At the UN Sustainable Development Summit September 2015, a record of 154 heads of state or government formally adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that aim to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change. The December COP21 climate summit in Paris will equally see much intergovernmental discussion, potentially abstractedly removed from the reality of what's happening on the ground.
As attention shifts to how the SDGs can be delivered, the realisation comes that the challenges are too great and systematic for governments and NGOs alone, and the recognition that business' contribution is not only needed but pivotal for taking action at meaningful scale. While goal 8 and 12 specifically address tourism, there has been much talk of how tourism encompasses all the SDGs, and how the 1 billion tourists' actions offer 1 billion opportunities to make 1 big impact (UNWTO). But questions still remain on how to deliver these global policies with on-the-ground actors and actions, improving global sustainability whilst the industry is targeted to growing tourism in volume?
Matching policy to practicalities, sustainable tourism doesn't just offer an opportunity to implement, transform, communicate and realise the SDGs, but the SDGs offer sustainable tourism an opportunity. One challenge is the fragmentation of the industry with its global small scale enterprises, and how to link them through coordinated action to deliver common goals, to mainstream and deliver the SDGs.
One solution became apparent at The Long Run's annual members meeting.
The workshop convened in Costa Rica brought together stakeholders including the Vice President and acting Head of State, the tourism ministry, industry players and nature-based tourism entrepreneurs, along with the international network's founder and businessman Jochen Zeitz. Zeitz, as previous CEO of Puma and now Sustainability Director of Kering brought environmental profit and loss reporting to both, owns Segera Retreat in Kenya, is a director of Wilderness Safaris, co-founder of The B Team with Richard Branson and is soon to open the Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA) in Cape Town.
As respected in the business and tourism worlds as sustainability and culture, it's easy to see how his interests led to his philosophy and framework of sustainability called the "4Cs": a holistic balance of Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce, upon which The Long Run's work is based.
The Long Run is the independent not-for profit member organisation of global nature-based tourism businesses he founded and chairs, a platform to network, share knowledge and best practice, supporting each member's unique journey of continuous improvement in sustainability, focused around the 4Cs and embodied in the Global Ecosphere Retreats® (GER) Standard that fuels continued excellence. In this, 'the whole is greater than the sum of its parts' for The Long Run.
The growing human population is putting the remaining natural areas of the world under enormous pressure and the only realistic option to save these areas for posterity is to sustainably use them for generating economic benefits that would ward off their destruction through irresponsible and exploitative uses: The Long Run seeks to break the vicious circle of human deprivation and environmental degradation by leveraging the power of enterprise.
Members demonstrate sustainable business practices and related innovations in commercially viable operations providing jobs and driving local economies, and here is witnessed sustainable development through tourism at work in staggering numbers: Last year, together, the members invested more than USD 5 million in community development, supporting half a million people from 54 cultures and 2700 jobs in 58 towns and villages. In nature, upon which so much of tourism depends, 5 million acres were directly supported for biodiversity conservation in total, in addition to 7.6 million indirectly, providing habitat for 18,000 species aggregated, 680 of those endangered