ITB 2009: CSR Quality Labels for 15 Tour Operators

At the International Tourism Exchange (ITB) 2009, the first 15 members of the tour operators' association "Forum anders reisen" were awarded their certificates "CSR-certified". They were handed over by Klaus Töpfer, former director of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), who appreciated the tour operators' committment to coporate social responsibility (CSR).

"Unlike big corporations, small companies do not have the staff units to manage such processes", said Töpfer. The way "Forum anders reisen" handled the process therefore set a positive example. This is also emphasised by a special prize under the "First European Award on Corporate Responsibility", which Töpfer handed over to the tour operators' association.

The certificate is meant to inform tourists how many CO2 emissions they cause on their holiday. Other important indicators are the proportion of the price paid for the holiday that is actually retained in the destination as local value added, and the extent to which labour standards are observed by the service providers in the destinations. Furthermore, the companies show in which areas they would like to make improvements, so that in the next round of certification, their performance will be measured accordingly.

"We do not certify the perfectly sustainable enterprise, but companies who have started the process", said Heinz Fuchs of Tourism Watch in the German Church Development Service (EED). Kristine Reitinger of Radissimo Radreisen (a small tour operator specialised in bicycle tours) regards the process as an opportunity "to see, after five years in the market, where we stand, what we can do and where there may be weaknesses". The reports reveal what tangible measures are taken by companies to integrate sustainability target into their core business. All the reports are audited by an independent certification council, which, if certain values are achieved, will award the label "CSR-certified".

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(June 2009, TW 55)