For maximum impact of a company’s human rights engagement and ownership of such an engagement by all employees, human rights must be systematically integrated into corporate policies and processes as well as companies’ overall business cultures.
A company’s commitment to human rights and its strategy for implementing this commitment build the basis for responsibly conducting business. The commitment should be approved at the most senior management level and be implemented throughout the company.
When developing the corporate human rights strategy, human rights related issues should be integrated into existing policies and processes wherever possible. For instance, into the company Code of Conduct, the business strategy, the human resource manual, the product development guidelines and existing monitoring processes. With this, duplications of documents and processes can be avoided and ownership by all company departments ensured.
The reference framework for human rights related strategies, policies, and commitments should always be the internationally recognized human rights, i.e. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the Labour Standards of the International Labour Organisation.
Once the relevant policies have been established, employees, subcontractors, suppliers, business partners, and customers should be informed about the company’s approach to human rights. For training and capacity building measures, see the related measure card.
⇒ Click here to identify your value chain-related human rights risks
As the basis for all their human rights related engagement, all tour operators should publish a written commitment to human rights. The commitment should be publicly available and communicated internally and externally to all personnel, business partners, and other relevant parties. It is the key element for defining and planning processes and for internal and external communication.
Employees should be trained regularly on the content of the Code of Conduct (for more information, see measure card on Training & capacity building).
This commitment can be a separate document or integrated in existing company codes of conduct.
All companies are unique and their potential human rights impacts are different. They therefore have to be assessed individually, depending on size, (value chain) structure, product portfolio, destinations, etc.
There are, however, issues that typically emerge in specific elements of the tourism value chain (see value chain risk assessment on this website) or in specific countries (see country risk analysis on this website).
The full list of potential human rights risks can be overwhelming for a small tour operator. Operators should prioritize issues with the most severe impact (“salient issues”). The focus of this prioritization should be on the harm caused to potentially affected people rather than on the risk to the business (e.g. reputation).
The red and orange colour marking of each «Risk Card» (see value chain risk assessment on this website) provides a first estimate of the severity of this specific risk and helps tour operators identify the most salient issues. High risks are marked red, medium risks are marked orange.
The corporate human rights strategy should guide the implementation of the company’s commitment to respect human rights and be developed on the basis of an analysis of the company’s potential human rights impacts (e.g. based on a risk analysis conducted in line with the “get started”-tool).
The strategy should be embedded into existing strategies and guidelines such as the human resources manual, the sustainability strategy, and product development guidelines.
The human rights strategy should include an action plan with clear targets, measures, roles and responsibilities, and a focus on the roll-out and monitoring.
Companies should develop a Supplier Code of Conduct which explains the company’s expectations towards its suppliers, in line with its Code of Conduct and its commitment to human rights. Based on potential risks identified by the company, the Supplier Code of Conduct contains clauses on various issues such as environmental protection, workers’ rights, children’s rights, modern slavery, customer rights and community impacts.
The Supplier Code of Conduct should be signed by all direct suppliers of a company (integrated in contracts) and binds them to the company’s provisions. Suppliers’ compliance with the Supplier Code of Conduct should be the object of regular reviews and violations should systematically be addressed (see also measure card on Supplier assessments).
For specific human rights risks related to particular tour services, specific contract clauses can be integrated into existing contracts with business partners and suppliers. This applies, for example, to agreements with:
To identify human rights risks, see the value chain risk analysis on this website.
Guidance on specific sectors:
Such specific requirements can also be integrated into the Supplier Code of Conduct.
Companies should ensure that their working contracts are compliant with all applicable international, national and local laws and regulations, industry minimum standards and any other relevant statutory requirements. In the case of overlaps, companies should follow the most stringent requirements.
This applies to all staff working on behalf of tour operators, including seasonal staff and employees hired through external agencies.
Tour operators should make sure the human resources policy respects international and national labour standards, such as fair employment contracts, commitment to non-discrimination and equal opportunities in hiring, zero tolerance to forced, compulsory and child labour, as well as the freedom of association and the right to collectively bargain.
Moreover, supporting Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is vital to creating and maintaining a successful workplace.
Respecting worker's rights
Promoting diverse and inclusive workplaces
Striving to increase workplace diversity is no longer an empty slogan but a strategic business decision. Understanding how each element of DEI builds upon the other is the base to create a work environment that is inclusive of all individuals. In the workplace, diversity means the presence of differences in race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, physical ability, age and socioeconomic class etc. Taking this idea a step further, inclusion means the practice of ensuring that employees feel supported in being their authentic selves which creates a sense of belonging in the workplace and maintains diversity. Promoting equity means the act of ensuring that processes are fair and provide equal possible outcomes for every individual.
Local industry associations can provide information on local laws and applicable industry standards.
To tackle the explicit barriers that women and minority groups face in reaching the senior ranks of tourism businesses, please have a look at these pratical steps to start the process and accelerate diversity in the workplace. The article focuses on the hotel industry, but learnings equally apply to other tourism sectors.
Movements like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, as well as callouts for LGBTQI* inclusivity and recent pushes for workplace diversity, have brought issues such as racism and discrimination to the fore for many companies.
While media headlines were flooded with protests for social justice, and tourism was brought to a halt for months, statements of solidarity and public commitments were easy to make. Demonstrating their commitment to diversity and inclusion, businesses not only profess to tackle discrimination but also lay the foundation for improving their business performance.
Now that tourism is starting to return, businesses are under pressure to practice those values of diversity and inclusion.
For a specific commitment focused on diversity & inclusion, it's important to consider various components of individual and social identity such as:
However, a public statements concerning diversity and inclusion must not be a marketing campaign but a concept that is pursued continuously and sustainably.
Travel and tourism companies must create effective strategies to foster a culture of equality that promotes diversity and inclusion and drives innovation and competitive advantage. An actionable, fully commited strategy promoting diversity and inclusion supports a common understanding and provides orientation - not only for the employees but for all relevant stakeholders.
For a specific commitment focused on fighting the sexual exploitation of children in tourism, tour operators can sign and implement The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism (“The Code”). The Code aims to address the sexual exploitation of children in travel and tourism by raising awareness and training tourism staff to recognise and prevent potential abuse. The Code further aims to build zero tolerance environments where travellers understand that these crimes are unacceptable and offenders will be prosecuted.
In addition, tour operators can publish an own commitment against Sexual Exploitation of Children. For instance, Exo Travel has banned any interaction between foreign visitors and children under 12 years old – such as through school or orphanage visits - in its offers. In its child safe policy, the company highlights the guiding principles of its engagement for child protection, which are based on recommendations by Friends International. The policy also outlines measures and activities Exo Travel has already implemented towards protecting children, such as the development of policies, communications towards customers and in newsletters, as well as training and awareness raising of guides and sales staff.
Once the human rights policy has been developed and the related processes successfully implemented, a tour operator might want to be recognised for its commitment and efforts. Here third-party certification might be interesting for the company.
Click here to find tour operators certified by TourCert.
Click here to find tour operators certified by Travelife for Tour Operators and Travel Agents.
Find more information in the Resource Centre.