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
Finally, after years of negotiations and a tumultuous couple of weeks at CBD COP15, there is good news from Montreal – a new ‘Pact for Nature’ – and an opportunity for Travel & Tourism to establish itself as a ’Force of Good’.
The historic plan for nature was finalised in the early hours of this morning (19th December) to cheers from delegates and impassioned speeches by world leaders. It was presented as the “last chance” to put nature on a path to recovery. Having experienced the last week myself, with up-to-the-wire negotiations, the news of a positive outcome is a huge relief.
“Nature is our ship. We must ensure it stays afloat,” said EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries, Virginijus Sinkevicius.
The Global Biodiversity Framework, the agreed plan for nature, sets out ambitious yet achievable plans to increase protected areas to 30% of the planet, safeguarding vital ecosystems from rainforests to wetlands, and to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2030. It includes four goals and 23 targets ranging from the sustainable use of natural resources and the reduction of pollution to the restoration of destroyed habitats.
“It is truly a moment that will mark history as Paris did for climate,” hailed Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Minister for the Environment and Climate Change.
However, we cannot afford to be complacent. We are still experiencing the sharpest decline in biodiversity and habitat loss in human history. It is acknowledged that this new pact for nature cannot be delivered unless the whole of society is involved. In the last week of negotiations, businesses, in particular Travel & Tourism, were recognised as a key driver of positive change, with the ability to deliver short-term goals where government efforts often fail.
Last week I had the pleasure of working on behalf of the World Travel & Tourism Council, the voice of our industry’s private sector, and together with the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA), to promote ’Nature Positive Tourism’. In a momentous announcement at COP15, these Travel & Tourism heavyweights acknowledged the importance of nature and the sector’s ability, as a global industry that operates at all levels of society, to become a ’Guardian of Nature’. They were united in their commitment to not only assist in the delivery of the Global Biodiversity Framework but, through the formation of a Nature Positive Tourism Alliance, to drive forward capacity-building action for businesses, the value chain, and global destinations.
Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said: “Travel and nature are intrinsically linked. Wildlife tourism creates over $340BN USD each year and supports more than 21 million jobs around the world. Today’s collaboration between WTTC, UNWTO and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, spearheading the sector’s vision to halt and reverse nature loss by 2030, shows our commitment to preserve the planet for future generations.”
Zoritsa Urosevic, Executive Director at UNWTO and Special Representative to the United Nations in Geneva, said: “As part of the broad Alliance of stakeholders for ‘Nature Positive Travel & Tourism’, UNWTO shows its commitment to the Global Biodiversity Framework of COP15 – making tourism the Guardian of Nature. New governance and business models, enhanced capacity to monitor positive change and scaling up green jobs are all part of the solution as we move ahead together.”
Glenn Mandziuk, CEO of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA) said: “As an industry that relies on our natural world for everything from our buildings to attracting guests to outstanding locations across the globe, we recognise the immense importance of protecting our beautiful planet. Collaboration across sectors and across borders is essential to halt and reverse biodiversity loss… and make Nature Positive Tourism a reality.”
Dreams certainly became reality for ANIMONDIAL: not only by participating in a biodiversity COP but, off the back of our co-authored “Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” report with WTTC, by facilitating the establishment of the Nature Positive Tourism Alliance and gaining government support for the initiative.
Our efforts at COP15 efforts culminated in a statement to the High Level Segment of proceedings, when UNWTO said: “Together, the Alliance will support and inspire governments, business, and society to implement the Global Biodiversity Framework … help transform humanity’s relationship with the natural world, and through investment in global destinations, help support national biodiversity strategies and efforts to achieve the 30×30 Targets, and so allow these destinations to become true ’Guardians of Nature’.”
Actions will, of course, be more important than words, and the ability of the Nature Positive Tourism Alliance to deliver on the Global Biodiversity Framework will be the testament to its success. Work begins in January 2023 with the development of an implementation plan and by defining key outputs, but until then we can all celebrate that COP15 could not have had a better outcome for Travel & Tourism.
Global Biodiversity Framework main commitments:
- Integrate biodiversity safeguards into policies, regulations, spatial and urban planning, and development processes, poverty eradication strategies, and environmental assessments, across all sectors;
- Ensure that the use, harvesting and trade of wild species is sustainable, safe and legal, preventing overexploitation;
- Minimise the impact of climate change on biodiversity through Nature-based Solutions, reduce pollution risks and the negative impact of pollution to levels that are not harmful to biodiversity, and reduce the introduction and establishment of known or potential invasive species by 50%, by 2030;
- Encourage and enable businesses to regularly monitor, assess, and transparently disclose their risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity along with their operations, supply and value chains and portfolios, as a mechanism to progressively reduce negative impacts on biodiversity;
- Ensure that people are encouraged and enabled to make sustainable consumption choices;
- Ensure that all actions respect and protect the rights of, and customary sustainable use by, indigenous peoples and local communities.
On behalf of ANIMONDIAL, I’d like to wish you Seasons Greetings, and a Nature Positive 2023!
» Read the finalised Global Biodiversity Framework
» Demonstrate your business’ support by signing on to the Vision for Nature Positive Tourism Nature Positive Tourism
» Discover your business’ risks, dependencies and impacts on biodiversity. The online Nature Positive Evaluation Tool for Travel & Tourism, enabling your business to discover its impact on nature and take the necessary steps to protect & restore it.
Carbon Offsetting is, in essence, paying others to prevent, reduce or remove carbon emissions in order to compensate for one’s own emissions. It is therefore unsurprising that “carbon offsetting” has received such bad press, giving the impression that a business is just avoiding taking responsibility for its own actions.
My impression is that while some may continue to “pay to pollute’’, more businesses are turning to carbon offsetting to complement genuine action to reduce their impacts.
The pitfalls of offsetting
Of course, it is more complex than that. Businesses need to guarantee that the chosen offset is genuine, permanent, accountable, and measurable. It can be difficult to verify that projects are actually offsetting as much carbon as needed. Offsets also have to demonstrate that the emission reduction or carbon removal would not have taken place anyway, and that the investment makes a genuine additional contribution. There are even instances where offsetting programmes cause more harm than good, for instance by decreasing biodiversity through infrastructure impacts or monoculture tree planting, which could result in higher net emissions over time. It certainly pays to check before you buy to ensure your investments deliver.
Can you offset biodiversity impacts?
The market for biodiversity offsets is not as mature as the carbon one, but it is clearly subject to similar complexities and uncertainties, probably to an even greater extent. In ANIMONDIAL’s most recent publication with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), Nature Positive Travel & Tourism, offsetting was acknowledged as a limited part of a business’ commitment to Nature Positive Tourism. This is because it is considered unreliable by many experts, and in the case of biodiversity does not directly address the impacts on species, habitats and ecosystem services that are being compensated for.
Mitigate, mitigate, mitigate
Instead, we advocate that businesses identify their dependencies and impacts on nature (including their carbon emissions) and then, using the ‘mitigation hierarchy’ (see page 39 of the Nature Positive Travel & Tourism report), to prioritise their responses. This involves first avoiding or reducing both direct impacts and indirect impacts from the value chain, then taking efforts to restore biodiversity after damage has taken place or, if necessary, conduct equivalent restoration at a nearby or ecologically similar location. Only after these steps is offsetting a suitable approach to balancing remaining negative impacts. Offsetting is therefore recommended as a limited action taken as a last resort, and certainly not the only mitigating action.
Is there any place for offsetting?
In the case of carbon emissions, the Net Zero Standard set out by the Science Based Targets Initiative recommends offsetting no more than 10% of emissions, with at least 90% of savings coming from avoiding and reducing emissions. Many leading companies commit to offsetting no more than 5%.
What is the role of biodiversity in carbon offsetting?
Biodiversity loss and nature protection continue to be widely disconnected from most conversations about carbon emission reduction, despite the fact that many of the most cost-efficient, large-scale and long-term emissions reductions or removals are nature-based solutions. In 2021, the world’s leading biodiversity and climate experts acknowledged that biodiversity loss and climate change mutually reinforce each other and can only be tackled together. Businesses, particularly those in Travel &Tourism, should therefore consider how to harness the power of nature (its natural ability to absorb and store carbon) to both offset their emissions and contribute to their biodiversity, as well as sustainable development goals.
Making the most of minimal offsets
Increasingly, carbon offset projects are available that also provide biodiversity and social impact benefits. This can be an efficient way to contribute to multiple Nature Positive goals at once, but it should never be used as a way to side-step more effective mitigation activities. The old saying ‘an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ still applies – it is far better to avoid doing the damage in the first place than to try to make up for it afterwards.
Mitigation Hierarchy Tips for impacts on nature:
- Focus on avoiding impacts by changing activities at a fundamental level – consider what outcomes the activities are intended to produce and think of other ways of achieving these.
- Maximise reduction activities with bold goals for the level of reduction – combine a range of techniques in optimal ways to get the best results.
- Restoration activities should be done on-site, for instance by replanting natural vegetation in areas that have been damaged during construction works.
- For areas that cannot be restored on site, find ways to restore equivalent natural features nearby that provide similar habitats and ecosystem services.
- Only offset as a last resort, using credible, long-term investments – where possible combine this with carbon offsetting if required.
» Learn about Mitigation Hierarchy and the Nature Positive Tourism approach
» Identify your dependencies and impacts on nature
» Learn about 5 carbon reduction actions to achieve Net Zero by ANIMONDIAL, Partner ecollective
Making the transition from Sustainable Tourism to ‘Nature Positive Tourism’
When I speak to Travel & Tourism professionals on the importance of Nature Positive Tourism, it is clear many are just overwhelmed by the sheer number of targets required to protect both ‘people and planet’. 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 so many ‘sustainability’ measures can create gridlock.
How to BREAK The Gridlock
This was a key consideration when ANIMONDIAL co-drafted the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) report “Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” and developed its accompanying Toolbox.
Not only were we providing businesses with a step-by-step guide on how to adopt a Nature Positive approach, but we also wanted to encourage a “bigger picture” perspective on sustainability planning. All too often, the sustainability approach focuses on generic, mainstream issues rather than considering the individual business’ impact, its environmental strategy and which issues are most relevant to achieving it.
How to ACT for Nature
Fundamentally, nature loss is not just an environmental issue but something that threatens our economies and societies too. Biodiversity loss threatens everything that ensures our prosperity, wellbeing, and survival, from the provision of life-preserving ecosystem services to our ability to lessen climate change and viral pandemics. Therefore, the ultimate goal of sustainability planning has to be conserving and restoring nature. To do 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 any sustainable tourism strategy, and it is exactly the starting point of Nature Positive Tourism.
How to UNDERSTAND Nature Positive Tourism
Nature conservation must be the priority for all businesses, no matter the sector. A Nature Positive approach ensures each business identifies and mitigates its specific negative impacts and, through its operations and activities, seeks nature-related 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. Using this perspective, we can ensure that mitigating actions are material to the business and have the most effective outcome.
We now understand that is not enough just to consider how we use natural resources; all business efforts must ensure an overall positive impact by conserving and regenerating nature.
How to INTEGRATE Nature Positive Tourism
Accompanying the WTTC Nature Positive Travel & Tourism report is the Toolbox of resources to aid your transition from a sustainability paradigm to a comprehensive Nature Positive approach. The Toolbox includes a series of frameworks that demonstrate how the theory covered in the main report, and the straightforward Phases and Steps of the Nature Positive Tourism Roadmap, can be practically applied. It also provides additional external resources, support services, and business case studies that provide information to cover every business type.
How to START your Nature Positive Tourism approach
The first phase for all businesses is to consider operational dependency and impact on nature, a key business requirement in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. This is covered by the first Phase of the Nature Positive Tourism Roadmap: Assess & Define. You can find helpful frameworks in the Toolbox to guide your business to defining its biodiversity loss drivers, or alternatively receive this information with aligned actions through ANIMONDIAL’s in-depth evaluation tool, Animal Footprint. Phase two, Reduce & Restore, focuses on addressing the identified priority issues from Phase one. The Toolbox provides a range of tools and services to suit any business’ needs. This includes services to identify the biodiversity in your key destinations, which can provide vital baseline data for Phase three: Monitor & Report. The fourth and last Phase of your Nature Positive approach is to Collaborate & Communicate: consider partnership building in your destinations to overcome challenges that are out of reach for your business alone, and ensure you shout about the great Nature Positive work you are doing! (Then, return again to Phase one to assess the impact of your actions!)
Adopting a Nature Positive approach requires businesses to think beyond sustainable resource use
We understand that this is a significant adjustment, but there is an urgent need to make this shift. There is no greater threat to our prosperity, wellbeing and survival than nature loss, and we all have a part to play to protect biodiversity and restore nature to reach our global goal to ‘Live in Harmony with Nature”.
» Please support the Vision for Nature Positive Travel & Tourism
» Use the Toolbox and begin your Nature Positive Tourism journey
» Discover your dependency and impacts on nature with Animal Footprint
On September 21st 2022, ANIMONDIAL and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) released a new report, “Nature Positive Travel & Tourism”. Devised to help tourism businesses act on the very real and urgent need to better protect biodiversity and nature, the initiative provides an opportunity for the sector to transform its relationship with nature.
Travel & Tourism is in a unique position to influence the better protection of nature in every region around the world. Halting and restoring biodiversity loss is considered essential to limit climate change and for businesses to achieve Net Zero. Encouragingly, businesses are now recognising the synergies between climate regulation, biodiversity and carbon capture.
The Report, the first to frame a Nature Positive pathway for travel & tourism, explains the fundamental relationship between tourism and nature and the business case for the sector’s commitment to nature protection. It provides guidance on animal welfare safeguarding, illegal wildlife trade and pandemic prevention, sustainable consumption, and nature conservation in the context of tourism operations. It also provides insight into how these vital commitments contribute to climate change mitigation. Packed with practical steps, advice, and case studies, the Report will help businesses act for nature and contribute to climate mitigating action.
So, how can protecting biodiversity and nature reduce climate change?
Climate change is a driver of biodiversity loss. Alterations in atmospheric temperature and weather patterns, as a result of heightened carbon emissions, disrupt natural processes and displace species as they struggle to survive in a changing environment. The resulting biodiversity and habitat loss can impair the ability of plants and soils to absorb and store carbon. This means that more CO2 remains in the atmosphere – fuelling climate change. So, the more actions we take to minimise impact on biodiversity and proactively restore nature, the greater our ability to reduce greenhouse emissions, and prevent ecosystem collapse.
Travel & Tourism businesses should not only ensure nature protection is included in their decarbonisation strategy, actions also need to be taken to reduce dependency and impacts on biodiversity while seeking opportunities to better protect and restore nature.
How can Travel & Tourism help to protect biodiversity and nature?
The Report encourages the industry to adopt a Nature Positive Tourism approach by assessing operational impacts and dependencies, defining a policy and strategy to reduce them, and identifying opportunities to restore nature.
Managed well, tourism can support the conservation of wildlife, subsidise protected areas, and protect natural resources on which local communities rely. Tourism can help raise awareness, influence governments, and phase out practices that damage nature, while stimulating investment in green solutions to reduce impacts and restore biodiversity.
Nature Positive Travel & Tourism can also help people connect with nature, to experience it, but also to understand and respect it. We inspire travellers to understand the importance of nature and the need to take positive actions to protect it, we support local communities and bring value to the wildlife that they live alongside, and we drive local economies by providing jobs and opportunity, as well as influencing the legal protection of their natural heritage. Travel & Tourism is already playing an important role in the protection of nature, just think what could be achieved if the sector realised its full potential!
Accompanying the Report, is our shared vision that the sector has the potential to become a global Guardian of Nature. This recognises the sector’s ability to generate employment and provide opportunities for countries and their communities; to connect billions of people with nature; to operate sustainably to minimise impacts; and to protect the rights of local people. The Travel & Tourism Vision will be submitted, together with the Report, to the COP15 proceedings taking place in Montreal this December
Where does a Travel & Tourism business start?
- We first need to define how the business depends and impacts on animals, ecosystems and local communities. We consider not just the destinations that we visit, but also the actions and impacts at HQ level and through the supply chain. Do the products you sell, the materials you source, the buildings you run and the partners you work with also align with the same goals?
- Then we comprehensively assess all of these touchpoints against recognised, science-based targets. We appreciate this can be daunting, so. to support you ANIMONDIAL has developed the ANIMAL FOOTPRINT assessment and reporting tool, which guides a travel business through the journey.
- Once we have identified your touchpoints with nature, the next step is to take action to reduce further harm and set new achievable targets that each department can take to proactively restore nature.
» Find guidance and useful tools in the Nature Positive Travel & Tourism report and Toolbox
Presenting our Vision for Travel & Tourism at the global biodiversity conference, COP15!
ANIMONDIAL, WTTC and its members, and the wider travel and tourism sector, will be presenting the ‘Travel & Tourism Vision’ at COP15 this December, in the hope that the role of Travel & Tourism, as a ‘Guardian of Nature’, will be recognised. Will you join us?
» Learn more about ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Footprint nature-impact evaluation tool
» Read the Nature Positive Travel & Tourism Report
Can Travel & Tourism become nature’s saviour?
In the coming month, the long-anticipated report, “Towards Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” will be published. Produced by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), in collaboration with ANIMONDIAL, it will help to explain nature’s ability to sustain tourism, absorb carbon emissions, prevent pandemics, and support life. It also underlines Travel & Tourism’s key challenges, which the sector must be overcome, and sets out, what I believe, is a huge potential to address biodiversity loss, and with it, climate change.
These are indeed worrying times – heatwaves are exhausting fresh water supplies, agricultural crops are failing, fish stocks dying, and wildfires destroying vast expanses of nature and people’s homes. There is no doubt that we need to reverse our exploitative and unsustainable ways and seek a future where humanity lives in harmony with nature.
Sounds great in theory, right? But with society and geo-political tensions currently taking us in the wrong direction, could this just be wishful thinking? Or is the solution yet to be fully realised?
I believe that the solution lies with responsible and sustainable tourism.
Take the last couple of years as an example: COVID-19 took hold across the world, people no longer travelled, and the tourism revenues that sustain local livelihoods and protect fragile nature, dried up. The devastating loss of income and an inability to access nutritious food, caused many local people (especially those that live alongside nature) to return to harvesting wildlife and natural resources for survival. With nature-based tourism operations suspended, wildlife poaching, illegal wildlife trade, and the degradation of nature by opportune industries caused widespread biodiversity loss – to an extent not previously seen.
These alarming outcomes demonstrate the relevance and power of tourism.
Just through its operation alone, tourism has an ability to sustain community resilience and wellbeing, while also providing for nature’s health. Consider then its full potential if efforts were directed to lessen operation impact, and support nature-enhancing actions. Imagine the extent of the benefits that could be achieved!
The WTTC ANIMONDIAL report, “Towards Nature Positive Travel & Tourism”, highlights these mutual dependencies as well as the business case for a Nature Positive approach. It encourages Travel & Tourism to assess and better manage its environmental impacts, while also identifying nature-related opportunities to restore, or regenerate nature. Within the publication, this process has been called “Nature Positive Tourism”.
Recognising that pre-COVID tourism revenues contributed to over 10% of global GDP, and nature-based tourism generated upwards of US$600 billion in direct in-country expenditures a year, that supported over 21 million jobs, there appears huge potential for Travel & Tourism to drive Nature Positive change. Managed well, Travel & Tourism can reverse the environmental impacts of COVID, bring greater value to nature, and help to convince even the most disengaged of communities and governments to better protect their natural heritage.
Using the “Towards Nature Positive Travel & Tourism” report as a springboard, the WTTC and ANIMONDIAL hope to work with the UN Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and the IUCN, and others, to position Travel & Tourism as a key player in supporting global efforts to protect our planet’s natural wonders – in effect, to become ‘GUARDIANS OF NATURE’.
ANIMONDIAL’s Nature Positive Tourism services are available for any business keen to adopt a Nature Positive approach. These services range from an evaluation tool to assess operational impact on biodiversity, risk mitigation tools, such a nature-based product ‘healthcheck’, and a matchmaker service to find biodiversity and animal protection partners to fit business need.
Adopting a Nature Positive Tourism approach can be as easy as ABC …
- Assess your business operations and activities against the five-drivers of biodiversity loss.
- Build a Nature Positive approach that integrates biodiversity safeguards throughout the business and its operations.
- Complement your actions to mitigate nature-related impacts with measurable opportunities to better protect and restore nature.
- Develop destination biodiversity partnerships with NGOs, educational institutions, or government agencies to halt any exploitation or degradation of the natural world, and restore nature lost.
- Empower your employees, destination partners and suppliers, affected communities and customers through simple yet informative communication to encourage the better protection of animals and nature.
» Sign up to ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Footprint initiative to discover your environmental impact.
First steps to identifying actions that reduce impacts and restore nature.
The main message of Nature Positive Tourism is deceptively simple – measure the ways your business impacts on nature, measure the ways it protects and enhances nature, and make improvements until the positives outweigh the negatives. The principle is simple, but at ANIMONDIAL we understand that putting it into practice can be difficult.
Focus on Destinations
The prospect of making all those improvements can seem daunting when you are only just starting the journey. In fact, it may well be simpler than it appears once you understand what needs to be done. For many, the real challenge comes earlier in the process – how do we go about measuring our biodiversity impacts and benefits in the first place?
The key to answering this, lies in the classic environmental slogan: “Think globally, act locally”. Impacts on nature come in many forms, and these depend on the activities that happen and the locations they happen in. For Travel & Tourism, this means looking at the destinations you visit.
The difference we can make
For many travel businesses the focus may be on providing services to customers, however most of the environmental impacts will actually take place on the ground. This is where new developments can destroy vital natural habitat, or existing sites can secure and enhance it. It is where nature viewing trips can disturb and harass wildlife, or sensitively and sustainably fund its protection. Where food supplies can be flown in from intensive farms hundreds of miles away, or sourced from sustainable local agriculture. Destinations are ‘where the rubber meets the road’.
We are all about the Destinations
For many Travel & Tourism businesses, this will mean looking at products and supply chains. In our industry no company is an island – we have to work together to make our clients’ travel dreams come true. Everyone involved in that process has a stake in the traveller’s experience in the destination, and so everyone has a stake in the consequences of that experience. Travellers around the world are increasingly aware of their impacts and keen to ensure that their trips don’t ‘cost the earth’. We have to work together, as an industry, to meet their needs and demands. (The upcoming WTTC and ANIMONDIAL report on Nature Positive Tourism provides a clear and compelling focus for doing just this.)
Focusing on key destinations is crucial to understanding the environmental impacts and opportunities of a Travel & Tourism business. It is likely that operations will vary from one place to another, but it is certain that nature will. A broad understanding of environmental issues at each location is essential to identify the major threats, challenges, needs and opportunities for the wildlife and ecosystems that live there.
Your guide to thinking local
ANIMONDIAL can help Travel & Tourism businesses build that knowledge and insight. Whether you choose to create extra capacity in-house, through local partners or by engaging professional consultants, we can guide the process with the level of input you need. As well as supporting you with our years of experience and contacts, ANIMONDIAL’s Animal Footprint online tool offers an evaluation of your Nature Positive business performance. We also have a network of trusted partners that can provide specialist services. Whether you want to identify the biodiversity at a specific site with Nature Metrics eDNA analysis, calculate the economic value of a particular animal in your area with the Endangered Wildlife Biodiversity Valuator or conduct a rapid assessment on the ground with Organeco, we can help you identify and engage the expertise you need.
Where does the journey start?
As with so much of Travel & Tourism, local knowledge is the key. As we build our understanding of an area, our nature-related impacts and opportunities within it become clear. So, if you want to improve your Nature Positive credentials but are still wondering where to begin, just remember that a Nature Positive Tourism journey starts at the destination!
Don’t forget …
- Think about impacts and opportunities in the Destinations you serve
- Work closely with suppliers and partners as a Travel & Tourism team
- Build lasting partnerships with local nature-focused NGOs and other organisations to generate additional benefits for everyone
I joined many conservationists last week in cheering loudly when the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) finally announced that COP15 – the global biodiversity summit – will go ahead in Montreal (Canada) from 5 – 17 December 2022.
The previous location of Kunming (China) had experienced two years of setbacks and there were even doubts whether the vital conference would take place in 2022.
COP15 seeks to secure the commitment of 196 countries (Parties to the CBD) to ratify the proposed Global Biodiversity Framework and adopt its nature protection goals. Effective implementation will require the efforts of global governments, businesses and all sectors of society to reduce and reverse environmental damage if the ambitious 2030 and 2050 targets are to be met – to halt biodiversity loss and restore nature.
The Good news is that confirmation of the COP15 dates will help to focus minds during the current negotiations. The additional time between now and December can be used to mobilise the high-level commitment required to avert a cataclysmic loss of biodiversity. We are already experiencing the Sixth Mass Extinction, with the rate of extinction of plant and animal species at least 1,000 times faster than would be expected without human influence. Time is of the essence, but we do still have a chance to lessen the decline and prevent ecosystem collapse. Failure to do so will threaten our wellbeing, prosperity and survival. The urgency must surely spur action.
ANIMONDIAL is proactively focused on supporting the travel and tourism sector. Our Services provide guidance for businesses that wish to adopt a Nature Positive approach, including capacity-building training, a directory of nature-friendly project partners, and an evaluation tool, in development, to identify dependency and impact on nature.
As with all industries, travel and tourism is implicated in driving biodiversity loss. However, unlike many other sectors, it has a unique opportunity to become a significant influencer for transitional change. I would go so far as to say that nature-aware travel and tourism, that values nature through all its offerings across destinations, could be a vital part of the solution to this biological crisis. This was a conclusion in our upcoming publication, Towards a Nature Positive Travel & Tourism, produced by ANIMONDIAL and the World Travel & Tourism Council.
The Bad news is that the content of the Global Biodiversity Framework has yet to be agreed by all Parties. While the pre-COP15 negotiations in Geneva and Nairobi have refined the targets, specifically those related to conservation and sustainable use, progress in other areas is reportedly slow and lacks ambition. Issues over money for protecting biodiversity, proposals to protect 30% of land and sea, and concerns over the stealing and commercialising of indigenous knowledge and genetic resources (biopiracy) have hindered an advance. Civil society is reportedly “appalled” at the lack of progress following the emergency meeting in Nairobi last week, calling on countries to “step up [and] show the leadership that this moment requires, and act urgently to find compromise and solutions.” It is hoped that governments will take the opportunity between now and December to overcome their differences and commit to ambitious actions to halt biodiversity loss and ensure stronger protections for life on land and in the sea.
The Ugly matter of benefit-sharing and biopiracy continues to divide ‘Developed Countries’ and ‘Developing Countries’. In fact, it threatens to derail the global agreement. Countries, including Brazil, India and Gabon, are demanding payment for drug discoveries and other commercial products based on their biodiversity. Meanwhile, additional demands on richer countries to pay £80bn in biodiversity finance to help subsidise conservation efforts, are causing further divides – similar to those currently hampering negotiations for the next climate change conference (COP27) scheduled for this November in Egypt.
There is a desperate need to overcome this impasse for the Global Biodiversity Framework to be ratified and biodiversity protections applied. Focused discussions and creative solutions will be needed to find common ground and move the process forward.
Travel and tourism, and the huge revenues generated through nature-based tourism, could well provide a solution. Not only does tourism underpin national and local economies, but job creation and community empowerment bring heightened value to nature, encouraging positive attitudes towards its protection. When structured well, our industry can help to provide income and development opportunities to fairly compensate lower-income countries for protecting their biodiversity. Often the most biodiverse locations on Earth, the low-income countries also help sustain travel and tourism and its revenues.
The increased international attention on commercial impacts on nature will present travel and tourism with an opportunity to demonstrate its potential for positive contributions and to play a leading role in building a global Nature Positive future.
Yes, that is indeed an ode to Tina Turner, who was certainly no stranger to powerful collaboration, which takes me nicely into the subject of this blog… and what indeed SDG17 has got to do with it.
“The SDGs can only be realised with strong global partnerships and cooperation. A successful development agenda requires inclusive partnerships – at the global, regional, national and local levels – built upon principles and values, and upon a shared vision and shared goals placing people and the planet at the centre”. – United Nations, in reference to the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #17 ‘Partnerships for the Goals’
This particular SDG is often the most overlooked, but can be considered one of the most important. Partnerships for the Goals refers to the recommendation for cross-sector and cross-country collaboration to achieve all the global goals, from 1 -16, by the year 2030. Importantly, it recognises that these cannot be achieved in isolation. It is a call for countries to align policies, and adopt a shared vision for a collaborative way forward.
So, what does this mean for animal and nature protection in Travel & Tourism?
Our industry is arguably the best placed to prioritise cross-country collaboration to better protect and restore nature. But we can also learn from other sectors, particularly those that also have a recognised impact on nature. Reporting on biodiversity protection for Net Zero is becoming more commonplace in the corporate world, across a variety of industries. According to the IUCN, the business sectors with a significant impact on nature include large ‘footprint’ industries such as mining, oil and gas; biodiversity-dependent industries including fishing, agriculture and forestry; and, financial services and “green” enterprises such as organic farming, renewable energy and tourism.
But, how do they tackle achieving their goals and demonstrating their actions? Often through collaboration. This shared mission is an opportunity to unite, and demonstrate individual and collective integrity and leadership. For businesses with limited resources, it is also an opportunity to fill gaps in knowledge or services by forming complementary and empowering partnerships. For larger companies it could be an opportunity to lead the way and guide others along the path. Collaborations can also support the delivery and achievement of identified objectives and KPIs and provide reliable evidence in annual reports.
TOP TIPS for Nature Positive Collaboration in Travel & Tourism
Whilst operations are grounded, this is a rare opportunity to review them – to return more effective and make the protection of animals and nature an integral component of our tourism agenda. Here are some ideas:
- Identify partners with a shared vision and shared goals to tackle the same challenges.
Identify partners of best fit – consider what parts of the jigsaw you are missing, and who can provide them.
- Stakeholder mapping can be beneficial to help Identify others with shared purpose and whose objectives align.
- Set partnerships as a key tactic to achieve your sustainability strategy, and include their identification and formation within your goal-setting, signed off at CEO level.
- Understand the value of other stakeholders as part of your supply chain to achieve the goals- they are not passive contributors, but pro-active ones, that can do much of the heavy lifting that you can’t, and facilitate the actions you may not be equipped to.
- Ensure that partners are aligned with your goals and demonstrate integrity in the shared commitment. Add a policy to that effect within your partnership contracts.
- See NGOs as instrumental to supporting the delivery of business actions on the ground, and adding value and meaning to your brand and its products. The knowledge and expertise of in-destination communities (and NGOs) should not be underestimated. They can deliver monitoring and reporting on community-based conservation actions, Partnerships should be strategic, and aligned to commitment goals, providing inspiring case studies to educate and inspire.
Who could you partner with?
Partners could include travel business peers, travel trade associations, local, national or international NGOs, government bodies, or destination authorities. They can also include suppliers from alternative industries that have touch-points with your business and its sustainability commitment. These could include food and beverage providers, providers of furnishings and transport, or example.
Where to start?
This June, we will be celebrating the release of the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and ANIMONDIAL Nature Positive paper – a perfect example of a collaboration of shared purpose to support the sector in the delivery of animal and nature protection across global destinations. The paper includes numerous case studies and examples of how other industries, and other peers in Travel & Tourism, are working together to tackle the same challenges and achieve our collective goals. It is our hope that the paper equips our sector with the essential information needed to both integrate biodiversity protection actions within the sustainability agenda, and support collaborative efforts.
ANIMONDIAL, with WTTC have gathered the views of all pieces of the jigsaw to ensure the content is as relevant and useful as possible. Over 200 stakeholders including Travel & Tourism businesses, biodiversity experts, scientists, NGOs, Travel Trade Associations and policy-makers have been consulted. The paper acts as a megaphone for an important message to inspire collective action for the protection and restoration of nature.
Without achieving the fundamental Sustainable Development Goals of ‘Life on Land’, ‘Life under Water’, ‘Clean Water’ and ‘Climate Action’, and applying ‘Partnerships for the Goals’, we simply have no chance of achieving the remaining 12 goals. As of course without a healthy planet, and a collaborative effort to better protect it, none of the others, and indeed any of us, will stand a chance.
However, even with all the bad news, the good still remains. It is not too late to restore nature and reduce climate change. Through working together, RIGHT NOW, we still have a fighting chance!
» Register for our e-news today to be one of the first to access the Nature Positive paper next month!