Zürich Tourism has offset a good 4,000 tonnes of CO2 from company-internal flights and other emissions in the last ten years. With the "Back to the Green Island" carbon offset project in Madagascar, these funds have made it possible for over 1900 people to feel the benefit of better air quality, shorter cooking times and enormous time savings. Thanks to 336 efficient stoves, 24 hectares of forest have been saved.
In addition to offsetting emissions, Zürich Tourism also focuses on local sustainability and climate protection through a wide range of awareness activities and participation in the myclimate «Cause We Care» initiative.
myclimate: Daniela Schöb, how did the collaboration with myclimate come about?
Daniela Schöb: Zürich Tourism had already made efforts to achieve sustainability before the partnership with myclimate. In 2009, we signed the Swiss Tourism Sustainability Charter. The ISO 14001 environmental management certification followed a year later. In the same year, the decision was made to become the first tourism organisation in Switzerland to offset all emissions – caused by business travel, printed materials, electricity and water consumption, waste, and event organisation – via myclimate.
Alongside offsetting, what else have you put in place with myclimate?
The partnership with myclimate was strengthened again in 2014. In September, we launched the myclimate Audio Adventure together. In this audio climate trail through the city of Zurich, both young and old can learn more about climate protection in Zurich free of charge. In spring 2015, Zürich Tourism also supported the Youth Encounter on Sustainability project – an initiative that strengthens dialogue worldwide with young students and professionals who are interested in sustainability.
You’ve set up an internal sustainability circle. What kind of outcomes have you had so far?
Starting in 2015, we have been using the new sustainability strategy to set goals on ecological, social and economic levels. Subsequently, we brought an internal sustainability circle into life to embed these ideas across the entire organisation and to work together on meaningful activities to reach these goals.
Although sustainability has become a watchword in our teams, the organisation still has to face critical questions and complex challenges: Can tourism ever be sustainable? What is the local role for a private destination marketing organisation? How long will growth strategies remain appropriate? How does Zürich Tourism deal with the fact that international long-distance markets are becoming increasingly important in economic terms, while at the same time the world must urgently introduce measures to combat climate change?
The whole team is striving to examine its own actions critically, to acknowledge the biggest levers and to find innovative and sustainable answers together with all stakeholders.
Zürich Tourism is constantly implementing ideas that come from employees. – such as internal CO2 budgeting How is getting people involved working in practice?
Exactly, CO2 budgeting was introduced in 2018 based on an employee suggestion. At the beginning of each year, employees forecast their CO2 consumption. It is exciting to see that company’s air travel has been declining since 2019. Whether this is a direct consequence of this budgeting remains unclear.
As a result of other emissions (printed matter, relocation to larger offices), Zürich Tourism’s ecological footprint has continued to increase slightly. This is why Zürich Tourism will be going over the books and put together a new sustainability plan this year. The intention is to take the opinions, expectations and ideas of all relevant internal and external stakeholders into account.
Alongside internal measures, you’re also planning to focus on raising travellers’ awareness. Can you tell us about everything you’re planning?
At the moment, Zürich Tourism is looking to strengthen direct communication and information transfer with travellers. Last year, the first step was taken by launching the focus website Sustainable Congress City Zurich, which aims to persuade event organisers that Zurich is the perfect place for a sustainable event.
To get leisure guests involved in taking responsibility, climate-friendly offers have been on the Zürich Tourism website for some time already. Starting spring 2020 and thanks to the «Cause We Care» initiative, it will even be possible to enjoy all offers in a climate-neutral way. This includes things such as day trips to the mountains, which are very popular with international guests.
Does your organisation see itself as a pioneer of change with its more than ten years of commitment?
Zürich Tourism sees its role in raising awareness of its employees, partners and guests in terms ofsustainability and in marketing Zurich as a sustainable and smart travel destination. The people in charge are happy that the organisation has now been engaging with this issue for ten years and that things have been running long enough to make this complex issue tangible and comprehensible for all employees. This means that Zürich Tourism can now also fulfil its corporate value of “setting an example” via guest lectures and training courses in which employees share their knowledge with anyone who’s interested – because the major challenges of our time can only be tackled together.