Sustainable tourism: an analysis of the state of the certificate system in the accommodation sector

Arjan Michael Strub

Studenteropgave: Masterprojekt


We currently face large environmental problems such as climate change and need to decrease our negative impacts on nature. In addition, there are social problems in developed and developing countries alike that call for social innovation to create social value. In this perspective, the accommodation sector creates 1% of the greenhouse gas emissions and at times has a negative impact on people and cultures if they are not run respectfully. However, these establishments can create social value and create bridges between tourists and local communities if managed in a sustainable manner. Therefore, the purpose of this paper is to research sustainability certificates as a tool for property managers to gain legitimacy and create social value. This thesis aims to contribute to the discussion of sustainable tourism and social value creation in the accommodation sector by studying the current state worldwide and its multi- dimensional nature. This is done by analysing the certificates with a focus on the social and cultural criteria as well as the dynamics between the strategic and the institutional perspectives through Suchman’s legitimacy theory and DiMaggio’s institutional isomorphism. The data shows that sustainability is implemented scarcely and the reason for which this is the case is a small pressure upon decision makers to implement a sustainable management plan. This becomes evident through the leisure guests who have a gap in knowledge about sustainability and do not trust that properties are creating social value but most importantly have other priorities. These translate to a lack of request for sustainable properties and no pressure for managers to change their ways. In contrast, business guests and professionals in the sector are pushing sustainability forward through coercive and normative pressures but these have not been strong enough to make an impact. In addition though, the study shows that there is a large demand for social value measurement but this request cannot be satisfied fully since social value is subjective and thus not quantifiable. Therefore, sustainability is currently underperforming and certificates are not a strong enough tool for properties to create the social value which is in their potential. To improve, certificates need to become more transparent by divulging data and improve the social and cultural criteria they request establishments to comply with. In addition, a Balanced score- card method should be altered to fit the needs of the accommodation sector with a focus upon increasing stakeholder involvement thus helping managers create more social value.

UddannelserMaster i Socialt Entreprenørskab og Management (SEM), (Masteruddannelse) Master
Udgivelsesdato4 jul. 2016
VejledereChristian Franklin Svensson


  • Sustainable tourism
  • social value
  • accommodation sector