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The word “sustainable” is one of the most commonly used, perhaps overused, words in business. For such a frequently used word, there remains a lot of confusion around the term. In fact, Advertising Age called “sustainability” one of 2010’s “jargoniest” words. This primer looks at sustainability and its relevance to tourism.
For all the misuse of the word, “sustainability” is based on two really straightforward ideas. The first is that we should manage today's resources in a way that future generations can also benefit from them. As such, managing for sustainability is a strategic activity. Sustainability is not just about being “green”. Often the environment is the first thing that comes to mind when people consider sustainability, but the concept also includes strategic management of cultural and heritage resources.
The second idea behind sustainability is the importance of balancing impacts and benefits. Sustainable development principles recognize that decisions we make today have impacts, not only economic impacts, but on the environment and the social cultural life of a community. Most business people understand the term, “the bottom line”. In accounting the bottom line represents the difference between costs and revenues. Sustainability takes that idea and extends it to the environment and society. Sustainable tourism principles advocate that decision makers take the economic, social and environmental costs and benefits into account in long term planning. This process of balancing the three core elements – people, planet, profits – over the long term is called managing the “triple bottom line”.
By Dr. Jonathon Day, Purdue Tourism and Hospitality Research Center