Corporate Social Responsibility for Nature Tourism
along the coast of Jalisco.
Past misconceptions about tourism as an environmentally benign industry have led
to a poor and slow integration of responsible environmental and social
considerations into tourism planning and development. It was not until the late
1980s that the industry began to address this issue, and acknowledged the
importance of sustainable tourism as the industry's new direction. The suggestion
that alternative tourism was the answer for all negative impacts of tourism between
the late 1980s and early 1990s was later found to be flawed. Subsequently, there
arose the need for a new way of thinking: namely that sustainable tourism requires
a collective and conscious effort on the part of all tourism businesses,
governmental policymakers and planners, as well as the key stakeholders, to
prioritize environmental and social issues in their daily undertakings. In succeeding
years it would be recognized that the tourism industry, particularly hotels as a key
tourism business, needed to deal with its environmental and social obligations
(Kasim, 2006). Although nature tourism had been suggested, since it‟s earliest
years, as a more responsible form of tourism, few studies have been carried out to
There are several definitions of nature tourism, but most of them agree that it is a
form of tourism with a strong dependence on nature, and is concerned with social
and natural resource conservation within the area where tourism activity takes
place. Nature tourism is defined by SECTUR (2007) as those trips designed to
imbue recreational activities, that are in direct contact with expressions of nature
and culture, with a positive attitude and a commitment to participate in its
In Mexico, tourism has become a priority activity and a strategic sector of the
economy, and in this context nature tourism has been heavily promoted in a variety
of rural areas of the country. The purpose is to create and strengthen small and
medium local organizations, which have a greater social and environmental
responsibility. The main achievement of nature tourism has been with respect to
environmental issues, as this sector has played a successful role in promoting
changes of rationality among the inhabitants of the localities with respect to the
importance of ecosystems preservation.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) can be defined as the active and voluntary
organizations‟ contribution to social, economic, and environmental improvement
that enhances their competitive position and market value. It includes the positive
impacts that these practices generate in different areas with which a company has
a relationship (Alea-García, 2007).
Critics and proponents of CSR still debate a number of related concerns, ranging
from Milton Friedman‟s ideas (1970) about freedom, to neoliberal concepts,
including the relationship to the fundamental purpose, nature of business and
questionable motives for engaging in CSR (Nocera, 2006). However, in general,
the business world outside of Mexico has changed its conceptualization about the
objectives to be pursued, from an exclusively economic mission to a
socioeconomic one with a serious moral responsibility to society. However, in our
country, businesses small and medium sized (SMEs) still consider the core value
as being one of obtaining profits. Among the challenges facing CSR in Mexico, are
that it is considered a peripheral activity by the business organization and often
confused with philanthropy. Reporting on sustainability performance is now an
important way for organizations to manage their impact on sustainable
development as it is widely accepted that organizations have not only a
responsibility but also a great ability to exert positive change on the state of the
world‟s economic, environmental and social conditions.
The CSR concept encompasses a set of practices, strategies and business
management systems that seek a new balance between economic, environmental
and social dimensions. There are many ways to measure the CSR (Correa, Flynn
and Amit, 2004), but one of the most recent efforts in this respect was performed
between 2004 and 2007 by Confederació de Cooperatives de Catalunya, who
developed the RSE.COOP program, a pilot project designed to adapt the
cooperative economy to structural economic change. It involved the revaluation of
Social Responsibility in Spain, using a process that created the ADVALUA brand to
identify those companies that implement social responsibility policies.
The coastal area of Jalisco State, which is over 300 km in length, is divided in five
municipalities all of which are characterized by high migration. Most of them are
rural and are geared to Puerto Vallarta at the north with its extensive tourism
development. Chávez-Dagostino et al. (2011) identified more than 50 tourism-
oriented SMEs in the region. In order to analyze the current state and impacts of
nature tourism on the coast of Jalisco in Mexico, the strength of CSR was
assessed in selected nature tourism SMEs.
Five nature tourism SMEs were selected and included two cooperative
organizations1, one of these an ejido2. The heads of the organizations were
interviewed and responded to a set of 14 questions prepared according to the
basic assessment proposed by RSE.COOP (2007) program (Table 1). A database
was developed and processed using ADVALUA software that yielded results in the
economic, social and environmental dimensions. The working group assigned a
score for each item from 0-3, where 0 means “absence” and 3 “absolutely”. The
total corporation score and score per area were calculated by sum of scored items
Social organization composed of workers with common interests based on principles of solidarity and mutual
assistance to satisfy the collective needs through economic activity (DOF, 1994).
Ejido is an used term by the Mexican agrarian law to mean all land of ”communal property ” that receives through land
distribution, a core group of people through a process called “dotación”
and then compared.
Table 1. CSR questionnaire structure
AREA QUESTION. The organization…
1. has a formal statement of its values , mission, vision and long-term objectives and a systematic control of them?
E 2. prioritize purchases of products made locally and has a policy regarding such purchases?
O 3. has a quality management system, which incorporates SR ?
N 4. have a marketing plan and control their products / services and the communications it makes to its stakeholders,
O besides focusing its efforts on the generation of products / services?
I 5. keeps track of sales, destination of surplus, the distribution of debts, taxes and subsidies received, and the evolution of
C the profits?
E 6. has an explicit commitment to the environment, sets goals to minimize its impact?
V 7.have established mechanisms to encourage “good” waste management, water and energy?
R 8. have established mechanisms to reduce different types of pollution?
N. 9. encourages participation, information and training of people in the process of environmental improvement?
10. establishes channels of communication with its stakeholders to promote transparency?
S 11. have defined corporate values and ethical principles of action for each stakeholder group to guide its work in the
O short and long term?
C 12. has incorporated mechanisms to ensure equality in recruitment, hiring, training, promotion and remuneration?
A 13. strives for local community development through strategies and active participation?
L 14. cares about its customers beyond the purely legal or binding aspects?
Ecotours de Mexico is a private ecotourism enterprise, created in 1996, with 17
workers located in the municipality of Puerto Vallarta. It obtained 32 out of 42
points (high level) in CSR evaluation, and its best performance was in the
environmental area followed by the economic sector. Ecotours offers whale and
dolphin watching, turtle camp activities, adventures with crocodiles, as well as
diving, and is guided by a team of biologists and naturalists (Figure 1, Table 2).
El Cielito hotel-cabins in the municipality of Cabo Corrientes, is an ecological
cooperative, with 34 partners using the organizational structure of an ejido. It
began offering tourist services in 2006. El Cielito offers accommodation and a
restaurant overlooking the sea, a walk through the town and beach area,
participation in the turtle camp activities and snorkeling, although most activities
take place at the request of customers. The score obtained in the evaluation was
30 (medium level) and its best performance was in the social area and its worst
with respect to the environment.
Rancho Andrea opened in 2000 with the help of a federal grant. It now operates
with five people and offers kayaking, swimming, water-skiing, fishing and canoeing
near the dam Cajón de Peñas, as well as horseback riding and bird watching in the
municipality of Tomatlán. The total score obtained was 28 (medium level) and the
enterprise‟s best performance was within the social area.
Ecoadventures is dedicated to organizing camping travel groups at low cost in
Cadillac Ranch near Barra de Navidad. The operation offers rappel, boat rides,
flora and fauna observation, scuba diving and snorkeling, as well as hiking in rivers
and mangroves. It opened in 2000, is private company, and operates with just one
person for most of the year. Its score was 34 and this gave it the highest ranking of
the five SMEs investigated; its poorest performance was in economic area.
SCST Miguel López de Legazpi is a 29-partner cooperative, and has offered
tourism activities since year 2000. It is primarily dedicated to boat rentals, giving
rides to bird watching, marine life and fishing in the bay of Barra de Navidad. Its
CSR score was the lowest of all (23 points), which puts it very near to a „bad„
performance. Its worst performance was in the economic and environmental
Figure 1. CSR score obtained for each question by organizations.
Table 2. Performance and percentage obtained by area and corporation.
High Medium Bad i
The social area (questions10-14) got the highest total score if compared to
environment and economic areas that respectively obtained 84%, 66% and 58% e
(Tables 1, 2; Fig. 1). The lowest scores were given to questions 5 and 7, both as a d
result of a lack of experience and training, as well as the perception that these i
actions were irrelevant for three of the SMEs. u
The highest scores in the social area were to questions 10 and 13. In these
instances, Ecotours de Mexico scores poorly, because it is located within Puerto
Vallarta, whereas the other operations are located in small villages where B
interaction with the local community is easier. a
Esrock y Leichty (1998) found a correlation between the size of a company and the
extent it promotes SR. This finding cannot explain why Ecoadventures got the best
CSR score with just one worker, nor why SCST Miguel López (the second in size
by the number of workers) obtained the lowest value. As predicted, the
cooperatives had high performance in the social area.
CSR in Jalisco coast area is best represented by the social actions of the SMEs
followed by environmental and economical activities.
An unexpected result was that the cooperatives in general demonstrated a lower
level of SR than the private organizations.
Generally there was a shortage of good practices demonstrated by the responses
of the organizations to the economic questions.
Nature tourism is not creating many jobs in the coast of Jalisco and gender equity
is not existent, as males constitute the majority in most of the SMEs evaluated.
There was only a medium performance indicated in environment area. This could
threaten the reduction of negative impacts generated by nature tourism.
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