The GSTC Criteria serve as basic guidelines for businesses, organizations and destinations that wish to address sustainability issues in the travel and tourism industry. It is composed of a set of standards and provides assurance that the main principles of responsible tourism are being covered. In reality, the GSTC criteria represents a commitment to the environment, communities and cultures, and a common language that facilitates communication surpassing international borders.
Section D of the GSTC Criteria suggests that all tourism entities should “maximize benefits to the environment and minimize negative impacts”. From this statement, it follows that tourism must preserve natural ecosystems, protect wildlife species and contribute to biodiversity conservation. However, it is not an easy goal, revealed a recent study conducted by the European Network of for Sustainable Tourism Development (ECOTRANS). In fact they argue, “The issue of species diversity and conservation management lags far behind targets posing a threat to the ecosystems”.
ECOTRANS’ case study provided recommendations to the international sustainable tourism certification bodies to improve their standards concerning biodiversity. The report stated that nature protection and biodiversity can be strengthened by taking specific actions, addressing the shortcomings of some standard programs and implementing CSR initiatives.
In their market analysis, ECOTRANS recognized the need to implement common terminology, encourage more attention to the introduction of invasive alien species, and to offer training for certifiers and certified organizations on biodiversity. The study states that standard organizations concentrate more on traditional measures for the protection of habitats and species instead of the newer concepts such as the mitigation hierarchy, which encourages businesses to measure and manage environmental impacts in all stages of a project: prevention, mitigation, restoration and compensation.
The study also recommends the introduction of new indicators such as “ecosystem services”-a concept that is also being discussed intensively in economic circles- aiming to protect direct and indirect ecosystem services which contribute to human wellbeing. To date, standards do not address ecosystem services, but rather tend to focus exclusively on the protection of ecosystems.
Additionally, the report highlights the importance of cooperation between the standard organizations; “One standard alone cannot master the challenge of halting the loss of biodiversity. But the standard organizations together can, and should, take advantage of synergies to make a significant contribution to the protection of biodiversity”.
New markets for ecosystem services have emerged in response to the failure of traditional biodiversity conservation mechanisms, therefore to effectively protect and conserve environmental resources and the socio-cultural livelihoods of host communities the integration of biodiversity in CSR processes should be implemented in ways that are coordinated and mutually supportive. Research shows that approaching components of biodiversity as distinct services, fails to protect the integrity of the functioning ecosystem. Nevertheless, ECOTRANS analysis presents standard enhancements that can positively augment future sustainable tourism destinations and ventures.
The Integration of Biodiversity in CSR Processes in the Tourism Industry
Publisher: ECOTRANS, Futterstr. 17-19, 66111 Saarbrücken, Germany
Co-publisher: Global Nature Fund, www.globalnature.org
Authors: Marion Hammerl, Herbert Hamele, ECOTRANS
Daniel Weiss, Adelphi; Stefan Hörmann, Global Nature Fund