VITA

Spain: Corporate Social Responsibility and Tourism, a survey

2 Maggio Mag 2007 0200 02 maggio 2007

Corporate Social Responsibility- A Dialogue with the Tourism Industry is a European project developed by three NGOs: (ACSUD – Las Segovias PV, Spain), Kate and Tourism Watch (Germany)

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Corporate Social Responsibility- A Dialogue with the Tourism Industry is a European project developed by three NGOs: (ACSUD – Las Segovias PV, Spain), Kate and Tourism Watch (Germany)

Corporate Social Responsibility- A Dialogue with the Tourism Industry is a European project developed by three NGOs in two European countries (ACSUD ? Las Segovias PV, Spain), Kate and Tourism Watch (Germany).

The aim of this project is setting up a dialogue process with all the actors involved and interested in corporate social responsibility of tourism-related enterprises, that is, private enterprises, public institutions and the civil society. Its purpose is to achieve a general view of the concepts within social responsibility that are relevant for this sector.

Through a number of surveys that have been conducted in Germany, Spain and Switzerland, the project is planning to achieve an updated knowledge of the level of awareness by tourism enterprises of the codes related to corporate social responsibility.

These codes are intended to develop socially responsible activities in a number of areas: the relationship of tourism enterprises with the communities where they are operating; the management of human resources; and the environment.

The findings of these surveys have been included in a report called Corporate social responsibility of European tourism enterprises (http://www.turismoresponsable.net/Responsabilidad-social.htm), which we summarise below.

The report
Tourism is one of the most important economic sectors and has one of the highest growth rates of all economic sectors. But in addition to being a drive for economic and employment development, tourism is also a source of social, cultural and environmental problems. The sector is characterised by a high workload, long or irregular working days, low wages, inappropriate shifts, itinerant work, lack of union rights, a very marked seasonal character, poor social protection and the dependence on a number of issues such as the climate and the political situation. Socially and environmentally, tourism may involve the forced eviction of people for a hotel or a resort to be built where they are living without any consideration to the way they are making a living (fishing and agriculture, for instance, obviously depend very much on the territory). One may also wonder about the sustainability and the consistency of the levels of water consumption demanded by the massive presence of hotels in certain world areas, whilst agriculture can not be adequately developed in these same areas because of the scarcity of water.

In developing countries, tourism can also mean an exploitation of children and women. According to the ILO, between 13 and 19 million under 18-year old children work in this sector. Although not all of them are effectively exploited, by working in the sector many of them certainly pay a lesser attention to their education.

The project findings have revealed that enterprises in the sector must undertake a fairly important change process in order to improve their present performance: codes of conduct, social standards and mandates under corporate social responsibility are almost absolutely ignored in daily practice, and there is also a general lack of transparency. At the same time, however, for the Europeans, environmental and social awareness is becoming increasingly valued: 70% of European consumers consider that respect of corporate social responsibility is very important for them when deciding which product or service to buy and 44% show ?very inclined? to pay additionally for a product they are guaranteed it has been manufactured in compliance with social and environmental standards.

In this respect, some studies have proved that the demand for recreational travels complying with the principles of corporate social responsibility is on the increase: at least 40% of Germans are interested in alternative modes of travelling.

As examples of initiatives in this field, one can mention:

?Voluntary codes of conduct such as the World Ethical Code for Tourism, adopted in 1999, the ECPAT code (End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking for Sexual Purposes) and the ETHOS code.
?Civil society initiatives such as those launched by the English NGO Tourism Concern in 1999, the Dante group and AKTE.
?Sectoral initiatives such as those promoted by the Association Forum Anders Reisen, founded in 1997. It is made up of German and other European countries tour operators whose common aim is promoting a tourism complying with the principles of sustainability and very attentive to the environmental questions and to the concerns of the local populations of the destination countries.
?Governmental initiatives as is the case in South Africa, which has been the first country in the world to introduce a fair tourism label. In 2005, the new government implemented a tourism policy based on the empowerment of the black population.

The report finishes with five recommendations for tourism enterprises:

1.To respect and actively promote human rights and the basic labour and environmental rules. This means developing and systematically implementing a business strategy in this area and to inform the staff, trade partners and service providers both in the countries of origin and destination. It also implies making tourist?s guides and travellers aware of the effects of their acts and behaviour.

2.To assume an overall responsibility concerning the populations of the countries of destination by taking the local communities into account. A fair co-operation must be established between buyers and sellers in order to fix prices and wages in a way that allows the latter to live decently. The inclusion and promotion of private local enterprises, the organisation of training seminars, co-participation and legal stability are basic conditions for tourism to contribute to poverty alleviation and to the sustainable development in the countries of destination.

3.To launch a dialogue process with all the actors and parties involved. Business innovation and learning must be promoted through social dialogue, which has also to be opened to civil society actors with critical views. Basic aims of such a dialogue are establishing and integrating social and environmental standards in business activities, exposing transparently any clash of interests that may arise and making all the efforts for attaining the fairest interest conciliation.

4.To contract an external and independent audit. This procedure will guarantee compliance with social and environmental rules, will allow for improvements in this field and will increase business reliability.

5.To draw up reports about social and environmental standards. Enterprises must be accountable for their performance in economic, social and environmental terms. Such sustainability reports are innovative management and communication tools that display the principles of corporate social responsibility. By this procedure, corporate social responsibility becomes transparent to collaborators, trade partners, consumers and to public opinion.