ANIMONDIAL works with Travel & Tourism businesses to improve animal welfare, halt biodiversity loss and promote nature’s recovery. So, you might wonder why we have teamed up with carbon consultancy ecollective to provide an integrated service for carbon reduction and Nature Positive Tourism. What does climate change have to do with animals and nature?
The fact is that these two issues are intimately intertwined. Global experts have acknowledged that “neither will be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together” (IPBES/IPCC). Enhancing nature is essential to combating climate change, just as minimising climate change is critical for protecting biodiversity.
Climate change is a key cause of biodiversity loss
Greenhouse gas emissions, primarily from burning fossil fuels for energy and heat, cause the atmosphere to trap more heat from the sun, making our planet hotter. This graph shows how the earth (the air at ground level and the surface of the seas) has been heating up since industrialisation became widespread in the early 1900s.
Graph source: Climate.gov
This rising temperature of the earth – global heating – is having a major effect on biodiversity, and one which is likely to increase. It leads to climate change, which is one of the five key drivers of biodiversity loss identified by IPBES (the Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity & Ecosystem Services).
Climate change is responsible for more frequent extreme weather events like storms and droughts, and related natural disasters like floods and wildfires. It can also cause shifts in long-term weather conditions such as seasonal temperatures or rainfall levels. These shifts can make some areas uninhabitable for plants and animals that used to thrive there. It also has a massive effect on the ocean, leading to rising sea levels, marine heatwaves and ocean acidification. This has already contributed to huge biodiversity loss. For example, nearly half of all coral reefs have died in the past 150 years, and further warming threatens to destroy almost all those that remain.
Restoring biodiversity can help combat climate change
But there is another side to the relationship between biodiversity and climate change. Restoring natural areas can absorb carbon from the atmosphere, locking it into plants and soils and helping combat climate change. Planting trees is a well-known way to absorb carbon, but it is much more effective when those trees are part of a natural forest full of other plants and animals. Some other ecosystems, like marshlands and seagrass beds, can be even more effective.
As well as removing carbon from the atmosphere, natural ecosystems can also provide protection from the impacts of climate change. Coral reefs, mangrove forests and other wetlands can reduce damage from violent storms, while woodland and other habitats can slow the flow of rainwater down hillsides, reducing the risk of both flash floods and future droughts. Natural areas, especially forests, can also help to stabilise local climates and reduce the risk of desertification (areas of land turning into desert). Reducing the damage from these events is a benefit to biodiversity itself as well as to local people.
By understanding the complex interconnection between nature and climate, and especially the dangers that global heating poses for biodiversity loss, it is clear we need to address both these issues at once. So what can you do?
Measure, strategise, reduce
The first step is to measure the current emissions of your business. Our partner ecollective is a carbon consultancy that specialises in measuring the carbon footprints of businesses in the Travel & Tourism industry. They not only measure emissions from different sources to find the carbon ‘hotspots’ of your organisation. This information is vital for the next next step in the process: making a plan to reduce those emissions.
To meet the Net Zero target set out in the Paris Agreement, companies need to reduce emissions by 90% by 2050. ecollective can work with you to set ambitious but achievable reduction targets and identify the most effective and efficient reduction strategies.
It makes sense to go through this process in tandem with developing your Nature Positive Tourism strategy, following the ‘assess, reduce, restore’ model. This enables you to produce a full assessment of your dependencies and impacts on natural services and identify actions that reduce and restore in multiple areas simultaneously.
ecollective work with some of the best in the business (check out their testimonials) and can provide other services like Carbon Literacy training to educate and engage your team. They also have lots of advice and resources on their blog that you can access for free.
Having a Net Zero plan is also good for business
Having a Net Zero plan is good for your business as well as the environment since many strategies involve cost-cutting measures such as reducing energy consumption and waste. Companies with active Net Zero plans are also more attractive to top talent and investors and have a higher staff retention rate. With legislation coming thick and fast requiring companies to declare and reduce their emissions, you’re better off starting sooner rather than later.
Combining biodiversity with carbon saves you time
A common mistake travel companies make is to have two separate projects: one measuring carbon emissions, one working on animal welfare and biodiversity. In fact, a Net Zero plan can be part of your Nature Positive Tourism commitment, tackling climate as a threat to biodiversity as well as an environmental challenge in its own right. By working with ecollective and ANIMONDIAL together, you will save time sharing information and producing strategies that are fully aligned.
Ensure your actions have a win-win result
Many actions to reduce carbon emissions also benefit nature, but not all. By combining the expertise of ecollective and ANIMONDIAL, we can give tourism companies a clear strategy that covers emissions reduction and biodiversity protection and enhancement, increasing the overall impact of your remedial actions.
Delivering global goals on climate and biodiversity needs a combination of ambitious land- and ocean-based actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore ecosystems, together with reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. Scientists and policy makers understand that meaningful change will only be achieved at a global level through a joint effort to better protect animals, nature and the climate – and the same is true for your business.
Hopefully this blog has prompted you to start considering your company’s carbon footprint (if you weren’t already).
For more information check out ecollective or get in touch to book a 30 minute, no obligation chat with ecollective.
Protecting and restoring nature, by maintaining healthy, functioning ecosystems and safeguarding biodiversity, should now be a priority for all governments, businesses, and society. Without nature, we simply do not have the natural resources or services that ensure our survival. Knowing what to do, where to start and how to identify our dependencies and impacts on nature need not be a challenge.
ANIMONDIAL has been working with the leading agencies of the Travel & Tourism industry to ensure its sectors and businesses have the information, guidance and tools necessary to scope, assess and reduce their nature-related risks, dependencies and impacts. This has produced a universal approach, called “Nature Positive Tourism”, that encourages businesses to go beyond sustainability and begin to compensate for unavoidable impacts by building back biodiversity.
This year, ANIMONDIAL will focus on raising greater awareness of Nature Positive Tourism: what it is and how businesses can embrace it. A Travel and Tourism Overview has been produced with the global coalition Business for Nature and a further report, Nature Positive Travel & Tourism in Action, will soon be published by the Nature Positive Tourism Partnership. These both support business action and share practical examples of how businesses are benefiting from this approach.
EXODUS Adventure Travels, a 50-year-old UK-based tour operator, is one such business that has integrated the Nature Positive Tourism approach into its operations. Keen to know more, I caught up with Rochelle Turner, Head of Sustainability at EXODUS, to find out how they are getting on.
“It’s been fundamental to our trips that we tread lightly and respect the natural and cultural environment. In the last few years, we’ve taken to ensuring that we’ve got more documented proof of these actions and that we challenge any practices that don’t align with our vision of being a nature positive business.”
Rochelle explains that the IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES, 2019) was the starting point for their plan. It explained the five key drivers of biodiversity loss and helped them identify actions to minimise or avoid unsustainable activities and work towards restoring nature. EXODUS adopted a “simple plan of remove, reduce and restore”, a process aligned with Nature Positive Tourism Roadmap presented in the World Travel & Tourism Council report (WTTC, 2022).
“Through our plan, we identified the things we need to remove entirely (i.e. plastics, any negative wildlife interactions, other waste) and take action to reduce our negative impacts (i.e. reducing our carbon emissions) and where we had an opportunity to bring about positive change and restore nature (investing in rewilding and citizen science activities). All these actions form the basis of our Nature Positive Plan upon which we set goals to 2023. I’ve now been updating this with new actions across the next 3-5 years.”
It is encouraging to see businesses proactively adopt Nature Positive Tourism and demonstrate how it can be applied practically, although this is not without its challenges.
“One of the main challenges as a tour operator is trying to enact change where we don’t have direct control. We can set the policies and minimum standards, but at times and in certain places, it is difficult for them to be reached,” explained Rochelle. “Just a small example – we have a goal to not provide any single use water bottles to our guests and only ever use refillable bottles with clean, purified water. We’re at 94% which is great, but we want 100%. In certain parts of the world and particularly in the aftermath of the pandemic, we are still searching for solutions.”
ANIMONDIAL received similar feedback from a peer review consultation last year – noting the challenges of Nature Positive Tourism integration through the supply and value chains. This will be another area of focus for ANIMONDIAL this year as we continue to work with the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, the WTTC and the World Tourism Organisation to drive industry-level solutions. However, these potential obstacles shouldn’t stop more Travel & Tourism businesses committing to the Nature Positive Tourism approach and contributing to efforts to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.
Rochelle emphasises the need for businesses to keep their nature positive action plans simple.
“It helps to communicate the message internally and embed the required actions within people’s roles. It also helps provide that all-important evidence and proof that what we say about our trips and how we operate is real and based on a thorough appreciation for what truly brings positive change for nature.”
Travel & Tourism businesses can certainly learn from each other and ANIMONDIAL will be encouraging and facilitating this throughout 2024, noting the need to act now for nature. This will include a series of webinars and practical guidance, delivered through the Nature Positive Tourism Partnership, and various other initiatives to support business and encourage a joined-up approach to protecting nature.
Asked about the priorities for EXODUS this year, Rochelle shared the need to review their Nature Positive Plan, combine their climate change mitigation commitments, and ensure their collective goals align with the Global Goals for Nature.
Whatever your Nature Positive Tourism goals are for the coming year, ANIMONDIAL can help guide you through them. Contact us or book in a call to find out how.
Listed reports and references:
Businesses are increasingly recognising the importance of biodiversity and nature. We now understand that a healthy natural environment is vital not only for providing life-preserving services, but as the foundation for future prosperity and social resilience. In response, the consortium Business for Nature has created informative guidance, including clear priority actions to help businesses halt and reverse biodiversity loss, for 12 of the most impactful business sectors.
I drafted the Travel & Tourism overview, with Business for Nature, which has since been endorsed by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA). It provides a compelling insight into how Travel & Tourism not only relies on biodiversity and nature but, when managed well, can also support and enhance it. We have the potential to become an agent of change across the whole of society – protecting animals and restoring nature and biodiversity in global destinations.
This is reminiscent of my work with the tourism sector in creating the first ever guidance on animal welfare and how these guidelines then helped shape the future of how animals are treated in tourism. (Animal welfare refers to the physical and mental state of an animal and their ability to cope with given situations such as use in tourism activities.)
It was 15 years ago that I was approached by the Head of Sustainability for the Federation of Tour Operators (a consortium of mainstream tourism businesses) to help introduce the animal welfare topic to the Travel & Tourism sector. In the early 2000s up to 70% of excursion product involved animals – from cultural practices, like elephant or camel riding, to more extreme activities like swimming with sea lions or jaguars and even holding snakes and lions! Tourism businesses had started to question the treatment of the animals involved and the potential risk to their customers, concerns which sparked the need for some industry guidance.
At that time the UK Government’s Animal Welfare Bill was progressing through Parliament. With a focus on the importance of safeguarding the welfare of animals, it recognised their sentience (ability to experience pain or suffering) and required anyone who has animals under their care to ensure they have a life worth living. Working with my colleagues at the time – the sustainability leads in major tourism businesses, the FTO and then ABTA, and other stakeholders – we launched the ABTA Animal Welfare Guidelines in 2013 to much fanfare.
The Guidelines consist of a set of concise booklets, each focused on a type of animal activity (Animals in a Captive Environment, Working Animals, etc.) and containing a set of advised minimum requirements together with best practice guidance. It was a great project to help pioneer, it defined my future career, and to this day the ABTA Animal Welfare Guidelines continue to improve standards in animal care and shape the involvement of animals in tourism. It has even helped influence the new UK law to ban the domestic advertising and sale of Low-Welfare Activities Abroad.
I see ANIMONDIAL’s current work in helping to develop the Nature Positive Tourism approach in a similar light. This approach builds on the legacy of the ABTA Animal Welfare Guidelines – that individual animal welfare matters – and widens our duty of care to the protection of all living things (‘biodiversity’) and their collective ability to support our well-being and survival. The guidance which we helped produce with the WTTC, SHA and UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) cuts through the complexity of a similarly technical but vital topic. Much like the ABTA Guidelines, it provides insight into how tourism operations may have negative impacts, and what mitigation actions are necessary to avoid, minimise or reverse them.
However, for biodiversity, we do not have the ten years that it took the Travel & Tourism sector to fully adopt and apply the ABTA Animal Welfare Guidelines. Governments, businesses and society are required to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. Fortunately, the Nature Positive Tourism Partnership is working on a range of resources to make this possible. We have thorough reports, a ‘Toolbox of Nature Positive Tourism Resources’, and a wealth of practical case studies (soon to be published). These will provide the broad spectrum of tourism businesses with the information and support they need to reduce their operational impacts and build back nature in their destinations.
ANIMONDIAL is also here to help, of course. Building on our long-term knowledge of animal welfare and the protection of animals in tourism, we have produced the first ever evaluation tool for Travel & Tourism, to help businesses identify and measure their specific impacts on animals and nature. After years of development and testing, NATOUR IMPACT, is now available to businesses that are looking for a bespoke assessment of their operations and guidance on where their limited resources are best directed to protect biodiversity and nature.
Life may be all about the journey, but travel & tourism is all about the destination. It is about being in a different place, breathing it in, and connecting with it. And that sense of connection is as vital to our efforts to protect and restore nature as it is to the experience of those who visit.
Discovering the Disconnect
Unfortunately, making that connection is not as easy as it first appears. In a recent consultation, conducted by ANIMONDIAL on behalf of the Nature Positive Tourism Partnership, the issue of ‘destination disconnect’ was raised several times. Even when business intentions are good, it seems there are difficulties translating this into real improvements for biodiversity on the ground.
Important insights from the Partnership
The consultation itself formed the basis of a new publication by the Partnership, led by the World Travel & Tourism Council, UNWTO and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (and co-authored by ANIMONDIAL). Titled ‘A Nature Positive Future for Travel & Tourism’, the report was soft-launched at the UNWTO General Assembly this month, with the full release expected before the end of the year. The consultation, involving 50 experts from business, government, academia and NGOs, underpins the guidance and recommendations, which are supported by a wealth of sector-specific case studies.
Connect to connect
One of the key messages is the need for partnerships of shared purpose. By combining the strengths of businesses, government agencies and civil society, and where relevant, local communities, even the most challenging of obstacles can be overcome. When it comes to connecting with the destination, collaborating with local organisations and communities is a powerful and efficient way to bridge the gap.
Partnering with local groups isn’t just a great way to support their work and achieve nature positive goals, it can also unlock real business benefits. Long-term collaborations can provide opportunities to enhance tourism products and improve local operations, as well being a great source of marketing and PR assets and ESG content. In addition, partnerships with local community groups or NGOs that work in destinations can provide a lifeline of reliable information and data to help businesses report on impact and keep track of what is happening on the ground. For example, through partnering with a local organisation in the depths of the Indonesian rainforest, a business could invest in their expertise to support species protection and biodiversity restoration, as well as to provide regular monitoring information for KPI tracking and ESG reporting.
Tried and tested
Working with local organisations isn’t a new or radical idea – several progressive companies are already doing it. Iberostar, for instance, works with the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria to promote sustainable fisheries practice in the Canary Islands, and also with the Mediterranean Institute for Advanced Studies to study and protect seagrass meadows. Meanwhile, Intrepid Travel (through the Intrepid Foundation) supports the restoration and protection of coastal and wetland ecosystems in Victoria through the Blue Carbon Lab and, on one site, working with the Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation. The Maldives is a hotspot for these kinds of partnerships, with InterContinental Maldives Maamunagau Resort protecting and preserving the local lagoon through collaboration with the Manta Trust and Maldivian Manta Ray Project, Four Seasons Resorts collaborating with Reefscapers to restore coral reefs around two islands, and Six Senses Laamu leading the Maldives Underwater Initiative, involving the Manta Trust, Olive Ridley Project and Blue Marine Foundation. The Rhodes Co-Lab is a particularly ambitious effort, involving a collaboration between TUI Group, the local travel industry and the Municipality of Rhodes local government. (These case studies and many more are included in the forthcoming Nature Positive Future for Travel & Tourism report.)
Finding your community
There are more and more ways to ensure a strong connection with communities in your destinations. Our partners at Tourism Cares recently launched an online Meaningful Travel Map which shows the location of responsible and community-connected tourism suppliers around the world. And just this month the Wildlife Heritage Areas initiative announced its first sites, where local people who recognise their natural heritage with a deep sense of pride welcome tourism that benefits nature and their community.
Making it work for you…
So, now you can see the benefits of working with a local partner, how do you go about finding one? Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered! Our Animal Protection Network provides a list of approved animal and nature protection partners in destinations around the world. And if none of these is right for you, our Biodiversity Partnerships service can find local organisations that meet your needs. Just send us a message or book a call to find out more, and we can help your business become a Guardian of Nature.
It was through the consultation of both private sector and civil society, as part of our current work with the Nature Positive Tourism Partnership, that ANIMONDIAL identified an urgent need to integrate biodiversity safeguards through the Travel & Tourism value and supply chains.
Evidence indicates that the operation of both value and supply chains, largely integrated in the destination, are particularly harmful to nature. Just imagine all the raw materials that Travel & Tourism businesses need to operate. There’s food and freshwater, of course, but then there are the natural materials used for energy and fuel, furniture and furnishings, and all the guest activities that happen in the destination. Travel & Tourism business ultimately need to make sure that the sourcing of materials and their activities on the ground are sustainable and not detrimental to the locations concerned. Flying in millions more people a year into urban and rural locations can take its toll, and on occasion, this causes restricted availability of those resources to local communities. This has generated ill feeling towards tourists and even unrest as local people raise concern about the impact. In some locations, numbers of tourists have been restricted as a result.
Seeking reassurance that the sourcing of raw materials and tourism activities do not have a negative impact can be complex. It requires a need for each business to assess their dependencies and impacts on nature but to also consider the needs of local people. This will need to include an assessment of the business’ direct operations but also their indirect operations, through their respective suppliers.
Working with WTTC and its partners, detailed implementation guidance is now available for T&T businesses (referred to as Nature Positive Tourism), to specifically assess direct business operations. However, unless a tourism business monopolises the activities of its suppliers, ensuring full integration of its Nature Positive commitments, it far more difficult. The assessment of the dependencies and impacts of supply and demand to the destination activities or excursions will largely be reliant on the approachability and interest of the supplier. Another approach may therefore be required to ensure suppliers are mindful of their impacts and are actively seeking to reduce them.
ANIMONDIAL advocates supplier auditing as a guaranteed option to ensuring the right measures are in place and activities are aligned with the business client policies. This is a process, usually undertaken by a third party, that assesses the supplier against the operational requirements of the tour operator, measuring compliance, and providing remedial guidance to encourage improvement. This action has already been deployed to improve animal welfare in global attraction suppliers, and I believe a similar approach is possible using Nature Positive Tourism criteria.
Working with our Partners, the Preverisk Group, ANIMONDIAL is building on its animal welfare auditing criteria to incorporate nature positive objectives and actions. A robust and comprehensive Nature Positive supplier auditing service will soon be available to tourism businesses that are keen to apply their nature positive commitments across the supply chain in their destinations. Combining ANIMONDIAL expertise with global supplier auditing services!
Will you join us?
Preverisk and ANIMONDIAL would welcome collaboration with a travel business partner to help develop this new Nature Positive auditing service and ensure its utmost practical relevance. If you would be interested in playing a leading part in the creation of this new, ground-breaking service to support our sector, please find out more about our partnership with Preverisk, and partnership with Preverisk so we can tell you all about it. Thank you!
Explores how tourism players can mitigate their impacts and embrace opportunities, to transition to a nature positive world.
Creating a sustainability plan can be a daunting prospect. With so many ‘sustainability’ measures to consider, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. From ending poverty and single-use plastics, to managing energy consumption and animal interactions, or halting biodiversity loss and carbon emissions, the expectation on tourism businesses to understand and adopt measures to protect ‘people and planet’ can often result in gridlock.
How to BREAK the gridlock
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a good place to start, in that they provide clarity on the outputs required to minimise economic, social and environmental risk. However, with most resources displaying the SDGs in numerical order, there is a tendency to select individual Goals without considering their context or recognising the ‘trade-offs’ between them.
The Stockholm Resilience Institute, on the other hand, presents the SDGs as a tiered ‘wedding cake’ (see below). This helpfully illustrates how the economic goals are reliant on the fulfilment of the social goals, which are in turn dependent on the environmental, or biosphere goals (SDGs 6, 13, 14 & 15). This not only demonstrates our reliance on biodiversity and nature for our wellbeing and prosperity but highlights the reasons we must protect it.
One challenge of the SDGs is that they don’t help to define which targets are most relevant for your business and its operational impacts. All too often, we approach sustainability through generic, mainstream actions, rather than considering sector-specific impacts alongside our individual business’ sustainability strategy and which actions are most relevant to achieving it.
Sector-specific guidance provides a clearer understanding of where a business-type has the greatest impact. For instance, the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Nature Positive Travel & Tourism report provides an overall industry perspective, indicating how travel and tourism is both dependent on and impacts nature, together with more specific advice for each sector. The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance’s Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality advises hotels and hospitality businesses, specifically, how to mitigate their impacts on nature – from freshwater usage and food sourcing to GHG emissions and waste disposal.
The more your sustainability planning focuses on sector-specific and individual business operations, and quantifiable impact, the easier it will be to prioritise, and the more effective your actions will be.
ACT for Nature
What is clear from the SDG ‘wedding cake’ model is that businesses must prioritise identifying their dependencies and impacts on nature. Fundamentally, nature provides the resources on which tourism, and the communities tourism operates in, all rely, including our food, water, air, and energy. In fact, most of Hospitality’s goods and services rely on nature. Nature can also be harnessed to create solutions to the challenges set out in the SDGs such as preventing disease, reducing carbon emissions, or providing the ability to adapt to climate change – solutions that are positive for social, economic, governance and environmental outcomes. The threat of nature loss is therefore a threat to business, our economies and societies. Preserving and enhancing nature is, after all, one of the underlying principles of sustainability.
To address this, we need to think about which issues are most relevant to our operations and supply chain, and what actions are needed to address them. This should be the starting point for your sustainability strategy, it is the focus of the Alliance’s Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality, and it is exactly the starting point of Nature Positive Tourism.
EMBRACING Nature Positive Tourism
Nature conservation must be a priority for all businesses, no matter the sector. A Nature Positive approach ensures each business not only identifies and mitigates its specific negative impacts but seeks opportunities to restore and enhance biodiversity. While there will be common themes between businesses, such as reducing plastic use or avoiding deforestation, there will be differences in the range of identified impacts and their severity, and what “regenerative” solutions are available.
We now understand that it is not enough just to consider how we use natural resources; all business efforts must ensure an overall Net Positive impact by conserving and regenerating nature. This can be effectively delivered by understanding the nature around you, investing in nature conservation in your destinations, and seeking opportunities to support and inspire governments, business, and society to help transform humanity’s relationship with the natural world, to become a “Guardian of Nature”.
How to START your Nature Positive approach
- UNDERSTAND travel & tourism’s dependencies and impacts on nature
- ASSESS your business dependencies & impacts on biodiversity and nature
- DEFINE your sustainability plan
- REDUCE your negative impacts on nature and identify opportunities to RESTORE biodiversity
- MONITOR and REPORT on the effectiveness of your Nature Positive approach
- COLLABORATE through Nature Positive partnerships in your destinations and COMMUNICATE about the Nature Positive work you are doing!
Act for Nature
The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA) have established the Nature Positive Tourism Partnership to help transform the sector to meet its obligations under the UN Global Biodiversity Framework to halt and reverse biodiversity loss and to fulfil its potential as a Guardian of Nature. Find out more and join the initiative.
- Biodiversity Factsheet
- WTTC’s Nature Positive Travel & Tourism Report and Toolbox
- ANIMONDIAL’s NATOUR IMPACT Evaluation Tool to identify your impacts on nature
- Sustainable Hospitality Alliance’s Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality
This month’s blog is adapted from an interview with Helen by the World Travel and Tourism Council, the voice of the travel and tourism private sector globally. Their full article will soon be available on their website, as part of their ongoing Nature Positive Tourism campaign.
How do you walk the walk?
More and more companies in every sector are issuing statements about how eco-friendly they are – but are they really? A 2021 European Commission study found that nearly half of green claims made by businesses online were “exaggerated, false or deceptive”. More than a third used words like “eco-friendly” and “sustainable” without supporting evidence. It isn’t always easy to follow up on good intentions, so how can travel companies ensure that their environmental commitments are more than just words?
The calls came, and we answered
“It all started because we were receiving calls from a lot of travel businesses,” explains Helen. “They wanted to do the right thing, but they weren’t sure what guidance to follow”. It’s a familiar story – although businesses want to act, they often lack the tools to do so. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business or a huge, global company,” she says, “sustainability teams are usually only one or two people. Lack of budget or expertise can be an obstacle as well. It’s a problem. Until now, nature protection has been severely under-resourced.”
Taking the first step
Tackling this means finding the right partners, who might be non-profits, universities or biodiversity experts. “Businesses should identify trusted partners to work with,” recommends Helen, “whether it’s a small NGO in a travel destination or a consultant who can help with policy creation or impact assessments. Ultimately, as a travel company, you’re not expected to know everything about every species. So, partner with people who know the area, and perhaps have relevant projects that you can support.”
Find your perfect partner
ANIMONDIAL can help with this, through our Animal Protection Network. As well as a directory of existing members working on different issues around the world, we offer a bespoke service for businesses looking for their ideal match. “To identify the right partner, we start by assessing your business needs and looking at the company’s sustainability focus,” explains Helen. “Nature-related impacts still need to be identified and addressed first. Then we can look at the key issues and opportunities that arise from that to see what sort of partnership makes most sense.”
Partnership is a two-way street
The benefits of working like this go way beyond having a ‘pet project’ to support. “Historically, when people think about NGO partnerships, they see the non-profit as subordinate, grateful for their support,” Helen says. “They want the logo, but don’t always see the powerful opportunity of the partnership to educate the public or achieve strategic change. It’s actually very much a two-way street: NGO partners can be massively beneficial. They can help with biodiversity monitoring, designing sustainable systems or enriching the customer offer, as well as supporting ESG efforts through nature conservation.”
Deep and meaningful
The closer the partnership is, the more there is to gain – for both parties. It has taken a while, but this message is finally starting to sink in, according to Helen. “More companies recognise it now. They value partners who can talk about the science, and who can really be the experts. It’s powerful.”
Seizing the moment
ANIMONDIAL has been advocating for the protection of animals and nature through tourism since we were founded in 2018. Last year was a breakthrough. “Everything came together at COP15, in Montréal,” Helen explains. “It was the first time Travel & Tourism was properly represented at these meetings, and we were very proud to be a part of the delegation, headed by the World Travel and Tourism Council and sitting alongside our new Nature Positive Tourism partners – the UN World Tourism Organization and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance.” The message was simple; as Helen puts it: “For years we’ve heard about the dire state our planet is in … this is our last chance to work together to make a difference.”
- To find out more about ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Protection Network and biodiversity partnership services you can book a free discovery call now!
- Find experience and accommodation suppliers that can help you connect with your destinations through the Tourism Cares Meaningful Travel Map
- Become part of the Nature Positive Tourism movement by signing up to the Vision for Nature Positive Tourism
- To learn how to put Nature Positive Tourism into practice in your business, see the WTTC Nature Positive Travel & Tourism report or consult the wide range of resources in the associated Nature Positive Toolkit.
On 22 May each year the world celebrates the importance of ‘Biological diversity’, and in 2023, the ask is to “Build Back Biodiversity”.
This is, of course, exactly what our global society has signed up to following the ratification of the Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework, with its 23-target plan to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030.
While most people recognise the urgency to halt biodiversity loss, until now there has been no comprehensive solution to understand and minimise YOUR IMPACT. For the travel and tourism industry, ANIMONDIAL’s new online tool is about to change that…
Why is biodiversity important?
‘Biodiversity’ refers to the range of all living things (including humans). Studies have revealed that it is in a downward spiral as Earth is experiencing its Sixth Mass Extinction – the fifth one having wiped out the dinosaurs over 60 million years ago. Five human-induced drivers have been identified as the main causes behind this: habitat conversion, over-harvesting, climate change, pollution, and introduction of non-native species. These all lead to biodiversity loss, which undermines the stability of the climate, the availability of fresh air, water and food, and protections against extreme weather patterns and viral emergence. Biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse now dominate global risk forecasting (Global Risks Report 2023).
Reducing nature-related risk
The only way to halt and reverse biodiversity loss is to first avoid or minimise any negative impacts. Solutions until now have focused on simple, one-approach-fits-all action, such as ending single-use plastics. However, this is only a small part of the solution, which must mitigate ALL negative impacts. While there are some generic actions that can be applied, the only comprehensive way to address this challenge is to take a bespoke approach – by assessing YOUR IMPACT on biodiversity.
This understanding is what led us to create NATOUR IMPACT – an online tool specifically for travel & tourism businesses to identify their impacts on biodiversity and nature. Travel & tourism very much relies on nature, not least for providing over 80% of its goods and services, but also in supplying or underlying much of the motivation for people to travel. Like most businesses, travel & tourism contributes to ALL drivers of biodiversity loss, but to varying degrees depending on the business. Even within tourism, different types of business can impact nature in different ways. So, a bespoke assessment of IMPACT makes good business sense.
What to expect
Natour Impact provides a thorough assessment of business performance across the interconnected issues of biodiversity protection, animal welfare, climate change, pollution, sustainability and social impact. It doesn’t work from estimated or explicit values – like emissions calculations do – but instead assesses the policies, procedures and actions of the individual business against relevant international standards, science-based targets and expert recommendations. It is also aligned with industry targets and guidelines such those of the Global Biodiversity Framework, the Sustainable Development Goals and ABTA’s Animal Welfare Guidelines. The evaluation delivers a report that provides each business with a detailed IMPACT assessment, highlighting areas of concern and priority actions to address them, as well as recommendations towards a full Nature Positive Tourism approach.
Fit for purpose
Registering your interest in a Natour Impact assessment is easy. There is a ‘no obligation’ opportunity to talk it through with members of our team, and you can trial our Natour Impact ‘taster’ that provides a snapshot of what to expect. Alternatively you can just contact us to receive more details on the tool itself and the assessment process. It is really that simple. If you are already sold, and keen to start your business IMPACT assessment, why not book your introductory call now?
There really is no better way to regularly monitor and assess your business’ impacts on biodiversity!
Book your Natour Impact introductory call
Trial our Natour Impact ‘taster’
Identify the Global Biodiversity Framework business obligations (particularly Targets 14, 15 & 16)
April 22nd is Earth Day. A day to celebrate the amazing place where we live. Home to 7.4 billion people and an estimated 8 million species. It is also a time to reflect on our relationship with Mother Earth, our reliance upon it, and our responsibility to better protect it.
This is, after all, where many of the negative impacts take place, where endangered species and fragile habitats are most threatened, and where the natural resources on which we all rely are in decline. Society really needs to look beyond its four walls and start to protect their very foundations – grounded in the natural world – sooner rather than later.
I have written a great deal about the importance of NATURE – the very fabric on which all life on Earth is based. The interaction between non-living natural materials, such as soil, water and stone, and all living things, from bacteria to blue whales. You will know that nature is essential to our prosperity and wellbeing, and its demise threatens our existence. In my previous blog, I explained the UN’s new biodiversity protection mandate and the particular obligation on global business to integrate biodiversity safeguards and assess their nature impact. Legal requirements that, as yet, few businesses are fully aware of, let alone preparing to comply with.
Consider your impacts and dependencies on nature
Progressive business is beginning to consider nature and, while some companies may just fund tree planting or donate to a conservation NGO, the smart organisation is thinking about its risks and impacts on nature. This includes both direct impacts, like land clearance for construction or agriculture, and indirect impacts through the value chain, from the sourcing and processing of raw materials to the use and disposal of finished products. All this needs to be properly understood before business risk, dependencies and impacts can be identified.
ANIMONDIAL can guide your business
This is where “Nature Positive Business” (the blog) and ANIMONDIAL’s wider work can help. Our expertise encompasses animal protection, nature conservation, sustainable development and social impact. We will ensure your business understands its legal obligations, your business’ relationship with nature, and its impacts, dependencies and risk-factors. Anticipating the task ahead, ANIMONDIAL and our partners have developed the services and tools that T&T businesses need. This includes an evaluation tool for individual companies to assess their impact on nature, a report and Nature Positive Tourism Roadmap with the World Travel & Tourism Council to guide strategy, and a toolkit of additional services to support implementation. Our goal: to support clients through the complexity of biodiversity protection so they can go beyond sustainability to deliver an overall Nature Positive outcome.
Understanding the nature around you is key
As part of our toolkit, ANIMONDIAL has partnered with NatureMetrics, to bring world leading, measurable nature intelligence to the travel & tourism industry. They use cutting-edge technology to generate biodiversity data at scale from environmental DNA (eDNA) – the traces of DNA that all animals leave behind on the ground, in water and even in the air. This provides valuable insight into the wildlife and biodiversity in a given location and enables ongoing monitoring at a fraction of the cost of traditional techniques. The result is easy access to crucial data that underpins good decisions for business and nature. Our partnership not only introduces the benefits of eDNA monitoring to the Travel & Tourism industry, it also provides valuable guidance to help integrate its use into operational programmes that minimise harm and maximise benefits for nature.
Turning data into nature
Using the eDNA biodiversity data collected, businesses can see the current state of biodiversity in their destinations, even around their offices, enabling them to make practical plans to protect and enhance it through precise, measurable steps. Repeated surveys provide direct feedback on the effectiveness of these efforts, tracking performance and demonstrating concrete progress.
Tourism as a force for good
While the obligation to monitor, assess and mitigate impacts falls on all businesses irrespective of their sector, tourism businesses have an added advantage: the means to collected biodiversity data from multiple sites across the globe. This gives us the capability to help society better understand the Earth’s biodiversity health and the ongoing damage and recovery of nature, as well as the ability to monitor the outcomes of Nature Positive actions as they are applied. The eDNA data collected through Nature Metrics is automatically shared with eBioAtlas – a global, open-access database supporting biodiversity protection and restoration activities around the world, to which Travel & Tourism could become a key contributor.
“Every organisation needs to know where it stands, what impacts it currently has and how each of its future decisions can alter that impact in its journey to becoming nature positive.”
— Pippa Howard, Chief Nature Strategist, NatureMetrics
Joint services of NatureMetrics and ANIMONDIAL will help businesses monitor, assess and mitigate operational impact on nature and its biodiversity. All in one package!
Nature Positive Tourism
Working with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and partners, ANIMONDIAL will seek to integrate eDNA measurement and monitoring services into the Nature Positive Tourism approach. We want to provide tourism businesses with the tools to understand the nature around them (around their offices, in the destinations they visit and other sites) and the outcomes of their Nature Positive Tourism actions. Techniques like eDNA analysis are only one element of this, but as part of our broad and ever-expanding toolkit they can play a key role in our industry’s Nature Positive journey.
Adopting a Nature Positive approach goes beyond sustainable use. While sustainability makes clear business sense, it is the impact on the ground, amongst nature, that matters most.
This is, after all, where many of the negative impacts take place, where endangered species and fragile habitats are most threatened, and where the natural resources on which we all rely are in decline. Society really needs to look beyond its four walls and start to protect their very foundations – grounded in the natural world – sooner rather than later.
Everything, everywhere, all at once
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently called for “action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once”. Hardly surprising considering the alarming state of nature: global biodiversity is declining faster than at any time in human history (UN CBD), it is now considered the 4th most severe threat we face this decade (WEF, 2023), and levels of global heating, which is driving biodiversity loss, are close to “irreversible” levels (IPCC AR6, 2023).
A slow start
Despite this urgent need for action, only a small share of companies globally seems to have set targets or be applying actions to protect biodiversity or address habitat loss. A similar trend is observed in a recent survey of tourism businesses – of the few that said Nature Positive actions had been adopted, fewer still confirm action on the ground – where most of the damage is being done.
Bringing in business
The UN biodiversity agreement, passed in December 2022, now requires all businesses globally to protect and restore nature: specifically “to progressively reduce negative impacts on biodiversity, increase positive impacts, [and] reduce biodiversity-related risks to business…”. In doing this, an understanding of “their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity” will be essential.
What nature does for us
All businesses depend on natural systems either directly or through their supply chains. Research by the World Economic Forum showed that $44 trillion of economic value generation – more than half the world’s total GDP – is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services. For Travel & Tourism, 80% of its goods and services depend on nature. … For us, it ensures our survival.
Who needs to think about nature…
Nature is essential for those businesses committed to reducing carbon emissions, global warming and achieving Net Zero goals. It is a vital consideration for businesses developing sustainable and resilient approaches towards activities they directly operate and indirectly influence. Nature Positive actions can also be valuable commercial investments and empowerment of local communities.
… And who is thinking about it
The finding by S&P Global that only about one-third of Europe’s biggest companies have set biodiversity targets, and even fewer among the largest companies in Asia-Pacific and the US, is certainly disheartening. It demonstrates the need for compelling incentives to enact or better enforce policies and actions to boost biodiversity.
Urgent action is needed to ensure businesses understand their obligations and have the tools to better protect and restore nature.
The Nature Positive Travel & Tourism Partnership
The recently launched tourism partnership between UN World Tourism Organisation, World Travel & Tourism Council and Sustainable Hospitality Alliance for a Nature Positive Tourism approach, highlights this industry’s commitment to nature protection and also its ability to contribute to positive change in global destinations influencing local and national policymaking and investment.
What we can do to help
My colleagues and I, at ANIMONDIAL, have had the pleasure of working with Travel & Tourism to guide the sector to not just mitigate biodiversity loss but to identify nature-related opportunities to boost biodiversity in destinations through private-public partnerships.
There is still a way to go, but a report has been produced, accompanied by a Toolbox of resources, while the Vision for Nature Positive Tourism invites businesses, large and small, to commit to a Nature Positive future – where we can travel in Harmony with Nature.
My hope is that other industries or business sectors will follow this lead and take a proactive role to better protect nature and its biodiversity across the world for the generations to come.
Keen to better protect biodiversity in nature?
Find out your business’ risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity with ANIMONDIAL’s Nature Positive evaluation tool
Measure the biodiversity in any location through eDNA analysis by Nature Metrics to benchmark your Nature Positive actions
Identify Biodiversity Partnerships in global destinations, working with businesses, NGOs and communities to better protect biodiversity and restore nature
Find out how your business sector faired in the S&P Global review of biodiversity-committed business