This is an excerpt from Sustainable Tourism: Business Development, Operations and Management by Carol Patterson.
As you build your operating practices, consider how you will measure the effectiveness of your sustainability initiatives. Travelers who have been asked to assess the industry’s effectiveness at adopting sustainability practices rate it as poor. CMIGreen’s Green Traveler Study in 2009 found the travel industry’s sustainability practices need work. The study found that "too many travel companies are doing little or nothing to minimize their environment impact; other businesses’ highly touted recycling and conservation efforts were viewed as superficial ˜greenwashing’" (Roth 2010).
If you don’t want your efforts labeled greenwashing, you must determine which performance indicators relate to your business, acceptable standards, and a way to measure them. For most businesses, this means selecting indicators of energy use or waste generated. Monitoring change to wildlife populations or environmental conditions can be undertaken if you own or lease large tracts of land, but in most cases, this work is done by government land managers.
If you are working in a tourism business, try the assessment shown in figure 3.2. Rating high in all areas is a sign that your organization has already thought about its environmental policies and practices. If your organization did not rate as well, continue to look for ways to improve. Remember that as more businesses adopt sustainability practices, the standard expected by travelers will increase, and your efforts must keep pace.
Make sure to tell your clients about your sustainability practices and the results of your monitoring. Many tourism operators neglect to mention their good work or believe that consumers do not notice. Not every traveler will be interested in your green practices, but for others, it could be the deciding factor in placing a reservation.
Learn more about Sustainable Tourism.