eliminated and others were added in order to be more in line with the current scenario. Additionally, some similar criteria were grouped together bringing the total number of criteria down to 100 from 130. Also as a result of this grouping process, the number of compulsory criteria was reduced to 38 from the original 40. The 65% overall compliance was retained.


Criteria Update - 2012

In 2012, the MTA felt once again the need to further update the criteria so as to be in line with the Global Sustainable Tourism Council criteria.

Changes in criteria have led to the introduction of more sustainability management criteria, focusing on social and environmental responsibility, economic and cultural impacts, quality and health & safety

The new ECO certification requirements are as follows:

1. Sustainability management systems - 7 criteria

2. Waste management - 10 criteria

3. Purchasing - 15 criteria

4. Control of chemicals - 5 criteria

5. Energy - 16 criteria

6. Water - 11 criteria

7. Air quality - 5 criteria

8. Noise - 2 criteria

9. Building and green areas - 7 criteria

10. Local culture & national surroundings - 4 criteria

11. Communication with customers - 7 criteria

Some GSTC criteria already covered by national legislation were omitted from the scheme but hoteliers sign a declaration of compliance to the applicable laws. The legislation is regulated by a number of entities including the Malta Environment and Planning Authority (MEPA), the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA), the Department of Industrial and Employment Relations, Occupational Health and Safety Authority and the National Commission Persons with Disability.