Sustainability and business performance are related, and they both have a positive impact on each other, according to this survey of nearly 900 tourism and hospitality businesses from 59 European protected areas, conducted on behalf of the EUROPARC Federation with funding from DG Enterprise. The report is now available in English and Spanish
The green lifestyle group of businesses is dominant- for most businesses, sustainability actions are taken for altruistic reasons as part of lifestyle choices. The green entrepreneur group is smaller, with less than 20% of businesses having a profile of reasons and actions that suggest sustainability is seen as a business asset or a vehicle for competitive advantage.
We find primarily small and vulnerable businesses in European protected areas, that claim to be sustainable in general terms but find it harder to show concrete examples. Larger businesses report more sustainability practices, and regardless of size, sustainability and financial health are related. However the lifestyle approach to sustainability means there is limited use for commercial advantages, as shown in the limited use for marketing and communications.
The implications for protected area managers are:
- Promoting the business case of sustainability to businesses is not likely to work as much as focusing on the altruistic reasons.
- If many of the businesses undertaking sustainability actions do it for lifestyle reasons, it will be difficult to promote any change of behaviour specially more formalised sustainability management (even if it increases profits).
- Savings from energy, water and waste management should be promoted first, to help these businesses make savings. Help them identify the savings to then use these as a budget for other sustainability actions that will inevitably increase costs.
- All businesses need help to understand which sustainability actions can be presented as part of quality, and to learn how and when to communicate these.