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
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!