Sustainability at WWF – More than just a panda logo
There are many impressive personalities that do their share for sustainable tourism. With unique stories and great motivations, we introduce these to you.
Martina von Münchhausen is a tourism expert at WWF Germany and works hard that green tourism is strengthened. She has given us a glimpse into her work at WWF and tells us, why WWF is more than “just” a panda logo and how she personally is mindful concerning sustainability.
Which challenges is WWF currently faced with, especially in the tourism segment?
The destruction of coast habitats due to the fast-growing tourism infrastructure and the connected over-use of resources without paying attention to sustainability standards is the largest threat and challenge. Especially in developing countries.
We all have the panda logo in front of us when thinking of WWF and first of all think of animal protection. But the organization is much more diverse – how exactly do the projects by WWF in tourism look like?
WWF is an environmental foundation – not an animal protection organization. WWF does not certify with ecological badges, but supports the use of existing, independent certification systems, for example in the areas fish and wood: MSC, FSC. In tourism, the GSTC (Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria).
Also, WWF works in the area of sustainable tourism, in order to reduce the footprint in the main business of tourism.
This affects the whole “supply chain” of a trip, from the booking until the return. Thereby, WWF counts on the collaboration with businesses and institutions, as well as project work in the destinations together with the worldwide WWF network and stake holders.
In regions, for example, it is about the support of sustainable tourism in protected areas (Brazil or Mediterranean area), an improved coast development for the protection of biodiversity and eco systems in Mexico or sustainable tourism activities on the Galapagos Islands.
WWF develops collaborations with tourism providers, in order to design vacations especially sustainable. In your opinion, which is the most important aspect that companies have to pay attention to?
Working at the main business of tourism: transport (arrival and departure) is eco-friendly, which accommodations the tour operator chooses, is there a sustainable sourcing and a resource-saving management? Fair working conditions and environmentally friendly activities on site. Does the trip support the lokal community?
What do you personally do to live more eco-friendly?
I buy products from sustainable sourcing, try to fly as less as possible and if, then in connection with a compensation to climate protection projects. Also, I avoid the consumption of resource intensive and short-term articles of daily use and the waste of food.
Which negative travel experiences concerning sustainability have you made that are stuck in your memory?
That is difficult to answer. The tourism work of WWF opens glimpses behind the scenes that leave a mark. Illegal hotel buildings, burning waste dumps, poor accommodations for people, who work in tourism, coast destruction through artificial beaches, hotels without sewage plants etc.
Divers and snorkelers, who trample on corals or mountains of plastic waste in the ocean. But there are always positive counter-examples.
In the end, tourism is an economical branch that can tackle poverty. It offers education and job chances and can give nature and landscapes of a country a value, which the local community can use.
Do you see a positive development in the thinking of society concerning the awareness of sustainability? How?
According to reputable surveys, the people want more sustainability – even on vacation. In reality, sustainable travel products are still a niche and have not arrived in the mass segment.
Especially long distance flights get cheaper and many countries and their governments are interested in growth first and foremost.
Consumer do not question, how it can be possible that a trip only costs 500 Euro but that at a different sport – for them not visible – a high price is paid for it.
Whether that is through incredibly low wages or the destruction of natural habitats.
Would you reveal your personal tips, how we can take over sustainable responsibility during travels?
Choose a tour operator, a hotel or a provider that is trustworthy considering sustainability. You can recognize these immediately at the information that should be easily accessible to the consumers. If this is not the case, ask. At the travel agency or at the hotels and operators directly.
Seek out providers that have certified hotels on offer or where their company policies include sustainability.
In tourism, ecology is not the only important factor. Social factors also play a large role. In some places, sustainable tourism can be the only existentially livelihood.
Thereby, it also helps to look past the large travel providers and look for niche products. In travel agencies, the topic sustainability has not yet arrived sufficiently. Use green travel portals on the internet or operators with a certification.
Thank you very much to Martina von Münchhausen for the interview, the glimpse into her work at WWF and her personal views.