Learning about sustainability in small tourism firms: The case of Sustainable Travel Finland

Tutkimustuotokset: Kirjoitus lehdessä tai erikoisnumeron toimittaminenArtikkeliTieteellinenvertaisarvioitu


Over recent decades, sustainability labels have established themselves as important management tools in the tourism and hospitality industries. The idea behind sustainability labelling is that it provides a guarantee that an independent assessment (e.g., a third-party audit) has been conducted and that the company (i.e., its services and practices) has been checked against a defined set of criteria on environmental, social, and cultural issues. Sustainability labels are voluntary in nature and go beyond the minimum requirements set out in regulations and laws. As such, they are an essential part of today’s tourism business operations because they support not only responsible consumption practices but also sustainability learning and knowledge creation in tourism organizations. Although sustainability labels have become common practice in tourism, there are concerns about the accessibility of labelling for small firms. Indeed, as several studies have indicated, small tourism firms may experience sustainability labelling processes as tedious, demanding, time-consuming, and of low priority because of the uncertain benefits they can bring to the firm’s daily business operations. Considering that small firms form the backbone of the tourism industry, sustainability labels need to be made more accessible to them. To that end, we need to get insights into the practices and learning processes triggered by a labelling scheme in a small business context. This is important if we consider how little attention is given to organizational learning within small tourism firms. By organizational learning, we understand the learning processes and activities that occur within organizational settings. In this research note, we address this gap in the literature by examining organizational learning for sustainability in a small tourism firm during the procedure of applying for the new Finnish sustainable tourism label and programme known by the name of Sustainable Travel Finland (STF). More precisely, we attempt to answer the research question: What kind of learning stages are visible in the sustainability learning process of a small tourism firm? Using empirical material collected within an action research study in a small tourism firm adopting STF, we illustrate the three sustainability learning stages that became evident while the firm went through the different steps of the STF programme. We then discuss some lessons about the adoption of STF in small tourism firms.
TilaJulkaistu - jouluk. 2022
OKM-julkaisutyyppiA1 Vertaisarvioitu alkuperäisartikkeli


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