Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Sustainable Development Chapter 7 Relational Summary

Chapter 7: Quality control

 In Chapter 7 we explore:
Quality control spectrum
Codes of conduct
A carrot rather than a stick approach
Moral suasion
Pre-emption of external and obligatory regulation
Elements of success
Industry incentives for participation
Anatomy of ecolabelling schemes
Attributes of success.
Green globe 21
Affiliated status
Benchmarked status
Certified status
Membership patterns
Specialized ecolabels
Blue Flag
‘Green Hotels Association

Commited to Green Foundation
TUI environmental monitoring of contracted hotels
Weaknesses of tourism ecolabels
The Mohonk Agreement
British Airways Tourism for Tomorrow Awards

World Legacy Awards
On the ground: toward sustainable tourism certification in Costa Rica.

Upon completion of this chapter, YOU, the reader, should be able to:
·         Explain the role and importance of quality control in attaining environmental and sociocultural sustainability within the conventional tourism industry
·         Describe and differentiate the various levels of quality control in tourism
·         Discuss and compare the positive and negative aspects of codes of conduct, awards and certification-based ecolabel programmers in sustainable tourism
·         Explain the difference and relation between Certification and Accreditation
·         Present and assess examples of best practice quality control in sustainable tourism especially at the certification and accreditation level and, finally,
·         Assess the factors that increase the likelihood that a quality control initiative in tourism will succeed as a mechanism for fostering sustainable tourism development.

To be able to do all those marvelous things… you need to read the chapter. Right now, I’m going offer you an alternative viewpoint on the last bullet point, suggesting that paradoxically these mechanisms actually may NOT foster sustainable tourism,  by  giving you another Culhane relational summary of Weaver’s main chapter points, starting with…
Section 7.1:  INTRODUCTION in which I introduce you to my belief in
“The Dangers of Differentiating the Product”

See, here’s the thing:
Weaver says on page 110: “The conventional tourism industry, by and large, has formally recognized through its constituent organizations a desire to purse an environmentally and socioculturally sustainable path of development. The actual extent of this pursuit, however, is a matter of debate, given that most initiatives appear to be of the superficial or ‘weak variety and/or are exemplified by a relatively small number of industry leaders, such as British Airways and the Aspen Ski Company.  However far the actual effort within the industry has proceeded, a critical component in achieving sustainability is the implementation of and adherence to quality control mechanism that guide the process and demonstrate adherence to relevant principles and practices, thereby differentiating the product from those not adhering to these mechanisms.”
Sounds good right? All you have to do to be a green millionaire or, in a more competitive landscape,  stay in business as a green business,  is paradoxically  hope nobody else adopts the sustainable practices you say you believe in.  
And this is going to lead to social and environmental justice exactly how?
Take a look at this  diagram based on Rogers curve of the diffusion of innovations and Maloney’s 16% rule.  What happens if we apply it  to what I call “the dangers of differentiating the product”?

 The diagram assumes that in every population roughly 2.5% of the people are innovators and another 13.5%  are visionaries. Together they make up the creators and early adopters of any new technology or idea.  In the Harry Potter world these are the folks who make up Hogwarts.  The rest of us are the muggles:  34% the pragmatic early majority, 34% the conservative late majority, and the remaining 16% the skeptical inactive late mass.  We ridicule people like this, don’t we?  The one’s who “just don’t get it?”  If we map the Plog tourist profile curve onto the diffusion innovation curve we can even unpack our own biased assumptions that the innovative 16% are the allocentric tourists, ideal for the evolving “green market” while half of the pragmatic early majority are midcentric, and the rest tend toward an ever more conservative psychocentric profile.  Of course it isn’t that simple.  But those are the general trends.  As Human beings, it seems, we just can’t help judging each other and trying to pigeonhole one another into bell curve distributed groups, just like we did in school,  with A students on one side and F students on the other.  But that isn’t what disturbs me about the human desire to differentiate people and products in the green tourism industry.
What I find dangerous about the trend toward green product differentiation described by Weaver is that it ignores the underlying paradox of green marketing which, in turn reveals the famous fundamental internal contradictions of late stage capitalism.
The paradox is illustrated nicely by the diagram.  Note that on the left side of the chasm the  “Psychology of Influence” is “Scarcity”.  The Zero sum game. We do things because they make us ‘special’, because they  make us STAND OUT from the maddening crowd.  Of muggles.
  On the right side of the chasm the psychology of influence is “Social Proof” where we do something good not because it makes us special, but because everybody is doing it as part of the ethics of our  culture.  The 16% rule chasm lies between. Maloney’s rule states: “Once you have reached 16% adoption of any innovation you must change your messaging and media strategy from one based on scarcity to one based on social proof in order to accelerate through the chasm to the tipping point.”
The tipping point in our case would be the moment when being sustainable becomes so trendy you couldn’t imagine NOT being sustainable. Oh the shame!
And here’s the problem (you can see it can’t you?): If sustainable tourism operators try to differentiate their product by providing  the only (or one of the few) tourism destinations that are eco-friendly or socially just, the scarcity business model depends for its success on their keeping the other destinations exploitative and polluted.
 I saw this first hand in the Dominican Republic.
My students and I from Mercy College went to the DR to do Voluntourism work and stayed the first couple of days with the family of one of our students in the economically depressed area of Boca Chica not all that far from the airport.  My little kids and their mother were with me and we all decided to go to the beach.  The public beach, the beach free to everyone,  however, was filled with trash both on the sand and in the water, the view was spoiled by a downwind cement factory on a pier over the water belching smoke in the distance and the unregulated competing restaurants were blaring distorted music and eardrum shattering levels while vendors hawking trinkets disturbed every minute of tranquility we had.  At a certain point my children’s mother was fed up and wanted to go home, but I encouraged her to bring the kids and walk up the beach about 15 minutes around a curve.  On the other side we found a gated fence and a series of beautiful resorts with clean soft sand, lots of coconut trees, beautiful views of clear blue seas, beautiful architecture and tranquility.   Because my children’s mother is German and my children look European and not local, the beach guards did not stop us from simply waltzing in.  The contrast was immediate and amazing.  It was clear that the beauty and tranquility and cleanliness of these sections of beach were what enabled the resorts to offer a  “differentiated product” for which guests pay a premium. The rest of Boca Chica, by contrast, is a nightmare, and going to the public beaches for free is not something a tourist would ever want to do.  One wonders if this doesn’t create a perverse incentive to tour operators who have influence over government policy to deliberately keep the public beaches in a state of degradation.
When the messaging and media strategy is based on scarcity there is no incentive to clean up or green up the entire industry. Powerful market forces will keep the few resorts doing good things on the left of Maloney’s  chasm and in fact it will be in the best interest of the tour operators to see the other areas destroyed. For example, if one of your selling points is the availability of wild sea turtles and dolphins at your resort, you may be happy to allow coral destruction and poaching on the other side of the island, driving the remaining wildlife to you and reducing competition. It may behoove you to have the only remaining stands of primary rainforest or mountain gorillas so you can charge top dollar to see them.  It was ironic to me when I went to Gombe stream resort in Tanzania to work with the Jane Goodall Institute that they were cooking the tourists expensive meals on charcoal from forest trees cut down in neighboring forests, furthering the extinction of chimps in those areas.  The Tanzanian tourist authority charges several hundred dollars to see their chimps “in the wild”; this fee can only be commanded when there are no wild chimps left to encounter when hiking in adjacent forests; given that Gombe is now a tiny island of fragment forest in a sea of ever increasing agricultural destruction, it was hard for me to get the sense that it wasn’t turning into essentially a very large zoo.
So what would happen to “green tourism” if we actually crossed the chasm and went from a scarcity model to a “social proof” model?  If EVERYBODY had a sustainable eco-friendly and socially just experience to offer tourists, which you would imagine is the goal of the sustainable tourism movement, would there be any product to differentiate? Would there be anything to offer to distinguish your operation from your neighbor? What added value could a tour destination offer if and when the world is healed again and wildlife and beauty and clean renewable energy and recycling and health are available everywhere? For me this is the million dollar question for sustainable tourism.  How do we “change our messaging and media strategy from one based on scarcity to one based on social proof in order to accelerate through the chasm to the tipping point”

 The issue of Quality Control is brought up in section 7.2 of the chapter where we learn that companies usually require “mechanisms that indicate, through external recognition or other means, the quality and credibility of a company’s sustainability performance” and that there is a is a spectrum of quality control mechanisms ranging from those that are internal or voluntary to those that are increasingly external and obligatory.  We learn that the pursuit of sustainable tourism is often “hindered by the fact that external enforcement of regulations and laws are “seldom promulgated as part of an integrated and formal programme of achieving sustainable tourism outcomes in cooperation with tourism stakeolder groups. These laws therefore may be either excessive or inadequate.”
What isn’t addressed is WHY they may be inadequate from a structural perspective.  What is keeping external enforcement so lax?  We usually think of Codes of conduct, which Weaver says are often called “codes of ethics” for sustainable tourism, as falling into three categories, those intended for tourists, for host communities, or the tourism industry (page 111).  Codes that are intended for tourists can be drivers of real change, since what Weaver calls “deep green tourists” create demand for better practices by host communities and the tourism industry.  But codes intended for host communities and industry operators  are “almost always based on the principle of voluntary adherence and predicated on the principle of self-regulation so that the member company is responsible for ensuring its own compliance”. This is described as “leaving the fox watching the hen house” with one of the weaknesses described as being the tendency for there to be “unscrupulous companies putting their voluntary adherence to vague directives of the APECT/PATA codes, giving them a certified “quality tourism product” , giving false evidence of their green credentials, even though all they sometimes do is restate what is required by law”. The cynical perspective Weaver talks about comes from a “lack of evidence that existing codes of conduct are being monitored and enforced” while the principles themselves are “not intended to create new legal liabilities, expand existing rights or obligations, waive legal defenses or otherwise  affect the legal position of any endorsing company, and are not intended to be used against an endorser in any legal proceeding for any purpose.” (p. 113).

And why should they? If we are operating under the scarcity model, and the incentive for the tourism industry or host country is to differentiate its product, ecological and social sustainability become just two of a vast array of distinguishing features whereby a destination can attract consumers.  To make money you can go green, or you can serve cheap alcohol and high end call girls.  Your call.  And since governments cater to business interests, unless a given activity (say the downwind pollution spewing cement factory in Boca Chica) has a direct effect on the resorts upwind, or the blaring music from the public beach restaurants reaches the resort beach to spoil its tranquility, there is no reason to try and make broad legislation that affects all development across the board.  It isn’t just that the fox is watching its own chicken coop, for the logic of the market says that as islands like the Dominican Republic degrade there will be more and more of a reason for certain resorts, like the exclusive Punta Cana resort featured in Conde Nast Traveler as one of the most sustainable tourist destinations on the planet, to continue to up their game, the fox will indeed ensure that the chickens are healthy.  It is the structural problem of how this logic affects the whole, affects the wider tourist destination ecosystem, that is the problem.  
Competition for the Ecolabels and the independent certification and accreditation from third parties that give them credence and value, can ironically  lead to a situation where their value is wholly dependent on there being enough unlabeled and inadequate operations to cause a significant price differential. The laws of supply and demand rule all businesses. Ecolabels are defined by Font, 2001 as ‘methods to standardize the promotion of environmental claims by following compliance to set criteria, generally based on third party, impartial verification (p 115).”  But standardization and set criteria are diametrically opposed concepts to differentiation and high quality.  There is an assumption that the reason government regulation works is because businesses supposedly fear the possibility that “government will step in and increase its own (external and obligatory) regulations if industry does not regulate itself in a responsible and credible manner” says Weaver on page 114. “The potential loss of power over its own affairs is therefore an enormous incentive to adhere to codes of conduct as well as higher forms of internal and voluntary quality control (Mason and Mowforth 1996). P. 114.
But something is rotten in the state of Denmark, and the Dominican Republic and everywhere else for that matter.  What happens when we apply the concept of Walrasian Equilibrium to tourism as L. Dwyer does in “The International Handbook on the Economics of Tourism” (page 302), and investigate whether the fundamental interrelationships between sectors are driving distributional effects on policies for resource allocation as certain tourist destinations go green? And what happens when we apply Immanuel Wallerstein’s World Systems Theory which suggests that there is a world economic system in which some countries benefit precisely because others are exploited?  How can we think about Sustainable Tourism if we apply Andre Gunder Frank’s insights about the 5000 year history of this torturous equilibrium and its inevitability, creating what he called “The Development of Underdevelopment” where both are two aspects of the same system and underdeveloped or unsustainable areas are the direct result of their relationship with the developed or sustainable areas?

Weaver tells us that the Elements of Success include the need for  sponsors of a given code of Quality to “make available  examples of tangible practices and objectives” so that best practices may be imitated by others and bad practices avoided.  But if the value added prospects of a tourism business rely on green innovations then the best practices become a kind of “intellectual property” which competitive tourism operators are loath to share with others so they can protect their brand.   Weaver talks about industry incentives for participation and notes that “A primary reason for the tourism industry to seek affiliation and certification with ecolables is to demonstrate external recognition for their sustainability  practices and accomplishments… through the credibility this provides they are more likely to generate  positive publicity that translates into increased business from green consumers, leverage to charge a premium price and a reduced likelihood of government intervention.” He reminds us that “A successful ecolabel is one that is widely recognized and patronized by consumers and other stakeholders, thereby conferring  the bearer with a competitive advantage over rival products that do NOT possess the ecolabel…(p. 116). “ He tells us that Buckley in 2002 suggested that a successful ecolabel must have suffiecient ‘guts’ or the substantive criteria that distinguishes  products with the ecolabel from those who do not have it, as well as ‘teeth’ or procedures that ensure the use of the ecolabel only where it is warranted”.

But when you take World Systems Theory into account, this sounds problematic.  To me it smacks of a lack of imagination.  What happens when we reach a standard practice state of sustainability and justice, and create a world where the use of the desired ecolabel is ALWAYS warrented? Are we suggesting that we don’t believe such a world is possible? Is sustainability really only some fantasy utopia we can only dream about?  What happens to tourism when everyone everywhere is engaged in best practices? Does the green sector simply vanish and with it the premium that was the driving incentive in the first place?
Right now this may seem inconceivable to proponents of ecolabels and certifications who face a daily struggle even getting tourists and tour operators to be aware they even exist and are vitally concerned with tourist destinations falling off the decline end of Butler’s S curve.  Weaver says on page 125 “A major weakness in tourism ecolabelling is the continuing lack of consumer recognition, which reduces the incentive for tourism companies to become involved in such schemes and thus leads to a second major problem of lackluster corporate participation levels. “  He cautions against greenwashing and the ability of companies to “obtain an ecolabel on the basis of meeting certain  (e.g.  recycling and energy reduction) while continuing to engage in  activities such as habitat clearance that are harmful to the environment but not included in the criteria inventory”.  He worries that “laudable environmental practices may disguise unethical social and cultural practices” and concludes that “ultimately there is still no widespread belief or convincing evidence that products with ecolabels are demonstrably more sustainable than those without, even though Green Globe 21 appears to be ‘pulling ahead of the pack’ through its three-tier award structure that culminates in the third party certification of an array of relevant  indicators.”
The irony is that on the one hand there aren’t enough ecolabels in some areas and on the other there are TOO MANY ecolabels in another while the “actual number of participating companies is still negligible relative to the total potential number of companies and its geographic and sectoral scope” and may be “too ambitious relative to its resources” so that “the scheme therefore has a long way to go before it can be regarded as an effective mechanism  for attaining sustainable tourism development within the tourism industry.” P. 125

The Mohonk Agreement has set in motion the creation of the Global  Sustainable Tourism Stewardship Council (STSC) to take a macroscopic approach to all of this, but it still doesn’t seem to be exploring the perspective of World Systems there and doesn’t seem to question the zero-sum scarcity model logic that undergirds almost all Capitalist enterprises.   Right now the concern over the global awards accreditation protocols is that awards for those practicing sustainability are “good opportunities to recognize  and publicize  purported  industry leaders and role models” which would seem movement toward Maloney’s 16% advice that we remessage and rebrand toward “social proof”, but Weaver also contends that “awards are concurrently intended to serve as public relations exercises for their sponsors” with “a strong element of self-interest” that “dilutes their integrity and is evident in the inclusion of sponsor names in the award titles and in high profile presentation ceremonies. It is for this reason, and the added factor that only a limited number of qualifiying products can obtain awards, that the latter are positioned below ecolables within the quality control spectrum.”
After a whole chapter listing all the various ecolabelling and credentialing and quality assurance schemes out there, and decrying the failure of the systems to yet have their intended effect, Weaver summarizes saying “they should not be dismissed out of hand, since well-constructed codes facilitate in a non-threatening way the initial engagement in sustainability (i.e. a minimalist model). They also provide a common ground for networking and a basis for identifying suitable indicators, they exercise a moral suasion over adherents and they help to pre-empt further government regulation if they actually support sustainable outcomes.”
The problem, unexplored in the chapter, is the unexplained yet underlying internal  contradictions of the world capitalist system.  When Weaver says “The Use of the Ecolabel must be restricted to certified tourism products that are broadly recognized, at least by green tourists, as being SUPERIOR to uncertified COMPETING Products” and tells us that “THIS RECOGNITION ALLOWS THE PRODUCT TO COMMAND A PRICE PREMIUM AND HENCE SERVES AS A FINANCIAL INCENTIVE FOR COMPANIES TO PARTICIPATE IN THE ECOLABEL AS LONG AS ITS ACQUISITION  IS NOT TOO ONEROURS OR EXPENSIVE A PROCESS” he is tacitly admitting that the “code of conduct” he described as a “code of ethics” aiming to “influence the attitudes and behavior of those claiming adherence to it” on page 111 isn’t a code of ethics at all.  It is merely business as usual, no ethics required. The attitude of the capitalist world system isn’t influenced in the least, and the behavior is still driven by market share.   He states the problem that “it is not at all clear that ecolabelled products are adequately differentiated from non-ecolabelled products” rather than the problem that differentiation is arguably got us into trouble in the first place.

The real question is “why are there any unhealthy, unsustainable and unjust places and behaviors in the first place? Why do we even need ecolabels at all? Shouldn’t SUSTAINABILITY AND JUSTICE BE BUSINESS AS USUAL?

In conclusion, I would like to ask you to imagine a world in which there is nothing special about being green. How would you run your tourism business and make a living on a truly green planet where beautiful, safe, healthy, exciting landscapes surrounded us all, where wild places and charismatic wildlife were everywhere we looked, as they were for most of human history. How would you run your tourism business where every beach was clean and unspoiled and relaxation in nature could be found in everyone’s backyard? Has tourism been on the rise since the industrial revolution and especially post  World War II in part because much of the world has become so unlivable and  undesirable that people are willing to save up for year just to spend a week or two in places that still look much as they did before the industrial revolution and a few world wars wrecked things everywhere else?
Is sustainable tourism, by operating according to a zero-sum scarcity model, continuing to perpetuate the very underdevelopment it says it seeks to repair.  Is it insidiously making the chasm between the few haves who have access to desirable destinations and  other 84% who don’t larger? 
What do you think?
And… what are you going to do about it?

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