CSR Labels for Sustainable Tourism

Tour operators to be awarded labels for their sustainability reports

By Angela Giraldo

A quality label for sustainable tourism shall help customers to get an idea of the environmental and social impact of their holidays. At the International Tourism Exchange (ITB) in March 2009 in Berlin, the first tour operators will be awarded the label "CSR-certified", testifying their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

In public sustainability or CSR reports, the companies have made their performance transparent, have identified weaknesses and have shown how they are planning to address them. The reporting system, which provides the basis for certification, draws upon international standards. A certification council of independent expert has defined the requirements and checked the certification. The CSR label awarded to the tour operators will be valid for two years, but the company data have to be updated annually.

In their sustainability reports, tourism enterprises disclose how and under what conditions their holiday products are being "produced". The procedures for compiling these reports have been developed by the German business association "Forum anders reisen" in cooperation with the Centre for Ecology & Development (KATE) in Stuttgart, EED-Tourism Watch and the European Trade Union Federation UNI Europa. A sector specific reporting standard has been defined for this purpose. The companies have introduced a sustainability reporting system and have produced CSR reports, using measurable and verifiable criteria.

In a pilot phase, five companies have tried and tested the system in their daily operations. On the basis of comprehensive check lists, they have examined all the fields of operation according to sustainability criteria. This includes the head office itself, all relevant holiday products that contribute to the turnover as well as all the important areas along the company's service chain. The systematic data collection ranges from paper consumption at the office to the size of tourist groups and the mode of transport to the destination. Partners and suppliers in the destinations are included in the process. The so called "sustainability checks" include questions regarding the employees' social security insurance and the energy efficiency of hotels.

After the successful pilot phase, "Forum anders reisen" decided to make CSR reporting mandatory among all its members by 2010.

Angela Giraldo is vice director of the Centre for Environment & Development (KATE), Stuttgart.

(March 2009, TW 54)