The Topas Ecolodge
The word “ecolodge” describes a type of accommodation that is environmentally friendly. Ecolodges aim to minimize their negative impacts on the environment and they make this very clear in their promotional materials. They often receive official certificates confirming that they fulfil the criteria of sustainable development.
The Topas Ecolodge is located in the mountains of northern Vietnam. It targets three types of visitors: wealthy tourists and jet-setters who seek an exotic, nature-based holiday experience; young backpackers keen to see a relatively undeveloped part of Asia; and environmental scientists working on research or conservation projects.
The mountains around the ecolodge offer opportunities for exploration and adventure. Visitors can go mountain-biking or hiking up the many mountain trails with a local guide, or they may prefer to visit a local market town. The abundant bio-diversity of fauna and flora contributes to the tourist appeal of the area.
The triple bottom line
Together, economic, social and ecological sustainability create “the three pillars of sustainable development”, often referred to as the “triple bottom line”. The “triple bottom line” stresses that business decisions should not only consider financial aspects, but also the well-being of local communities and the natural environment. Although this is relevant for all business functions, it is particularly relevant for operations, as manufacturing activities are likely to have more negative impacts than marketing campaigns or financial transactions. Often the “triple bottom line” remains an ideal rather than a reality, as economic considerations drive most commercial organizations.
Consider Topas Ecolodge – what strategies and practices can you identify for:
a) economic sustainability – how is the lodge promoting its business and encouraging customers to spend money?
b) social sustainability – is the business doing anything to support the local community?
c) ecological sustainability – what is being done to minimize the negative impact on the environment?
Critical thinking questions
1. Think about the triple bottom line diagram – is it in balance for Topas? If not, which branch of sustainability seems to be the main focus?
2. What advice would you give the owners of the ecolodge to help them balance the three branches equally?
3. Compare the Topas Ecolodge to another eco-tourism resort, such as the Karibuni Eco-Cottages in Kenya. Discuss the balance of the triple bottom line for this business. How does it differ?
4. Concept-based learning – social and environmental sustainability have a clear link to business ethics, but how important are the concepts of innovation and change in the management of sustainable businesses?