Alexa Poortier Founder of itmustbeNow.com
An Article from itmustbeNOW Magazine:
A great deal of power lies with the consumer. Ultimately, we can ‘reward’ those companies that do the right thing and ignore those who continue to drive their profit margins by sacrificing vulnerable people and the environment.’
As both an environmental scientist and frequent enthusiastic traveller, Professor of Sustainable Tourism at Griffith University in Australia Dr. Susanne Becken was one of the first to link tourism with global problems. She has pioneered research on climate change and tourism, and is behind tools such as the world’s first tourism-specific carbon calculator. She was also involved in the development of the Global Sustainable Tourism Dashboard which tracks global progress towards sustainable tourism development. We asked her how travellers and hoteliers can work together in 2017 to safeguard people and planet but still allow business to prosper.
I would tell them to hurry up, we don’t have much time – accept that we need to make deep changes that will hurt. Don’t try to invent solutions that look good on paper but will not work, because all they do is legitimise the status quo and allow some people to exploit them to their benefit. Let us agree on those things that we know will work, and then think how we need to restructure our societies so that quality of life does not depend on growth and consumerism. This will require a completely different global system, but there are ideas out there.
I have great hopes that the world, including the majority of the American population, are waking up to the danger that Trump is posing. Also, I firmly believe that he and his dubious sidekicks will soon trip over their lack of morality, foresight and wisdom. We must continue our good work, and trust in the fact that America will soon be back on track with other leaders from Europe and China.
By tapping into multiple sources. It’s important to take seriously what scientists say, but we also need to pick the brains of young people, including the very young, who see the world fresh and without any prior judgement. My 8-year old daughter inspires me – she asks questions that no adult would ask and sometimes has very straightforward solutions.
Our strong belief in technological fixes and market forces has not always served us well, and we need to listen more to those from different cultures with more traditional knowledge and consider alternative solutions – including those that require us to change behaviours. I am inspired by wise, political leaders who ‘make things happen’ such as Barack Obama, Helen Clark from New Zealand and of course Nelson Mandela, who fought for his beliefs in the face of greatest adversity.
A great deal of power lies with the consumer. Ultimately, we can ‘reward’ those companies that do the right thing and ignore those who continue to drive their profit margins by sacrificing vulnerable people and the environment. In some countries, we have seen progressive governments supporting the push towards greater corporate responsibility, but in many countries it is the industry that leads. Incentivising good practice through policies, mandatory sustainability certification and reporting schemes and preferential treatments can have a great impact. I believe that those companies who actively work on their various footprints are the smarter companies. Innovation and best practice go hand in hand, and companies that combine both will have a long term competitive advantage.
There is no doubt in my mind that it is climate change, but coupled with ecosystem loss, as this limits the opportunities we have to respond to climate change and maintain the planet’s resilience. When our ecosystems get weaker, so does the environment on which humans depend, with further pressure added by higher temperatures, more extreme events, ocean acidification, sea level rise, changing rainfall patterns and so on. Addressing the root causes of climate change by moving away from fossil fuels and stopping deforestation will automatically reduce many of the other problems we are facing.
Yes it is absolutely critical to prove what you are claiming. We are very used to accounting and reporting financial performances, and companies publish Annual Reports. Imagine if there was the same level of activity and transparency for environmental and social issues – we’d be making considerable more progress.
In my view, an increasing number of travellers care about the sustainability of the product or service they consume. Some travellers are already very aware and educated and proactively make responsible decisions, and others need to be guided a little more. Research that we have done shows that even people who have very little experience (or one might say intrinsic interest) actually can become quite engaged when they are given the right tools and when they understand that sustainability often equates to common sense. So for example, nobody really wants to be in an air conditioned room (maybe as chilled as 18 degrees) with circulated air, unless they have to. Providing options to become comfortable with fresh air is very welcome by travellers – and when they learn that this is more sustainable they are delighted.
So many, but if I can only choose one it would be Crystal Creek Meadows http://www.crystalcreekmeadows.com.au in the lost paradise of Kangaroo Valley (NSW, Australia), a country lodge and day spa reached via a step winding road over a mountain with thick bush which is serene, authentic and beautiful. It’s certified by Eco-Tourism Australia and the owner, Christopher Warren, has done everything that one could do to make the place sustainable and at the same time utterly enjoyable. When he felt he had hit the green ceiling, he enrolled for a PhD with us to study guest behaviour, and what he found was amazing – that guests respond extremely favourably to advice and feedback on their use of resources, especially when it’s put to them in a way that makes their stay even more special. This place is truly inspiring, and a total detox from modern city life.
When I travel I try to travel light as additional weight means more fuel. I also try to combine several things into one trip where possible. I do buy carbon offsets, but not often enough. We are now developing a carbon policy at the University, and I hope it will become mandatory, at least in my Institute.
Alexa Poortier Founder of itmustbeNow.com
Alexa Poortier is the Founder of itmustbeNOW.com, a legacy project with a mission to boldly advance sustainability, social responsibility and principled business practice in the travel industry to help it thrive. It is an influencer platform that is forming a global community who believe that travellers and the travel industry can be a Force for Good; and a marketing alliance to differentiate inspiring and responsible hotels in the NOW Track & Book, a tool for all stakeholders to raise the bar on accountability and transparency around sustainability with no greenwash allowed, simplify communications and provide direct bookings.
Alexa’s professional experience spans over three decades in the areas of business development, marketing, communications and hotel operations in Asia Pacific, E.Europe, Middle East, Canada and S.America within the hospitality, media and PR industry. She understands the challenges and impacts of global business having co-founded a hotel consultancy, as VP with News Corp’s Star TV, Sumitomo’s JetTV, CNBC, and Group Director with O&M and Edelman/JMA.
At this most urgent of times when there is a crisis of trust and travel has immense positive and negative impact on our world, itmustbeNOW.com informs, inspires and empowers the traveller to use their spending power to drive global change and only support responsible and sustainable travel experiences.