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.
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
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)