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Staircase to Sustainability

Here you can read further details about each level of the Staircase to Sustainability framework.

Level 1  >  Level 2  >  Level 3  >  Level 3+

Level 1

The hostel has started to introduce practices that generate positive social and environmental impact for their staff, local community and customers.

There are four pillars within the Staircase to Sustainability. In order to reach level 1 the hostel has achieved all of the following criteria:

Sustainable Management

They comply with local legal requirements and have put processes in place to manage their sustainability goals.

  • Legal compliance   

The Hostel has a register of all legal requirements that apply to their business. These must include:   

- Local environmental requirements;  

- Health and safety requirements;  

- Zoning requirements;  

- Land, water and property rights;  

- Any others that apply.   

  • Customer experience 

Informal feedback on sustainability (such as word of mouth) is acknowledged and acted upon at the Hostel. 

  • Accurate promotion 

All promotional materials and marketing materials are accurate. Any images or claims used in promotion are of actual experiences and facilities in the Hostel. Sustainability claims are based on actual performance. This extends to description or images used on any Online Travel Agency.  

  • Access for All 

The Hostel provides information about their provisions regarding their building for all accessibility needs persons in their booking description. The Hostel meets all of the minimum local legal accessibility requirements. 

  • Information and interpretation 

Information about the natural surroundings, local culture and cultural heritage is available from the staff at the Hostel (word of mouth, signs etc). Where relevant / if this is a sensitive site this includes guidelines about appropriate behaviour whilst visiting these sites.   

  • Sustainability management system 

The Hostel has plans for meeting the following sustainability criteria and a way of measuring progress towards these (building a Sustainability Management System - systematic approach that provides guidelines for an organization to evaluate, manage, and improve sustainability) 

  • Staff Engagement 

Guidelines and training for how to meet the sustainability criteria are provided to all staff.   

Socio-Economic Impact 

They offer fair employment to their community and are taking steps to contribute to local livelihoods. 

  • Fair & Equal Employment   

The Hostel operates an equal opportunity policy including hiring across gender, marital status, sexual orientation, religious belief, age, disability and race. This extends to offering employment into the local community. An equal employment policy must be available upon request.   

  • Local Purchasing  

The Hostel has reviewed their suppliers and begun discussing the possibility of sourcing local and/or fairtrade suppliers. 

  • Exploitation and harassment  

There is a policy against any form of exploitation and harassment.  

  • Decent Work  

The Hostel has designed a policy to ensure all mandatory and applicable labour rights are respected and a safe working environment is provided for employees. This policy is aligned to all legal requirements and includes that employees are paid at least a living wage. 

  • Community Services  

The Hostel's operations do not impact local access to basic services such as food, water, energy, healthcare or sanitation. The Hostel has a feedback system in place with the local community to ensure any issues can be raised and addressed.

  • Local Livelihoods  

The Hostel's operations do not impact local access to livelihoods, including land and water use, rights of way, transport and housing. The Hostel has a feedback system in place with the local community to ensure any issues can be raised and addressed. 

Cultural Impact

They’re respectful of cultural heritage and give guests relevant information to ensure they are too.  

  • Cultural interactions  

The Hostel provides information to employees and guests about appropriate behaviour while visiting the local area (can be verbal). [This may include indigenous communities and culturally, historically, or environmentally sensitive sites]  

  • Protecting cultural heritage  

The Hostel's operations do not prevent local communities from accessing local historical/ archaeological/ cultural/ spiritual sites.  

  • Presenting cultural and heritage  

Where a Hostel incorporates traditional or contemporary culture, the intellectual property rights or necessary permissions of the local community have been obtained. 

  •  Artefacts  

The Hostel does not sell, trade or display historically and archaeological artefacts. If the Hostel does, they comply with local and international law. 

Environmental Impact

The hostel has put measures in place to reduce their environmental impact and provides guests with information to minimise theirs. 

  • Energy conservation  

The Hostel has reviewed their energy consumption by type in the last 2 years. 

The Hostel has taken measures to minimise overall consumption. This must include two of the below:  

- Lights have timers/sensors that automatically switch them off in hallways, washrooms, toilets and outdoor areas.  

- Using signs / penalties to encourage guests to switch off appliances and lights and also encouraging this at check in.  

- Heating/cooling is individually controllable in the rooms.  

- The Hostel does not have air conditioning or if they do,   

- At least 50% of the Hostel's air conditioning appliances have the highest energy efficiency level (label A+++)   

  • Water conservation  

The Hostel makes efforts to reduce water consumption and ensure sustainable use. This must include two of the below:  

- The Hostel has signs and guidelines to encourage guests to reduce consumption where possible.  

- Linen and towels are only washed between guests or upon request from guests.  

- Equipment is checked to ensure there are no leaks.  

- The showers are controlled for water saving.  

- The taps are controlled for water saving.  

- The Hostel harvests rainwater and run-off where possible and reuses for cleaning or watering the garden.  

- The Hostel has installed water saving devices, such as water efficient shower heads, leak detection strips, buffalo system bags.  

  • Greenhouse gas emissions  

The Hostel takes actions to minimise their greenhouse gas emissions. This must include three of the below:  

- The Hostel does not own vehicles and encourages use of public transport.   

- The Hostel's owned vehicles are electric.  

- The Hostel provides and encourages the purchase of vegetarian meals.  

- Part or all of the Hostel's energy use comes from renewable resources (this includes electricity and fuels).  

- Part of all the heating (including water heating) comes from renewable sources, such as solar.  

- The Hostel offsets part or all of their CO2 emissions.  

Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions are measured from all sources. This can be done using the Hostel's own data management system or the data collection tool provided by Hostelworld. "2. Scope 1 and Scope 2 greenhouse gas emissions are measured from all sources. This can be done using the Hostel's own data management system or the data collection tool provided by Hostelworld."  

  • Transport  

The Hostel provides guidelines (verbal or documented) at reception and when checking in about public transport in the local area and encourages use of this.  

  • Solid waste  

The Hostel has a waste management plan for recycling, reusing, composting or disposing of waste correctly. Any waste disposal is to an approved facility that has no negative impact on the environment.  

  • Harmful substances  

There are no environmentally harmful substances used at the hostel. If there are any used, they are handled and disposed of appropriately and staff are trained in identifying and handling these.  

  • Animal welfare  

The Hostel does not acquire, breed or hold any wildlife captive. Any housing and care of domestic wildlife meets high standards of welfare.  

  • Wildlife harvesting and trade  

The Hostel does not harvest, consume, display, sell or trade wildlife species. If they do, it is part of a regulated activity that meets local and international law. 

Level 2

The hostel has put a sustainability strategy in place to document and measure progress. They’re prioritising environmental, social, and cultural best practices.

There are four pillars within the Staircase to Sustainability. In order to reach level 2 the hostel has achieved everything outlined in level 1, and the following criteria:

Sustainable Management

They compile details and data on their sustainability efforts, provide staff with training and implement sustainability-related feedback from guests.

  • Legal compliance

Mandatory applicable legal documents are available upon request.

  • Customer experience

The Hostel has started to document the feedback that they received on sustainability as well as any action taken as follow up.

  • Information and interpretation

Staff are actively informed and trained about the natural and cultural heritage of the local area, including behaviour at sensitive sites.

  • Sustainability management system

The Hostel can show that they have started using this system and collecting data. This can be either using the data collection tool provided by Hostelworld or an internal data management system. The Hostel also has a clear filing system for proof of sustainability actions.

  • Staff Engagement

The Hostel can demonstrate staff engagement with these. This may include records of staff training and attendance to meetings, including a defined frequency for refresher guidance and training.

Socio-Economic Impact 

They actively support local businesses and community groups and provide opportunities for guests to support them too.

  • Community Support

Where they are available the Hostel supports at least one community group.

  • Fair & Equal Employment

The Hostel monitors the percentage of their workforce across each area to ensure that a non-discriminatory working environment is maintained. This includes reviewing any opportunities to hire and progress in any given area including local employment.

  • Local Purchasing

The Hostel measures the number of local and/or fairtrade suppliers that are used. At least two local and/or fairtrade suppliers are used.

  • Local Entrepreneurs

Where they are available, local entrepreneurs are given opportunities to use the Hostel's space and guests to develop and sell products and/or services.

  • Exploitation and harassment

The Hostel can show this policy upon request.

  • Decent Work

The Hostel can show this policy upon request.

Cultural Impact

The cultural information they give guests is displayed at the hostel or in digital communications.

  • Cultural interactions

The Hostel can show that they provide this information in some form, such as digital format (app, QR codes, social media etc.) or physical format (maps, signs, displays etc.)

Environmental Impact

The hostel has implemented strategies to improve their environmental efforts and conserve the biodiversity of their surroundings, helping customers have a more sustainable stay.

  • Environmentally preferable purchasing

The Hostel has begun to source environmentally friendly products, this may include soap, shampoo, cleaning products, laundry products, and dishwashing products etc. This must be confirmed by the supplier or on the label of the product.

  • Efficient purchasing

The Hostel has reviewed their suppliers and begun sourcing products from suppliers with returnable or recyclable packaging.

The Hostel has identified at least one area of the Hostel where they can reduce or eliminate plastic (e.g., rooms / bathrooms / service areas / logistics /cleaning services etc.)

  • Energy conservation

The Hostel measures their energy consumption at least annually. The Hostel can measure this using their own data management system or the data collection tool provided by Hostelworld.

  • Waste-water

The Hostel has a list of sources of waste-water from their building and has implemented strategies to reduce, reuse or recycle the water where possible. Where this is not possible, the Hostel ensures the water is treated properly and released safely.

  • Solid waste

The Hostel measures the amount of solid waste disposed, including food waste, measured by type. The Hostel measures the amount of plastic that is reused at their Hostel.

  • Biodiversity conservation

The Hostel makes efforts to protect and increase biodiversity value in the area, this includes reducing disturbance of natural ecosystems where possible in Hostel activities or renovation and ensuring green or blue spaces are created where possible. This may include small practices, such as: bird boxes, bee boxes, hedgerows, indoor and outdoor plants, purchasing of organic fruit and vegetables, planting trees in the area, investment in biodiversity projects.

  • Invasive species

Where the Hostel conducts planting onsite or in their area, they only use native species.

  • Wildlife interactions

The Hostel's activities do not negatively impact any free roaming wildlife. If this is a possibility, the Hostel has signs and guidelines to educate guests.

Level 3

The hostel is making continuous improvements on their sustainability goals, outlined in their detailed strategy. They’re committed to creating significant environmental, social and cultural change, making them ready for Global Sustainable Tourism Council certification.

There are four pillars within the Staircase to Sustainability. In order to reach level 3 the hostel has achieved everything outlined in levels 1 and 2, and the following criteria:

Sustainable Management

The hostel reports on and publishes their sustainability actions and achievements. They’re involved in sustainability programmes in their local area and are making their hostel accessible.

  • Reporting & Communication

There is a designated area on the Hostel's website, social media or published reports about sustainability targets and actions.

  • Customer experience

The Hostel can demonstrate that this feedback (including Online Travel Agency reviews) is monitored against their sustainability criteria and any complaints are being addressed. Evidence of this would include documented logs of addressing complaints.

  • Impact and integrity

The site building and design has taken into account visual amenity, landscape, cultural and natural heritage. The building does not negatively impact biologically sensitive areas, cultural heritage and connection of natural sites.

  • Sustainable practices and materials

Any building works or renovation uses both local and sustainable practices.

  • Access for All

The Hostel can show that they are working towards providing for all accessibility needs.

  • Destination engagement

Where there are sustainability programmes available in their destination, the Hostel is actively involved in these.

  • Sustainability management system

The Hostel has set targets for improvement in sustainability areas based on their collected data and has set actions for meeting these.

Socio-Economic Impact 

They report on contributions made towards community groups.

  • Community Support

The amount and level of contributions made to the community groups are recorded on an annual basis, this may include donations (e.g., food, supplies, monetary), volunteering hours, provision of services etc and the Hostel can provide proof of this.

Cultural Impact

The hostel embraces and educates guests on traditional and current local culture.

  • Presenting cultural and heritage

The Hostel incorporates elements of traditional and contemporary local culture. This may include provision of information about the local culture and heritage, encouragement of culturally significant activities to do in the local area, interior design in rooms etc.

Environmental Impact

The hostel ensures that not only their practices are environmentally friendly but that their suppliers are too. They’ve also taken steps to reduce pollution.

  • Environmentally preferable purchasing

The Hostel measures the amount of suppliers and products that are environmentally friendly. At least 50% are confirmed to be environmentally friendly (as stated on the product or by the supplier)

  • Efficient purchasing

The Hostel measures the amount of suppliers that provide goods in returnable or recyclable packaging and at least two suppliers provide goods in returnable or recyclable packaging.

The Hostel has replaced unnecessary plastic from at least one of: packaging of supplies, plastic products (such as storage boxes, reception supplies, kitchen supplies, amenities in rooms), containers for cleaning products or cling films. The Hostel has also joined the Global Tourism Plastic Initiative to further reduce plastic usage in their operations.

  • Water conservation

Water consumption is measured and the Hostel has a list of the water sources they use. The Hostel can measure water consumption using their own data management system or the data collection tool provided by Hostelworld.

  • Transport

There is a transportation policy among employees that encourages car sharing, public transport, cycling/walking or other sustainable methods of getting to work. The Hostel encourages this through schemes or benefits.

  • Minimize pollution

The Hostel has a list of their pollution sources (including noise, light, runoff, erosion, ozone-depleting substances, air, water and soil contaminants) and practices to minimise pollution in these areas. This may include:

- Rules for reduced noise at certain parts of the day.

- Ensuring all unnecessary lighting is switched off in the evenings when appropriate.

- Air conditioning units do not contain any CFS.

- Water discharge or run off from the hostel is managed and treated correctly.

- All cleaning and gardening materials are environmentally-certified and chemical free.

These practices are documented and the Hostel can demonstrate implementation of these.

  • Visits to natural sites

The Hostel educates guests and staff on the natural sites and local environment to ensure appropriate behaviour and avoid disruption.

Level 3+

For hostels to reach level 3+ they’ve achieved everything outlined in levels 1,2 and 3, and their sustainability strategy has been certified by a Global Sustainable Tourism Council accredited certification body. They are committed to improving the environment with industry-leading sustainability practices.