Whilst most of the commentary and certification efforts around travel and tourism have been focused on minimising negative impacts, efforts are underway to reverse today’s catastrophic loss of nature with unprecedented species extinction rates. The objective is to be Nature Positive by 2030 with a mission to halt and reverse nature loss, moving towards nature recovery and regeneration. This framing of the aspiration came to the fore at the UN Convention on Biological Diversity at COP15 in Montreal, and it is gaining wider currency.
Is the future net positive? It is obviously too soon to answer. The first essential step is to reduce and then stop extinctions and protect land for nature, enabling regeneration. Reducing the rate of climate change and then reversing it will help. The critical question is will people take responsibility across all countries and sectors of production and consumption?
A dynamic and inclusive approach is being developed by the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance (SHA), which now has donor members and partners representing globally 50,000 hotels, 7 million rooms, more than 270 brands and more than 40 supply chain and strategic partners. A UK registered charity committed for public benefit “anywhere in the world to advance education, prevent and relieve poverty and to relieve unemployment, (including those with little or no education, survivors of human trafficking, people with disabilities, refugees and migrants). Advance Human rights, promote the protection & preservation of the natural environment and sustainable development.”
The SHA has just published its Industry-Led hospitality benchmarking framework tool. Developed with EY the tool will track and compare sustainability progress across each ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) topic within the Hospitality sector. SHA’s approach ensures that “even if the hotel stays at a lower maturity stage overall but is advancing on certain topics and implementing measures from higher maturity stages, it will be reflected in its overall score and will stand out positively during benchmarking. One can therefore be at different maturity stages for different topics,e.g., be Stage 1 in “Water”, but Stage 2 in “Human rights”, which would mean that the hotel hasn’t yet managed to implement all the listed measures for “Water” at Stage 1, but has done so for the topic “Human rights” at this stage and, thus, advanced to the next stage.”
The benchmarking tool is to be further developed to apply regional weighting and applied at the local individual property level. Regional weighting will enable businesses to “put more weight on particular ESG topics, most crucial or problematic for the region of operation.” Actionable steps lead to maturity stages, so the benchmark is largely process driven.
Unlike the GSTC’s certification system, the SHA’s benchmarking framework tool will enable consumers and neighbours to see where the hotel or company is making most effort and making the biggest difference.
It is refreshing to see water, fairness and community partnership and support among the topics. SHA’s next steps are to define the regional weightings ensuring that the tool addresses local priorities and the specific metrics essential for Step 4. At last, we have a benchmarking tool developed by an organisation with more than 50% of the world’s hotel rooms in membership that will provide, at Step 4, “quantified impacts & measures.” SHA’s objective is to get to and prove that hospitality can be ”net positve”.
The direction of travel is clear – the pathway is long and steep. There is much work to be done.