Over the last forty years, there has been an increasing concern about the state of our environment and the earth’s ability to carry the development activities of its population (Ball, Jones, Kirk and Lockwood, 2003). During the 1990s, a considerable share of the international discussion was about the implication of industrial growth on the planet; scientists andpoliticians of the industrialized world agreed that if the current rate of economic growth continues, and if the countries of the former Soviet Union and the Third World reach the same levels of economic growth, then the extent to which natural resources are lost forever, and the damages suffered by the earth’s delicate ecosystem, will not permit the world as we know it to survive (Webster, 2000). Ifthere is not a change in behaviour towards the environment the world will end up living on a bare planet where rivers will be malodorous, the air will be toxic, and the beaches will be filled of dead fish (Bellamy, 1992:xv).
Therefore, the deterioration of the environment represents a main concern of modern society, and this in turn affects companies’ strategies (Álvarez, Burgos and Céspedes, 2001).In this way, protecting the natural environment and the social recognition of this protection have turned out to be a strategic objective for companies, especially at the heart of their operations (Burgos, 2000, cited in Burgos, Cano and Céspedes, 2002). It has become essential for all businesses to include environmental practices into day-to-day management and operational systems.
In theservice industry, as reported by Foster, Sampson and Dunn (2000), environmental practices have followed the same path but at a much slower pace. Because they do not usually have a readily apparent smokestack, they have not been target of as much attention as traditional manufacturing companies. For many years, people involved with service industries have considered that environmental concerns are onlyapplicable to industrial and manufacturing companies which are usually thought to be the polluting industries. Nevertheless, all eyes are today on tourism and its environmental impacts. Although hospitality and tourism businesses are often small and consume relatively small proportions of the earth’s finite resources and produce low levels of emissions and waste, they are the world’s largestindustry in terms of turnover and job creation.
Tourism, as mentioned by Holjevac (2003), is the most important industry in the world in terms of the numbers of employees and its effect on the social and economical development of a region or country. The WTTC (1999) reports that the tourism industry directly creates 200 million jobs worldwide and accounts for 11 per cent of the world’s GPD. With agrowth rate of approximately 6 per cent per year, it is also one of the fastest growing industries (Mathieson and Wall, 1996). The World Tourism Organisation (1998) forecasts that international arrivals will reach 1046 million people in the year 2010 rising to 1602 million in 2020. Given this growth in travel and tourism and the expected demand for hospitality services, the global hospitality’senvironmental impact must be contained (Wade, 1999). A tourism industry that grows without consideration to society and the natural environment attempts to destroy the vital resources that it depends upon (Radisson SAS Hotels and Resorts, 2002)
Where once tourism was regarded as essentially a non-consumptive use of resources, it is now considered as being highly dependent on sometimes fragile,finite natural and cultural resources (MaLellan, 1997). Like any other industry, as mentioned by Kirk (1996), tourism uses resources, generates waste and creates environmental, cultural, social costs, and benefits in the process. All hotels, no matter how small, place a burden on the environment and the community in which they operate (Radisson SAS Hotels and Resorts, 2002). Moreover, hotels buy...