Sustainability in Tourism: Tackling the TCFD Challenge for SMEs

A Tricky Transition: SMEs and the TCFD Framework

Tourism, a vibrant economic sector known for cultural exchanges, contributes significantly to environmental degradation. As such, integrating sustainable practices is now more crucial than ever. The Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) framework emerged as a key tool emphasizing the importance of climate-related risks in financial and operational planning. The potential of this framework is globally recognized, but the implementation presents challenges, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), the backbone of the tourism industry.

These SMEs, known for their local touch, unique services, and job creation, often hit a wall when adopting TCFD reporting. The issues range from needing specialized knowledge in climate science, financial modelling, risk management, and scenario analyses to the complexities of collating and standardizing data. Furthermore, the voluntary nature of the TCFD framework may result in inconsistent adoption rates, with SMEs either deprioritizing TCFD reporting due to operational concerns or not seeing long-term benefits.

Turning Challenges into Opportunities: Collaborations and Standardization

But these obstacles should not be seen as barriers. Instead, they can be opportunities for growth and development. SMEs can leverage industry collaborations and partnerships to overcome resource and knowledge limitations. By joining industry networks and partnering with larger entities or non-governmental organizations, SMEs can learn from best practices and access necessary resources and expertise. Governments and industry associations can facilitate such collaborative frameworks, providing knowledge exchange, technological transfer, and capacity-building platforms.

In addition, developing sector-specific metrics and methodologies can standardize TCFD reporting among SMEs, simplifying the aggregation and comparison of data. SMEs can also push for incentives and support mechanisms encouraging TCFD adoption, such as tax breaks, grants, or low-interest loans for businesses investing in sustainable practices.

The Bigger Picture: Beyond Compliance to Resilience and Competitiveness

Adopting TCFD reporting does more than ensure compliance; it aids in identifying and mitigating climate-related risks, bolstering resilience, and transitioning to low-carbon operations. It can improve market competitiveness for SMEs by attracting environmentally conscious consumers and investors and strengthening brand reputation.

SMEs in the tourism sector can manage the challenges on the path towards full TCFD adoption. These enterprises can overcome these obstacles through collaboration, innovation, and supportive policies, contributing to a resilient and environmentally sustainable tourism industry.

A Look Ahead: Future Challenges and the Role of ESG

Despite the progress made, the industry faces several future challenges. These include the effects of rising inflation, high quit rates in the sector, and changing consumer demands in the aftermath of the global pandemic. Leading hospitality companies have started setting science-based or net zero targets, tracking and reducing carbon emissions across various operations.


Considering Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) factors throughout the lifecycle of hotel assets and disclosing information on ESG risks and opportunities that impact business value is becoming increasingly critical. This is particularly important for the hospitality industry’s fixed, long-term assets, where retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency can often be more costly than designing sustainable buildings during the development stage. Various ESG metrics, from climate change mitigation to diversity and inclusion, labour practices, water management, and governance, provide tangible ways for the hospitality industry to integrate sustainability into its operations.

Host Hotel & Resorts: 2022 Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD) Report

In conclusion, SMEs in the tourism sector can navigate the challenges on the path towards full TCFD adoption. The tourism industry can make significant strides towards a more sustainable future through collaboration, innovation, resilience, and the strategic use of ESG metrics. After all, the journey towards sustainability is not a sprint but a marathon, and every step taken brings us closer to our goal.