Like many industries the travel sector is increasingly managing its Environmental, Social & Governance impacts. The UK Government has committed to “Jet Zero” by 2050- ensuring net zero aviation by 2050 and there is ever-increasing consumer demand for sustainable travel. A report from The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) revealed that 69% of travellers were actively seeking sustainable travel options for 2023.
But sustainable travel is about much more than managing environmental impacts. The travel sector, like many others are heavily focused on the environmental agenda- its legislated for and will require an exponential shift in the way businesses operate to make the necessary transition to Net Zero. And there is no doubt that climate change and the race to Net Zero is one of the most pressing challenges of our times, but many are at risk of “carbon tunnel syndrome” and ignoring the full range of issues that sit under the banner of ESG. And this rings particularly true for the travel sector where tourism can be a force for good, particularly on social sustainability issues.
The global pandemic shone a light on the impacts that tourism can have on destinations- both positive and negative. Where it does good, tourism and travel can create social value for communities and boosting inward investment for destinations that are reliant on tourism to generate income. On the flip side mass tourism can generate overcrowding which can have a negative impact on local communities, infrastructure, and biodiversity.
Beyond the focus of taking action on reducing its carbon footprint there are some great examples of social sustainability actions the industry is taking, examples of these include:
- The delivery of a structured Social Value programmes creating measurable positive return for communities through the creation of employment and training opportunities, as well as creating opportunities to support local community organisations that respond to and directly benefit the bespoke needs of that community
- Responsible sourcing and procurement strategies that seek opportunities to create strong, local, diverse supply chains creating positive local economic impact through the delivery of goods and services. As well as providing opportunities to upskill the supply chain in issues such as Net Zero
- Implementing human capital management strategies (diversity inclusion, labour rights etc) that are inclusive and protect the rights of workers.
- Proactively engaging with consumers to inform and educate them on sustainable travel options and the steps they can take to reduce their impacts through travel.
As companies evolve their approach to sustainability / ESG it’s important that their approach addresses the material sustainability issues, both environmental and social, to their business. These issues at their heart are deeply interconnected for example the physical risks of climate change have the potential to create significant long term economic impact, its essential that businesses take a holistic approach to sustainability.