Green Key and the 17 Sustainable Development Goals: SDG #15

Green Key is a leading standard of excellence in the field of sustainable tourism, guiding tourism establishments to do their part in achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN. In our feature series we will present each of the 17 SDGs and explain their connection to Green Key. 


In 2015, the UN member states adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to guide governments, the private sector and civil society in transforming our world into safer, fairer and more livable place.   

Sustainability lies at the heart of Green Key, which is why the programme inherently contributes to all of the 17 goals. Today, we talk about Goal 15: "Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss".

Healthy ecosystems with flourishing biodiversity are often the main reasons why tourists visit a destination. However, tourism can also contribute to biodiversity loss and the degradation of ecosystems if not managed responsibly. Tourism infrastructure may negatively affect ecosystems and habitats. Waste and wastewater are introduced to fragile environments and disturb the natural balance. Illegal hunting as well as souvenirs and food products made of endangered species threaten the biodiversity. 

How does Green Key help to achieve goal 15?

  • Green Key awarded establishments are encouraged to purchase paper products that are made of recycled fibres or wood from sustainable forest management. This is a mandatory criterion for sanitary paper (criterion 5.5) and stationaries (criterion 13.1). Furthermore, the establishments are encouraged to use as little paper as possible (criterion 13.4)
  • It is not permitted to sell or display endangered animal or plant species in Green Key awarded establishments (criterion 11.7)
  • Food products made of endangered species are not be offered in Green Key awarded establishments (criterion 8.3)
  • Native species are to be preferred when planting new green areas, and invasive species that threaten the local biodiversity are avoided (10.6)
  • Guests are encouraged to learn more about nearby parks, landscapes and nature conservation areas. The information must include the encouragement to follow established guidelines or codes of conduct in order to minimise visitor impact on the environment (criterion 12.1)

A document describing Green Key’s overall contribution to all 17 Sustainable Development Goals can be downloaded here.