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ESG Framework for tourism businesses

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations have become some of the most important issues facing corporations across the world today. In essence, ESG captures all material non-financial topics that usually are not being captured by standard financial reporting.  

Given the direct interactions between tourism industry operators, the environment, and communities the importance of ESG in tourism cannot be overstated. In a practical sense, the importance of ESG to companies within the tourism industry can be clearly seen in areas such as customer acquisition, customer retention, managing risks and regulations, gaining access to sustainable financing or managing investor relations.

While a number of ESG reporting and disclosure initiatives already exist they have been developed relatively independently. As a result, at present ESG reporting is not done in a standardised manner across organisations, meaning the comparability and scalability of ESG reporting is limited. In this context, UN Tourism is joining efforts to develop a harmonized ESG framework that can be used as a reference by tourism businesses.

Sustainable tourism has been a topic of discussion in tourism circles since the early 1990s. The long-standing work of UN Tourism in sustainable tourism is reflected in a range of contributions to policy and measurement. Using a focus on tourism destinations, UN Tourism has articulated that sustainable tourism should:

(i) Make optimal use of environmental resources and conserve natural resources and biodiversity.

(ii) Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities.

(iii) Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, including stable employment and contributions to reducing poverty.

UN Tourism also has a long-standing commitment to the measurement of tourism to support evidence-based decision making and to recognise the contribution of tourism to sustainability.

The Measuring Sustainability in Tourism (MST) Framework is an organising structure for the integration of statistics on the economic, environmental, and social dimensions of tourism. Its intent is to address the need for information that provides guidance on measuring tourism across multiple scales and multiple dimensions. This consistent approach to organising data enables the selection and compilation of indicators as part of indicator sets that could be used to support ESG reporting capabilities of individual companies in a manner that is tractable to the entire tourism sector and beyond.

Following the initial drafting of the ESG framework for tourism businesses at least six pilot studies will be undertaken utilizing the draft framework. These pilots should represent at least two different industries and enable the development of ESG reports and assessment of ESG reporting capacity gaps.

Information about the selection of businesses and findings on the implementation of the ESG framework for tourism businesses will be published in this website.

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