A growing number of travel and tourism companies have realized their long-term prospects are enhanced when they consider their impacts related to ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) in the global context. As more companies in the industry adopt the global UN-Sustainability Developments Goals (SDG) framework to inform their sustainable development policies, a more unified approach to sustainable tourism will be formed.

GlobalData asked business decision-makers from a range of industries if their company will align its ESG practices with SDGs. 34.9%* of respondents stated that they have already aligned their ESG practices with specific SDGs, which is positive. However, 58.6% of respondents stated that they plan to align their ESG practices with chosen SDGs in the next three or five years. This significant percentage hints that many travel and tourism organizations may be delaying adopting this all-encompassing framework to improve their ESG performance and work towards common sustainability goals shared by many other companies.

To improve the industry’s ESG performance, companies need to be working towards the same sustainability goals, which will alter the fragmented approach that the industry currently possesses. Adopting the ESG strategy is one of the easiest ways of enhancing unification.

Companies do not have to adopt every single SDG

Travel and tourism companies do not have to adopt every single SDG to inform their ESG strategies. Companies can choose SDGs that fit in with their operations. Even companies that may be perceived to be unsustainable can work toward several SDGs, such as airlines. Cathay Pacific has aligned certain SDGs with its sustainable development policy. Cathay Pacific adopts ‘SDG 5: Gender Equality’. To work towards this goal, the airline founded ‘The Cathay Women’s Network’, which allows the company to better understand and address current barriers that its female employees face.

Naturally, companies that place a greater focus on sustainability work towards more SDGs than the likes of airlines. Tour operator Intrepid Travel has aligned its sustainable development policy with eight SDGs, which contain global goals that are more specific in comparison to Cathay Pacific’s. For example, one of the goals Intrepid adopts is ‘SDG 10: Reduced inequalities within and among countries.’ Due to demand for authentic community-based experiences from its customers, the company works with communities and a range of local partners to support the development of experiences in destinations that otherwise would not see the benefits of tourism. This work with developing destinations across the globe allows Intrepid to contribute positively to this specific SDG.

As more travel and tourism companies adopt the same sustainability framework, progress towards a sustainable industry will be more cohesive and, as a result, more effective. Adopting SDGs can create impactful ESG strategies that will help companies reach long-term financial and CSR goals.

*GlobalData Poll Question (ended October 19, 2021, with 1,500 responses)