New piece on: A Club Perspective of Sustainability Certification Schemes



Editorial on: A Club Perspective of Sustainability Certification Schemes

Drawing on club theory, our study examines the challenges and opportunities facing a sustainability certification program, the Green Key scheme, in terms of its recruitment and retention of members within the Dutch tourism and hospitality industry. Extant literature on sustainability certification in this industry tends to focus narrowly on motivations and retention problems at the firm level, or else on drivers of or barriers to the adoption of sustainability certification schemes. The links between scheme design characteristics and scheme effectiveness and their implications for recruitment and retention thus have remained relatively unexamined. To address this gap, we propose a theoretical framework that highlights how different design features of sustainability certification schemes might inform the recruitment and retention challenges that scheme managers often face.

For managerial practice, our study highlights the need to design scheme features carefully, because they are fundamental to the scheme’s efficacy and ability to recruit and retain members. First, to avoid credibility problems related to shirking and free-riding, certification schemes should implement an effective, regular, third-party monitoring and auditing system, reinforced by clear sanctioning mechanisms for shirkers and free-riders. The information from these audits also must be disclosed publicly to stakeholders, customers, and potential members.

Second, we caution schemes about the potential dangers of a tiered certification system. In particular, the Green Key scheme should re-evaluate the meaning of its club membership. For example, it might set uniform, relatively stringent standards for all hotels, to ensure they are acceptable to stakeholders, including customers.

Third, if design elements are responsible for declining credibility, each Green Key national organization should leverage its valuable connections and periodically engage in peer reviews with other Green Key schemes in other countries. Such exercises can help them share best practices for dealing with issues of membership, free-riding, and shirking.

Please visit: Mzembe, A., Idemudia, U., Lindgreen, A., and Melissen, F. (2020), ”A club perspective on sustainability certification schemes in the tourism and hospitality industry,” Journal of Sustainable Tourism, Vol. 28,


The page was last edited by: Department of Marketing // 05/06/2020