The Keemala is nestled in the beautiful rainforests of Kamala on Phuket. It embodies the perfect blend of Thai tradition, modern design and sustainability. Founders Samornpun and Tanapong Somnam thoughtfully built the resort into the landscape while keeping the conservation of ecosystems as an utmost priority. Aquatic plants in the natural water bodies ensure optimal water quality within the resort. Almost all the food needed grows in Keemala’s gardens. Herbs, fruit, and vegetables are cultivated almost exclusively on the resort’s own farm. In addition, the resort grows its own mushrooms and some plants are grown using hydroponics, i.e., without soil and only with nutrient-rich water. If you haven’t had your fill during a walk through the orchard, you can enjoy tasty vegan and vegetarian dishes in the restaurant. We are pleased that GreenSign has certified the first Green Pearls® hotel in Thailand – the Keemala in Kamala on Phuket.
Suzann Heinemann, the managing director of GreenSign, answers a few questions for us:
The innovative and modern concept of GreenSign is based on a five-level certification system, so that each hotel can start with their individual level of sustainability performance and continue to develop.
What was the idea behind founding GreenSign? What is the motivation behind the label?
20 years ago, I founded the hotel cooperation GreenLine Hotels. The name, which originally stood for a location surrounded by greenery, gradually turned into more of a mission for us at the beginning of the last decade, because sustainability became increasingly important, and we started to deal with it extensively. So, we decided to look for a sustainability certificate for our member hotels at that time.
We quickly realised that the ideal certification for hotels did not yet exist. I always say: all or nothing! It should have a solid foundation and we never wanted to be accused of greenwashing. A certification should be practice-oriented to the hotel industry and reflect the three pillars of sustainability. We saw that we needed to pick up the hotels where they were with their sustainability performance and wanted to develop this further with a suitable management system. Our unique five-level system was developed to provide transparency and so that everyone can see how far the hotelier has progressed across each area of sustainability. Sustainability is an ongoing process that never stops.
In 2015, we founded the InfraCert institute and introduced the GreenSign sustainability certificate to the hospitality industry.
What sets you apart from other certificates?
I like to claim that with GreenSign and our more than 100 criteria across eight core areas of sustainability, which was built on international frameworks, we are already looking very intensively and ambitiously into all areas of sustainable business. Our certification catalogue complies with international GSTC standards and each hotel is assessed on site. The hotels have to fulfil an extensive range of measures to be awarded a satisfactory GreenSign level. But this is also important, because the guest expects this now more than ever. Our certification includes assessing the hotel’s carbon footprint and enables the hotelier to reduce their footprint with appropriate measures in the years to come.
Our five-level certification system is unique in the industry to date. After the initial certification, we do not leave the hotelier alone to try and work on bettering themselves in silence. We integrate them into our GreenCommunity and stay in constant contact so that they receive many suggestions and information for their further sustainable development.
Why are there the five different levels, and how are they assigned? Can a hotel also be upgraded or downgraded?
We see sustainability as a continuous process of development. Every hotel that is committed to sustainability has different prerequisites, and there should always be the possibility for improvements.
When the hotelier applies to us, they must first provide answers to the GreenSign certification questionnaire, which contains over 100 sustainability-related questions, some of which are mandatory. This is also a kind of guideline for the hotelier, so that they can implement measures in the future that they may have not been aware of before. Depending on the fulfilled criteria, the hotel is classified in Level 1 to 5, where we call the latter the “sustainability winner”. We always provide individual support and advice to hoteliers on how to improve their level. The GreenSign is valid for 3 years, but the hotelier can apply for a re-evaluation at any time. We have never had a downgrade; the topic of sustainability is simply too important nowadays.
More than 80 percent of the hotels now have a very good level of 3 to 5 and in fact it is striking that many hotels today enter with an excellent level of 4. Many hoteliers have used the lockdown period very effectively to improve the quality and sustainability in their hotels and to raise staff awareness around the topic.
By the way, the Green Pearls Naturresort Schindelbruch, SCHWARZWALD PANORAMA, Green City Hotel Vauban in Germany, and the APIPURA Hotel Rinner in Italy are also GreenSign certified.