Policy and process

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

Public commitment
Salient issues
Human rights strategy
Supplier Code of Conduct
Contract clauses
Human Resources Policy
Commitment for Diversity & Inclusion
Commitment against Sexual Exploitation of Children
Certification (third-party)
Public commitment

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).

Examples

Resources

Templates: 

  • The Roundtable Human Rights in Tourism provides a template for the commitment in English and German for its members:
  • BSR/Business Call to Action (2018): Human Rights Policy Tool. The tool contains a checklist, examples and a template to develop a human rights policy.

Guidance:

Recommendations

This commitment can be a separate document or integrated in existing company codes of conduct.

Salient issues

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).

This short introductory video explains a key concept of the UN Guiding Principles Reporting Framework: Salient human rights issues.

Examples

Resources

Guidance: 

  • The UNGP Reporting Framework provides more detailed guidance on how to identify salient human rights issues: Salient Human Rights Issues

Recommendations

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. 

Human rights strategy

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.

Examples

Resources

Guidance:

Supplier Code of Conduct

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). 

Examples

Resources

Guidance:

Contract clauses

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:

  • Transportation service providers
  • Cruises
  • Trekking companies
  • Airlines
  • Volunteering organisations
  • Souvenir shops
  • Others

To identify human rights risks, see the value chain risk analysis on this website.

Resources

Guidance on specific sectors: 

Recommendations

Such specific requirements can also be integrated into the Supplier Code of Conduct.

Human Resources Policy

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.

Examples

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.  

  • Expedia Group Equal Employment Opportunity Policy: Expedia Group developed a company commitment to a discrimination and harassment free environment. Moreover, the policy highlights the dedication to ensuring equal employment opportunities for persons with disabilities and defines a process for reporting and investigating complaints concerning discrimination or harassment. In addition, Expedia Group rolled out an end-to-end recruitment process that addresses and eliminates bias by focusing on gender neutral language in job postings, providing interview training, having at least one female in each interview panel at leadership levels and tracking hiring pipeline data by gender representation. To further develop the diversity and inclusion efforts for employees, customers, business partners and communities, a global network of Employee Resource Groups supports employees to connect and share knowledge and experience regarding diversity and inclusion.  
  • Expedia Group Employee Code of Conduct: In addition, Expedia Group developed an employee code of conduct called The Boarding Pass, including a specific commitment to inclusion and diversity. In order to promote an inclusive work environment, Expedia Group commits to offer fair treatment and equal access to opportunities in all aspects of employment, including recruitment, hiring, training, compensation, promotion, discipline and termination, regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, age, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, caregiver status, marital status, family status and political affiliation as well as mental illness, socioeconomic status or background or physical appearance. 
  • Hyatt LGBTQI* Workplace Equality: Hyatt is repeatedly noticed by doing a great job when it comes to supporting the LGBTQI* community. Not limiting their engagement to yearly pride initiatives but practicing their commitment and implementing their policies year-round, they were the first major hotel company to offer domestic partner benefits over 20 years ago and have included sexual orientation and gender identity in their Equal Employment Opportunity policy since 2000 and 2002, respectively. Today, they take it a step further by offering spousal and partner benefits to their LGBTQI* employees, as well as transgender-inclusive health insurance coverage. 
  • Marriott International Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: Marriott engages in cultural competence and other training programs to sustain cultural legacy and is known for its award-winning cultural engagement program TakeCare. Moreover, the hotel company has implemented further strategies to increase the number of women and people of color in leadership roles and launched a program called #LoveTravels Beyond Barriers that supports strategies to promote inclusion, equality, peace and human rights. 

Resources

Guidance:

  • The ILO Helpdesk for Business provides information on a wide range of labour issues and can be contacted with any related question (assistance [at] ilo [dot] org)
  • The World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) published high-level "Inclusion & Diversity Guidelines" for travel and tourism businesses. The advice is divided into four pillars, including developing a supportive system, creating safe spaces, supporting an agile system and exemplifying inclusion and diversity. Examples of the guidelines include a bias-free framework for staff remuneration, integration of diversity and inclusion goals, creating safe spaces for employees and inclusive marketing, media and communication standards. 
  • PhocusWire and Expedia Group published a white paper called "An Inclusion Imperative: Gender Diversity in the Travel Industry", supporting travel companies to address bias, stand up for marginalized groups and become a more diverse and inclusive company. The report examines why diversity and inclusion matters in the workplace and highlights interesting case studies that illustrate how companies can continually strive to be more diverse and more inclusive. Moreover, it provides practical tips and recommendations as well as an action plan to develop and implement a gender diversity strategy.
  • The European Commission published a guide called "Diversity within small and medium-sized enterprises", for European SME managers wishing to improve the competitiveness and the social and economic performance of their business by building on the diversity of their workforce. It contains basic information, best practices and simple and concrete keys to embark on diversity management and implement a diversity policy. 
  • The Global Compact Network UK published a document called "Black Lives Matter & Business", supporting businesses wishing to make their workplaces better, especially for their Black colleagues and future Black recruits. It provides a business case to support the moral case for an inclusive workplace; identifies key challenges; suggests solutions, acknowledging that one size does not fit all; and signposts resources that can provide deeper understanding.
  • Shift published a briefing note called "Black Lives Matter", setting out some of the implications of the responsibility to address systemic racism at the workplace. 
  • The Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business and Colors Rainbow published a guide called "LGBT+ Equality in the Workplace" to support employers in better understanding the key concepts related to LGBT+ rights. 
  • Phocuswire published an article called "Travel with pride - 5 steps to supporting LGBTQ+ business travelers", highlighting five steps business travel managers can take to support diverse traveler groups. 
  • The Harvard Business Review published an interesting article called "Are Non-Christian Employees Represented in Your Holiday Policies?", providing 7 practical steps to accommodate a religiously diverse workplace.
  • The Global Compact Netzwerk Deutschland and the AllBright Stiftung published a paper called "Gender Diversity in Unternehmen strategisch erreichen", focusing in gender diversity and women empowerment in the workplace. (German only) 

Recommendations

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.  

Commitment for Diversity & Inclusion

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:

  • racial/ethnic background,
  • ability and neurodiversity,
  • body size,
  • language,
  • socioeconomic status, 
  • religious affiliation, 
  • gender identity/expression,
  • sexual orientation,
  • age. 

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. 

Examples

  • Visit Baltimore Warm Welcome Pledge: Tourism businesses across Baltimore are coming together to show their commitment to support and embrace diversity, equity and inclusion and foster a welcoming environment for all travelers. By participating in the Warm Welcome program, businesses pledge to use supportive and affirming language, inspire proactive allyship, encourage productive dialogue about race and bias, and foster active listening and learning. Visit Baltimore, the official destination sales and marketing organization for Baltimore, supports participating organizations with formal DEI training for staff and relevant stakeholders and a "Warm Welcome" toolkit, including additional DEI resources and "Warm Welcome" buttons for staff to show their commitment to the program. 
  • WestJet Women in Aviation: Gender equality is lacking in many areas of travel, especially in aviation. WestJet is among those leading the field for the inclusion of women in the flight deck. However, the airline committed to reducing the gender gap in the leadership team and expanding its support of women in aviation. Launching a Women in Leadership Program and joining forces with Elevate Aviation, WestJet promotes gender balance by reflecting the diverse opportunities and connecting women with a network of support. The campaign ties in with a larger initiative recently launched by IATA. The "25 by 2025" initiative aims to promote gender diversity within the aviation industry and was publicly signed by 30 airline CEOs. By committing to this pledge, among other measures, these airlines agree to report annually on key diversity metrics and increase the number of women in senior positions and under-represented areas up to a minimum of 25% by 2025. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) will support the airlines providing a forum for sharing best practices. 
  • Expedia Group CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ pledge: Expedia Group signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion™ pledge, committing to working to mobilize the travel industry to make major, actionable steps to promote diversity & inclusion. CEO Action is the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance equality in the workplace. Alongside 800+ other companies, Expedia Group pledges to continue to make its workplaces trusting places to adress diversity and inclusion, implement and expand unconscious bias education, share best practices as well as create and share strategic diversity and inclusion plans. Along with other members, Expedia Group launched the Inclusive Travel Subgroup for sharing key learnings, publishing research with data and case studies and host roundtables and shared inclusion trainings. In addition, Expedia Group made a public commitment to eliminating the gender pay gap. Being a founding member of the 2020 Pay Equity Principles, Expedia Group is involved in the formation of the Employers for Pay Equity (EPE) steering committee and drives a cross-industry strategy to elevate and model the role of businesses in closing the gender pay gap. 
  • Intrepid Travel published an Ethical Marketing Policy including a clear action plan resulting in a commitment to be more inclusive. To follow up on the progress of this commitment, they will report on these efforts as part of the Annual Report, starting in 2022.
  • The Women's Empowerment Principles (WEPs) are a set of principles offering guidance to businesses on how to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in the workplace. By joining the WEPs community and signing the CEO Statement of Support for the WEPs, businesses signal commitment to gender equality at the highest levels of the company. To join forces, they work collaboratively in multistakeholder networks to foster business practices that empower women (e.g. equal pay for work of equal value, gender-responsive supply chain practices and zero tolerance against sexual harassment in the workplace).
  • The members of the pink pillow Berlin Collection pledge themselves to a number of principles to welcome LGBTQI* travelers. 
  • Accor has signed the Global Business a​nd Disability Charter of the International Labour Organization and has adopted its 10 principles. Moreover, their diversity ambition is structured around 4 priorities, namely gender diversity and equality, integration of people with disabilities, richness of social, ethnic, racial and cultural diversity and LGBTQ+ inclusion.
  • Makingtrax assists adventure companies to provide relevant information and adapt their products for travelers with disabilities. Their Trax Seal serves as a public commitment and visual statement for clients to ascertain the signing business offers an inclusive travel experience. 

Resources

Commitment against Sexual Exploitation of Children

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.

Introduction to the Code (short for “The Code of Conduct for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation in Travel and Tourism”)

Resources

Certification (third-party)

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.

Examples

Click here to find tour operators certified by TourCert.

Click here to find tour operators certified by Travelife for Tour Operators and Travel Agents.

Resources

Guidance:

  • The Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC) provides a list of credible certification bodies which have been recognised or accredited by GSTC to certify tour operators:
    • “recognised” (audit criteria align with the GSTC Criteria)
    • “accredited” (audit criteria & process align with GSTC Criteria):
    • GSTC also provides sample questions to ask a certification body when looking for the most appropriate third-party certification.

Learn more

Find more information in the Resource Centre.