Legislation regulates the way we utilize natural resources, avoid pollution and harmful substances, manage waste and protect ecosystems and human rights. Supporting sustainability through the use of proactive legislation is nothing new. Rather than being a constraint to businesses and individuals, proactive legislation can eliminate competitive disadvantages and thus be an instrument paving the way to a successful and sustainable future (Berger-Walliser et al., 2016). In many cases, however, legislation is enacted as a last resort. In Germany, a new law on packaging makes it mandatory for the gastronomy sector to provide reusable containers as an alternative to single-use items from 2023 onwards. This is, arguably, a long overdue legislation based on a EU Directive. In a recent representative survey conducted by the German Packaging Institute (DVI) and World Wide Fund For Nature (WWF), 85% of respondents are in favor of introducing a deposit refund system for reusable containers. And while citizens around the globe view climate change as a major threat, the most recent report from the UNFCC warns that climate action plans put forward by nations ahead of COP26 are nowhere close to meeting the goals set in the Paris Agreement. Looking at legislative initiatives in your country, where do you see room for improvement? In which area under the sustainability umbrella do you see the need for more (or less) regulations? Can you share some best (or worst) practices?
Berger-Walliser, G., Shrivastava, P. & Sulkowski, A. (2016). Using Proactive Legal Strategies for Corporate Environmental Sustainability, Michigan Journal of Environmental & Administrative Law, 6(1), 1-27.
The benefit of legislation is that it creates a level playing field and can be an accelerator. From this perspective legislation in the sustainability field is certainly useful, provided governments do not overregulate and focus on the essentials. Currently the focus should be on green hotel buildings, both in emerging and mature markets and on legislating essential elements of responsible consumption for example related to phasing out single-use plastics. On the topic of sustainable buildings and innovations (eg. for an accelerated roll out of hydrogen fuel cells in hotels) government incentives are welcomed and necessary to allow for early adoption.
Legislation can play a vital role in creating a level playing field in an industry that operates in all countries, has many service levels/business models and includes organisations ranging from single hotels to those with thousands. It can also ensure that the responsibility for improving sustainability is shared more throughout the value chain.
For example, the EU Plastics Directive focuses on the top 10 single-use plastic (SUP) issue items. Banning some of them from July this year puts the onus of solving the single-use plastic challenge on the entire value chain. Suppliers need to find workable and cost-effective alternatives and hotel operators have to find ways to change their operations to remove SUPs or use alternatives.
Similarly, the EU Energy Efficiency Directive is helping to create minimum standards for energy efficiency of buildings and putting some of the onus onto owners and investors, adding an incentive previously missing as they often aren't the ones paying the bills.
Legislative requirements do need to consider the reporting or admin burden they place on companies, and avoid diverting attention and efforts away from initiatives which actually increase sustainability. But, we will only achieve change on the scale that we need if we take everyone on the journey with us, and legislation can help drive collaboration and even out the responsibility across the industry.
I am of the opinion that legislation is not going nowhere near far enough and quickly enough. As mentioned in the viewpoint, it seems legislation is often “enacted as last resort”. I live in England where the government recently (1 October 2020) introduced a ban on supplying plastic straws and stirrers, to combat against single-use plastic waste. I am not arguing that this is not an important step but compared to some other measures that could have been taken, it seems like an act of window dressing. There are many much more important ways plastic waste could've been tackled in my opinion, such as introducing a plastic bottle deposit return scheme.
If you observe the main global sustainability issues from technology perspective, one thing is clear: We already have relatively mature technologies to solve most if not all of these issues. The problem however is the speed at which we are moving away from the less sustainable practices, and I argue governments should adopt a bigger, more proactive and aggressive role in stimulating change. Governments employ a wide range of methods to build a more sustainable future such as increased taxation on more harmful technologies and tax incentives on greener options. This helps to guide technology deployment to the right direction but often not quickly enough.
A more aggressive approach would involve making less environmentally friendly options much more expensive, if not outright banning them. The simple reason why we still use technologies and materials which are harmful, is that they are cheaper and there is no-one stopping us using them. If they were to become more expensive or banned completely, I believe that there would be a rapid shift towards the greener options. This would translate directly into economies of scale which in turn reduces costs. Finally, if the greener technologies are the only ones available, the huge R&D resources of global corporations would all be channelled into making these technologies even better, for both company income statements and our planet.
Policy makers have a critical role to play in driving capital towards sustainable projects; however, opinions differ on whether this role should be focussed on imposing penalties (or even bans) or promoting incentives.
Sustainable finance has grown exponentially and even ESG specialists feel bewildered and desperately need a roadmap. Hence why the finance sector, which is normally ambivalent at best about regulation, is widely welcoming more regulation and clear disclosure standards. Investors trying to incorporate sustainability into their decision making need sensible, comparable information. Where disclosures are patchy or inconsistent, they struggle.
However, you do not need complex disclosure to know that fossil fuels cause climate change, yet banks still heavily invest in this sector. Thus, the clamour for (complex) regulation is partly honest, but partly also a delaying tactic(1) – The hospitality industry is no different.
The most direct way governments can green the economy is not by changing incentives, but by tough action to regulate it directly. For example it has been perfectly obvious that plastic bags are terrible for the environment. But the private sector did not stop using them until Kenya and Tanzania banned them completely, at short notice, in 2017, everyone had to just adapt and comply. The power of such direct on the ground regulation can cut years of dithering and evaluating data(2).
The new EU Disclosure Regulation(3) requires mandatory disclosure of the long-term impact mitigation of all new investment and lending . The Hotel Sector is expected to reduce its GHG emissions per room per year by 66% from 2010 levels by 2030, and 90% by 2050(4). However the sector is notoriously lagging in achieving these targets(5). The degree in which main stream hotel investment will be incentivised and regulated to put a price on its environmental externalities, is in my opinion critical to getting the sector to comply and adjust its business model.
- Responsible Investor, Jan21, Trump happens when cultures believe private can cover for public
- Global Capital, Feb20, Sustainability: More stick, less carrot
- Allen & Overy, Dec19, New ESG Disclosure Regulation
- Hotel Global Decarbonisation Report, International Tourism Partnership (ITP), November 2017,
- Ignite Economics, Energy Usage in The UK Economy
More and more legislation is coming, whether we like it or not. Much of this will fall under the umbrella of Transition Risk or the regulatory risk that companies will be expected to monitor and manage as part of TCFD disclosures, relating to the policies and codes that are put in place as governments seek decarbonisation and addressing the related drivers/impacts of climate change. We have been tracking, interpreting and providing assessments to hotel companies on regulatory risks affecting their portfolios for nearly a decade now. First it was the building efficiency codes, then mandatory reporting and benchmarking. Then the styrofoam bans and mandates on other types of waste diversion. Then human rights aspects of modern slavery and protection of workers, and currently diversity and inclusion.
All of these will continue and climate legislation toward reporting and performance will also proliferate. Some indirectly but massively important like the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol phasing out refrigerants for cooling equipment that contribute to global warming. The task for our industry is to work with industry bodies and regulators to ensure the policies are relevant and achieve what they are set out to do. Blanket policies for commercial buildings for example sometimes can be ill-fitted for hotels.
Regulations can be drawn up without proper guidance or clarity for implementation, and as always, the distinct roles of owners and operators add complexity which can diminish positive intentions such as rebates and incentives. But as much of a pain it will be to manage this, regulation will help drive the industry toward better buildings and practices over time.
I certainly see legislation as one of the key enabler to driving the adaptation of sustainable measures in the business sector as a whole, not just the hospitality industry. The EU Green Deal is seen internationally as a ground- breaking legal framework, and even though it has some shortcomings, it is very necessary to accelerate the much-needed change in corporate behaviour when it comes to ESG. The additional legislation for the ban on single-use plastics in many EU countries, as well as the new Legislation on Supply Chains are forcing businesses to address issues, they might have pushed down the line for a few more years.
In my mind one of the key missing legislations, however, is a solid framework around the costs or taxes on externalities, such as the use of water in production of products, sand for cement (which should be considered a common human good) as well as taxes for the most polluting companies when it comes to Co2 emissions.
I do not pretend to be an expert in public policies, but the last decades has shown that legislations were needed to address issues of acid rain, leaded fuel for cars or even public smoking. We are in dire need of reducing our Co2 emissions and legislations to enforce reductions, not just voluntary commitments, are key to achieving the Paris Climate Agreement goals of staying below the 1.5C target.
How, might you say, does this affect hospitality- well all really, as we will need to not only reduce our Scope 1 & 2 emissions, (i.e. direct & indirect emissions at property level, including purchased energy) going forward but also those in the supply chain, guest travel as well as waste, meaning that legal frameworks to reduce emissions at all level with create incentives for innovative solutions and will only help us reduce our emissions as a sector. Often some hotels are located in historic buildings, where it is impossible to reach total energy efficiency, hence the focus on other operational areas for reduction and efficiency and here legislation would only help, in my mind.
As ever, my opinion is grounded in the perspective of small, independent accommodation owners and managers. So much time is spent promoting the beauty of their location that there is a huge incentive to take better care of it.
It is of course much easier to successfully implement sustainable organisational changes when there is a national agenda, a directive or specific legislation to drive results-based actions, but this has, to date, been painfully slow.
Many small independent hotels, lodges, b&bs and hostels understand the why and have the desire for change. They implement internal operational changes that are filled with wonderful initiatives to make their businesses more environmentally and community friendly. Often those changes are not spoken about or measured or even used in marketing messages because they are driven purely by a desire to create a better place to live in, that in turn (and by default) creates a better destination for travellers to visit.
An example of this was a community-driven initiative in Pucón, Chile. Accommodation owners succeeded in pushing local government to pass a decree prohibiting the use of plastic bags. This was then implemented in a three-stage process in 2013. The national law that prohibits the use of plastic bags in commercial businesses was not promulgated until 2018. If Pucón had waited, millions more plastic bags would have littered the national parks and the pristine lakes that attract thousands of tourists a year.
We need and value the legislation, but as you can see from my case study, immediate action can be taken with insight and collaboration.
The question raised here really comes in good timing. To start, all sorts of decisions have been taken by (all sorts of) political entities and governments in the last 12 months, with more often than not a lack of mid-term and long-term consideration. It proves, if need be, that the vision is lacking and that the sustainability of our societies is not necessarily the first priority of law-makers.
To follow, the recent ITB Now was also a display of the complexity of the issue and the difficulty that all stakeholders have in formulating a clear message. We have heard governing bodies and agencies, trade associations and private sector attempting to answer questions (when not avoiding them) on a series of matter linked to sustainability of the sector. Few have mentioned about legislation.
Contrary, many have talked about their recent efforts and the many more to come… I have the impression that opinions or capability did not grow enough as we could hear similar things 10 years ago.
It might not be a matter of willingness, as individually, it is certain that the actors of the industry know the issue and the urgency to act.
I understand it is more a systemic problem. The industry weights billions even with the impact of Covid. The capital and yearly revenues at stakes are too high to favour some concrete and rapid actions.
Hence, in my opinion, regulating tourism, imposing laws or updating existing ones that would restrict the wilder developments, brings rules and obligations that favour best practices and simply banning the most harmful operations and activities. All of it with one focus: social and ecological impact that are reasonable enough to bring positive outcome to our environments.
An interesting article on the matter : Environmental law and tourism - an unbreakable bond https://www.filodiritto.com/environmental-law-and-tourism-unbreakable-bond
Lastly, one commonly accepted principle is polluter = payer… It seems outdated : what is needed now is less pollution. Simply because some pollutions does not cost much financially compare to their hard cash benefits. Hence damaging our environment simply becomes a ROI calculation…
Some ideas which other nations/organisations could get inspired from to incentivize (or make compulsory) :
- human rights respect specifically towards indigenous people whom are owned a lot in regards to lands that are exploited for tourism : actions of Accor Australia (https_jobsataccor.com.au) and Diversity Council of Australia for work inclusion and training
- culture safeguarding and promotion by the indigenous tourism association of Canada and the many programs and laws protecting minorities and particularly people who were there since millennials
- Land and Nature protection : Costa Rica has over 25% of its land being protected
- Wildlife in general, a good source for references and ideas : Conservation Laws, Sustainable Travel and Ecotourism (internationalwildlifelaw.org)
- Plastic tax as implemented in the UK and active in a year's time. Or singe use plastic ban proposed by Trudeau in Canada or Peru's tourist sites.
I currently see the need for more regulations in all areas under the sustainability umbrella in our Western countries because people are not going to significantly change their behaviours on their own. And we are not granted the time for everyone to slowly adapt. I remember a time when I was working as a waitress and guests could smoke in restaurants. I also remember people fighting against the idea of this - so-called - freedom being taken away from them. But today, who could deny the harm of passive smoking and consider that smoking anywhere is a freedom worth fighting for ?
While at that time scientists and doctors already knew, it took some of us more time to recognise the benefits of this restriction. But today we all know that the science on tobacco's harm on people's health is undeniable. This is only one example among many others of imposed regulations triggered by the necessary priority to be given to global and long-term stakes over individual and immediate satisfactions in spite of an uproar of complaints.
I wish politicians were courageous enough to listen to the more discrete voices of scientists and citizens who know and who are praising for more regulations to protect the environment, people's and animals' health. Among these citizens I would like to mention the 150 French men and women who were randomly selected to be part of the Citizens' Convention for Climate and who - now that they do know - are strong advocates for more regulations regardless of their political view or social backgrounds. For me they embody the change that knowledge can trigger but which we cannot wait for at a global scale and therefore must compensate with proactive legislation.
The triple bottom line for businesses, the community and the whole Ecosystem ultimately relies on economic performance powered by a strong drive for innovation. No legislation or tax exemption can build more impactful and outcome-focused initiatives than public-private efforts that prioritise a sustainability agenda and help ensure each entity is “walking the talk” with the implementation of innovative projects that deliver value. A policy is only as strong and meaningful as its implementation across the whole value chain and the hospitality is a good example of how this could be implemented: collaboratively, on all Locality levels and through overarching social inclusion and a forward-thinking leadership engagement and a firm “push”.
What is mission critical is to apply the understanding that sustainability is not all about green planet. It is about the focus on the local community and the supply chain, enforcing agility through responsible investment and going beyond CSR and more towards people-centric communities. Equally important are sustainable corporate behaviour and governments that embrace the need to employ sustainability on multiple layers. Transparency, long-term view deployment and having a committed fiscal support to implement regulations on SME and large corporate levels is critical. It is not enough to be vocal about dumping in the Sea and have put forward legislation that protects the marine and coastal environment. It is all about raising awareness, implementation and going beyond rhetoric on the topic.
Central to Oceanic Global's mission is the desire to drive behavior change. We focus at the community level with grassroots action, industry level with business leadership, and at the policy level with legislative reform, and we need action at all three to truly create lasting change. Legislation is a critical tool for behavior change to encourage innovation in technology as well as to catalyze a market shift towards responsible consumption.
Policy is often the mother to invention as businesses and solution-providers creatively rise to meet the challenge of legislation put in place to regulate emissions, harmful materials, plastic consumption, waste management and beyond. However, without that nudge, the market may not otherwise trend towards what is healthy for all particularly if artificial barriers are in place or if false benefits of harmful practices are inflated.
We were also so excited to see the steps Germany is taking to support reusables! On that note and in the realm of single-use plastics, we are focused on supporting a host of bills at the federal, state and city level in the US as well as beyond (including helping businesses comply with plastic bans in Barbados and the Aeolian Islands in Itay). Here I will outline our US involvement:
- Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act (BFFPPA): Federal legislation to shift the burden of plastic cleanup responsibility to the big corporations that produce the waste, establish a nation-wide bottle deposit refund system, encourage reusable innovation, invest in waste management infrastructure, and regulate facilities to keep communities safe. This is seen as the "gold standard" for plastic legislation in the U.S. and it has just been reintroduced last week!
- Skip the Stuff: National campaign to get local legislation to require that the default for ordering online, food delivery, takeaway and pick up is to only give utensils and other accessories upon request! As such the default would be to not offer anything unless the customer chooses to ask for it. NYC and LA each have city-wide bills introduced our community Hubs are supporting.
- NY Bag Ban: State-wide ban on single-use plastic bags finally went into effect in October 2020, and there are still some loopholes the community is working through as the plastics industry puts up a fight to overturn the law. Does not yet apply to food delivery.
- NYC Straw Bill: City-wide ban on single-use plastic straws with some exceptions in place for communities with disabilities. Oceanic Global has been very involved since the initial drafting and introduction of the bill. We are now working with city council to ensure it is brought up for a vote and rolled out into effect.
- NYC Beverage Cup Bill: City-wide law dictating that food service establishments may not refuse the request of a customer who asks for a beverage to be served in a reusable container.
These pieces of legislation and more are needed at the national and global level! Every community and every business is unique, so it is understandable that there are different considerations and processes in each place. That said, a greater standardization of regulation as well as language is needed for us to achieve a state of unity in the way we address the issues of plastic pollution, climate change, and beyond. For that reason we are supportive of and engaging in multi-stakeholder discussions surrounding a UN Global Treaty on Plastics.
Learn more about the NYC bills at ReusableNYC.
Learn more about single-use plastics foodware policy in Surfrider's Comprehensive Foodware Policy Toolkit!
Climate change mitigation needs have been known for decades. Industry has been slow to wake up to the problem, and slower still to act. The trajectory of emissions has known only one direction, upwards. Should we wait for another decade for a miracle? Common climate policies can create a level playing field for all. So let's push for tougher climate laws, and say no to those trying to prevent these. And let's do this for tourism, for the stability of our business models.
I see the biggest potential of legislation in bringing down green premiums for hospitality businesses. Especially in the fields of green energy supply and circular economy solutions, those premiums are still very high and likely to discourage investments into a sustainable future.
So, how can governments reduce green premiums and provide robust business cases for sustainable solutions?
By internalising externalities into conventional practices (for e.g. cap-and-trade, carbon or import taxes) or banning them entirely (for e.g. ozone depleting substances or certain types of single-use plastics). They could also put in place demand side incentives such as low interest loans, subsidies or feed-in tariffs (in the case of electricity generation).
However, today's business cases, at least those driving change and innovation, have to include more than a single nation's market (perhaps except for the US, China and India). Which is why international cooperation is key to a transformative set of regulations. The Paris Climate Agreement is proof to what can be done - but also how hard it is. Another solid (though not flawless) example of how legislation can drive down green premiums is the stance Germany took on increasing the share of solar in their electricity grid in 1990. Subsidies incentivised homeowners to install solar on their properties. Germany increased its solar capacity by nearly 65% between 2008 and 2010. The massive demand led to the reduction of green premiums on solar cells by a factor of 10 between 2010 and 2020.
Sustainability-driven legislation should not be only falling on the governments, but also be a responsibility for hospitality operators and investors, using the various legal documents they have at their disposal: design standards, lease/management/franchise agreements, operating guidelines.
These are effecting tools to enforce, monitor and report on sustainability practices at property level. Currently, only a limited number of hotel operators/investors are using these tools but as benchmarking becomes more available, there is an opportunity to set sustainability targets for CO2 emission, waste management, water and energy consumption, procurement cycle, employment equalities,... and enforce them into operating agreements.
The UN IPCC states that to avoid climate catastrophe, the world needs to cut its carbon emissions by almost half by 2030 (from the 2018 level) and close to 100% by 2050. That's quite imaginable for new hotels, but much more challenging for existing ones. The formula: maximize energy efficiency; require buildings to be all electric (heating, cooling, hot water, cooking); and require buildings to purchase renewable electricity—or green the electricity grid so that it is run on renewable energy.
We now know how to build new hotels that meet these criteria and are reasonably economical to construct and operate. We need legislation to mandate that.
Most existing hotels can cut their energy use by 30% - 50%, and many have already done so. They can also purchase renewable energy for a small premium. The tough part will be to electrify existing hotels that run on fossil fuel. Such conversions are often very costly and disruptive. Getting hotels (and other buildings) to make this change will probably take more than regulation—it will also require financial support.
United States President, Joe Biden, signed an Executive Order (bypassing congressional approval) to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement on his first day in office. Here's the plan he laid out while running for President of the United States:
“We will have 100% clean energy by 2050 with net zero emissions. By 2025 there will be an enforcement mechanism in place to make sure the U.S. stays on track to get there. Then, we're going to make record breaking investments in research and development in zero carbon technologies. This will create 10 million new clean economy jobs. We will hold polluters accountable for the damage they've caused, particularly, in low income communities and communities of colour.”
He also made a commitment to help other countries.
Given that this bold action plan relies on feuding politicians in Congress to pass the legislation, the outcome is uncertain. Republican politicians are already gearing up against it, even though a legislative bill has not yet been presented. They have made very clear that anything the opposing party (the Democrats) present is to be rejected. Republicans are against government regulations, of any kind, against business (including hospitality), even if it benefits the health and prosperity of their own constituents, and themselves, at home. It's like the infamous feud between the Hatfields and McCoys families in the late 1800's.
I am optimistic that some of the climate action our President is proposing will be passed. Will it be enough?
One word encapsulates the underlying challenge facing our planet when we talk about Climate Change. It was included in the summary of Roland Geyer's argument…. "we must ban fossil fuels to save our planet". The summary continued with.. "arguing that it has been shown in the past that bans are the way to go forward if we hope to achieve change". The key word …hope. Hope delivers nothing and unfortunately it is a word used all too often when we talk about our future and what actions are required to avoid the worst impacts of Climate Change.
The reality is that our politicians will fail to legislate sufficiently to mandate effective carbon reductions or set legally binding targets – these would impact their constituents and/or their financial backers. They are weak and generally ineffective with a limited timescale, with many nations' deniers. I firmly believe most harbour a belief (hope) that there will be some great scientific breakthrough along the carbon capture or fission technology routes which will result in a global decarbonisation, over time.
The problem is the “over time” scenario.
In the short term we can see grave injustices across the world happening before our eyes, with limited responses, and the developed economies (and I include China here) also know that the worst impacts of climate change will negatively affect the developing and poorest economies first. The result of this is the “head in the sand” approach – Developed economies will adapt, because we can afford too, whilst millions will die elsewhere. It is not until a developed economy suffers a number of major catastrophes before actual quantifiable action will be taken, and then it may well be too late to effect sufficient change to avoid a 3C increase.
We have shown our ability to confront and address a global challenge – COVID-19 – but only when people, in developed economies, start dying on our streets. We do not appear capable of applying the same approach to Climate Change. A dystopian view perhaps, but business leaders planning forward must look at the probable outcomes. The short-medium term legislative actions in my view will be – Carbon Tax increases on fossil fuels and stronger energy efficiency regulations – not enough to deliver the impact required but enough to allow politicians to claim action.
Tourism businesses worldwide should be applying risk analysis already to identify how they will maintain their profitability as conditions change – both financially and climatically. We will all adopt single use plastic programmes, net zero targets, water conservation actions, suffer carbon taxes on aviation fuel, reduce food waste, buy more locally and adopt and implement socially sustainable community programmes and will become better businesses but we must also become fully aware how our business conditions will change and have plans in place to enable us to adapt.
Every tourism business should be looking forward in 5-year segments to assess how the local environment will change and what impact that will have on their business and take actions that will enable them to sustain their business levels.
At the same time every tourism business must carry out a rigorous analysis of their environmental impact and minimise it, as we are at the forefront of a worldwide “woke” environmental marketplace and if you are seen to be a polluter you will suffer.
So much of the discussion about sustainable tourism suggests that tourism organisations will be the sole actors in making tourism more sustainable. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sustainable tourism systems are embedded in larger socio-economic systems. Many of the most critical decisions that impact tourism sustainability are made by folks who don't consider themselves part of our industry. Hotel recycling doesn't work if trash companies can't recycle; utilities must supply renewable energy if hotels want to increase their use of renewable energy.
Policymakers and legislators play a critical role in sustainable tourism, even if tourism isn't their first priority. For example, new laws to promote buildings' energy efficiency, like those recently enacted in New York, will impact hospitality.
Sustainable tourism requires a policy and legislative framework. In some recent analysis of the GSTC destination criteria I did with Jennifer Romanchek, we identified a range of environmental and social policies that must be in place to support sustainable tourism. Beyond environmental policy, there must be legislation to eliminate exploitation and discrimination, protect property rights, and ensure the safety of workers and visitors.
The tourism industry needs to engage proactively with legislators to ensure that tourism contributes positively to sustainability goals. Not all policies are good, and we should be part of the process to shape the future policy framework. But, one of our greatest challenges will be overcoming the urge to fight new legislation that will improve sustainability just because "that is not how we do things".
Here comes a plea for regulative action for biodiversity. Except of some natural goods such as timber from private forest, biodiversity and ecosystem services are public goods. That makes them prone to unsustainable use, the tragedy of the commons, and the free riding problem. Since we all depend on biodiversity and ecosystem services, we should not let the “free market” define the rules of consumption and trade of natural goods (and services). Strict rules and regulations, including certain no-go-criteria are urgently needed to stop the erosion of biodiversity and ecosystem services – for the benefit of all of us.
Need for sustainable legislation
Legislation controls where and how hotels are constructed, from land-use plans to manage urban growth to building codes to ensure safety. But little legislation exists to control how hotels might impact their environment, particularly during their operation. Sweeping sustainable legislation is likely needed to address environmental issues related to the tourism industry, from eliminating single-use plastics and reducing water consumption and GHG emissions, to reversing coastal erosion and deforestation.
Abandon the reactive approach
Legislation in general can be reactive, and there are cases of reactive sustainable legislation, such as Sri Lanka banning construction near coastlines after the 2004 Tsunami, or Bangladesh and Mumbai banning plastic bags after they clogged drains, leading to increased and devastating flooding. But cases of sustainable legislation being implemented as the result of major events are rare due to the fact that the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation are incremental rather than abrupt. The push therefore needs to be on a proactive approach.
Use (and improve) risk assessments to inform sustainable legislation
Just as land-use plans are based on risk assessments, proactive sustainable legislation requires the identification of risk factors that consider the impacts of human activity on the environment and the impacts of climate change. On a positive note, climate change data has advanced to a point where climate risk models are now informing government policy, resulting in climate change adaptation through land use planning. More is needed however to incorporate the impacts of human activity on the environment in risk assessments at the local level (e.g. tourist destinations) in a quantifiable way that policy makers can no longer ignore.
Legislation should and will follow up the Paris Agreement and the overall social push for change. Companies and their staff need to act proactively, integrating climate action at the DNA of business practice, leading to innovative carbon products, services, processes, value chains, customer relations, etc. As @ErikRicaurte said, " more legislation is coming, whether we like it or not. " The sooner the hospitality industry understands that climate and biodiversity " externalities" are reshaping the overall economic system, including the hospitality industry itself, the better it will be for the industry to adapt to new practices and processes. In this emerging environment, climate legislation will play a pivotal role in catalyzing change and supporting the introduction of further performance references such as REGENERATE & RESTORE. The question is - Is the industry ready to lead?