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Last updated: February 12, 2019

Assignment on Sustainability Monitoring System
center850009088120May 14, 2018
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13548771Ugyen Lhaden

As defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Monitoring is a continuing function that uses systematic collection of data on specified indicators to provide management and the main stakeholders of an ongoing development intervention with indications of the extent of progress and achievement of objectives and progress in the use of allocated funds. In other words, a monitoring system is essentially the checking of outcomes against expectations which are expressed as indicators for the purpose of data collection and therefore, a monitoring system is only as good as its indicators. An indicator is a measureable part of a system that represents a particular attribute, characteristics or property of a system.
Organisations implement monitoring systems for two primary reasons; i.e. learning and accountability. Monitoring systems help organisations learn to better manage and helps achieve accountability about the implementation of a plan (UNICEF, 2003). For the monitoring system to help organisations achieve these two objectives, there are four essential building block consisting of clear vision, an enabling environment, technical capacity and infrastructure for collection of information and its use (Lahey, n.d.). The organisation should have clear vision of the basic concepts and potential uses of the system which should be supported by an enabling environment which includes the commitment to implement and also to sustain it over a long period of time to allow it to develop and mature. Since monitoring is all about collecting information and using it to make things better, the implementing organisation should have the technical capacity and infrastructure to collect credible and relevant information and use those information to provide how well a program or a project is achieving its intended objectives.
In addition to the four essential building blocks, organisations involved in creating a monitoring system should consider four interlinked components which consist of planning, implementing, participation and communication (European commission, 2017). Like any other system, a good monitoring system should start with adequate planning on identifying information to guide the project strategy and meet external reporting requirements. The planning should include on how to gather, what indicators to use and how to analyse this information. Once the planning is completed, the approach to gather and managing information needs to be made very clear. The type and source of information will depend on the outputs, outcomes and impacts being measured for project operations. A monitoring system might not be able to achieve its intended objectives if it is known only to the organisation or few people. Therefore, it is important to involve stakeholders in reflecting critically for information analysis and discussion. And finally the results need to be communicated to the people who need to use it for necessary actions.
The four components can be further explained to make any monitoring system more specific and effective using the eleven reporting principles of the Global Reporting Initiative sustainability reporting guidelines. The eleven principles are discussed is depth in the following paragraphs.
The eleven principles are grouped under four broad categories based on their nature and objective. Principles of transparency, inclusiveness and auditability are considered to be the basis of a good monitoring system. The other eight principles relates to what, when and how to report information.
A monitoring system should fully disclose all the processes, procedures, and assumptions for transparency and to gain credibility. Since a lot of stakeholders are impacted both positively and negatively by a monitoring system, it is important that all the relevant stakeholder are systematically engaged early-on in the process of designing the system and also in the later stages of implementation to continually enhance the quality of its reports. In addition, for the monitoring system to be considered credible, reported data and information should be attested for its reliability by an internal auditors or external assurance providers. All information material to relevant stakeholders be should be disclosed in sufficient detail as required by all pertinent regulations. A good monitoring system is one that takes into consideration the specific needs of different stakeholders and as a result it is important that the monitoring system remains vibrant in understanding the needs of its users and stay relevant. For the information from the monitoring system to be useful and to add meaning, it should form part of a bigger context which is considered to have significant meaning. The information produced by the monitoring system should be accurate with a degree of exactness and low margin of error to enable user to make decisions with certain degree of confidence. For any information to be reliable, it should avoid bias in selection and presentation of information and should strive to provide a balanced account of the activity for which it is setup. A monitoring system is considered to be effective if the information from this year can be compared with the information from previous period. This can be achieved only when the organisation can maintain consistency in the boundary and scope of its reports, disclose any changes, and re-state previously reported information. Lastly, a monitoring system is effective, it the information generated is understandable by its users and available in a timely manner.
A monitoring system is as good as its indicators because, an indicator shows how well the system is working (UNECF, 2005). Depending on the type of information they are measuring, indicators can be classified as quantitative measuring the number of tourism certifications held by a destination and qualitative measuring employee satisfaction (APEC, 2013). The type and characteristics of can indicator will differ depending on the nature of the system, but a good indictor should be clear, relevant, easy to understand, reliable, adequate, and economic and based on accessible data. Good indicators provide a large amount of benefits that include:
Better decision-making
Identification of potential issues
Identification of impacts
Performance measurement of the implementation of plans and management activities
Identification of limits and opportunities
Greater accountability
Constant monitoring that can lead to continuous improvement
According to the Community Environmental Council (1995, pp.12-13), good indicators should:
Reflect something basic and fundamental to the long-term economic, social or environmental health of a community over generations.
be understood and accepted by the community as a valid sign of sustainability or symptom of distress
have interest and appeal for use by local media in monitoring, reporting and analysing general trends toward or away from sustainable community practices; and
Be statistically and practically measurable in a geographical area, preferably comparable to other cities/communities, and yield valid data.
The basic principles of developing indicators are: use existing data, re-evaluate underlying assumptions, integrate long-term focus with short-term change, relate indicators to individual and vested stakeholders, identify the direction of sustainability, present indicators as a whole system and determine linkages. It is also important to use a simple and easy to understand format for presenting data so that decision makers or other stakeholders can base on the existing data to seek further information that addresses issues of primary concerns in the community.
Bhutan Tourism Corporation Ltd (BTCL), is the oldest and the most experienced travel company of the Kingdom of Bhutan. The company was founded in 1974 and since its corporatization in 1991, it has served more than 30,000 visitors from around the world with the best possible travel experience. From 2018 beginning, the company also stared domestic tour packages for the Bhutanese. For visitors from outside of Bhutan, currently, the company has its offices in India, Australia, Thailand, Japan, and in the USA. The representative office in India offers various tour packages, hotels and flight bookings for the regional tourists, looks after the marketing and sales of regional tourism to Bhutan. The office in Australia also looks after booking from New Zealand.
Bhutan Tourism Corporation Ltd has best trained and experienced Bhutanese guides to take care of the different needs of the different visitors from all around the globe. It offers the traveller a superior range of hotels, guest houses and restaurants as well as their own fleet of vehicles that is safe, efficient and comfortable, accompanied by multilingual personnel of experienced guides. Bhutan Tourism Corporation Ltd. has grown gradually and its existence over the decades sets itself different from other travel companies. The company has access to nation-wide network of traditionally designed hotels, restaurants, lodges and cafeterias and this helps the company to assure its travellers of warmth and comfort. The various trekking routes chosen for the visitors are along the scenic camping sites.
It is leading the tourism industry in Bhutan with highly diversified services including cultural tours, treks, international conferences, and taking care of special interest of varying visitor by planning and offering custom travel programs. The cultural tours organised by the company aims to give the interested visitors an experience of the Bhutanese culture by travelling to different parts of the country where the visitors can peek into the Bhutanese rural lifestyle through homestays in rural areas. Some of the activities under this tour include visits to temples, fortresses, sacred religious sites and the visits to the villages in rural Bhutan to offer a unique experience of Bhutanese lifestyle. Another dominating activity of this service is exploring Bhutanese art, handicrafts textiles and paintings. The other most famous service offered is trekking along the old trade routes and trails and some famous mountains which can go as high as 7000m above the sea level. The trekking activities are well organized and accompanied by veteran guides, competent assistants, experienced cooks and a horseman. Other tours include butterfly tour for guests in the field of Lepidoptera or simply butterfly lovers, Enfield motorcycle tours, hosting conferences, Kayaking and white water rafting or farmhouse stays for the traditionally inquisitive minds.

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Today, BTCL is a leading destination management company with a high reputation for providing services that are novel, tailored and thoroughly professional. Its membership to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), American Society of Travel Agents (ASTA), Japanese Association of Travel Agents (JATA) and Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO) signifies its quality of ‘service at the highest level’ and indicates that the company is the synonym for tourism in Bhutan.

The chosen enterprise is a tourism company and its sustainability dimensions will assessed from a sustainable tourism perspective. Sustainable tourism is defined by the Asia Pacific Economic Corporation as the tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts generated in addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities. As a tourism enterprise, all the three dimensions of sustainability are relevant to the company. As a sustainable tourism, BTCL should maintain a high level of tourist satisfaction and ensure a meaningful experience to tourists, raising their awareness about sustainability issues and promoting sustainable tourism practices amongst them.

2842260145986500The socio-cultural dimension concerns the organisation’s impacts on the social systems within which it operates and it can influence the organisation’s intangible assets, such as its human capital and reputation.
The economic dimension refers to generation of prosperity at different levels of society and addresses the cost effectiveness of all economic activities. It is concerned about the organisation’s impacts, both positive and negative, on the economic circumstances of its stakeholders and on economic systems at various level (sustainability reporting guidelines, 2002). The measurement of this dimension includes the financial performance reported by the company’s annual report and also includes report on the manner in which the organisation affects the stakeholders with whom it has direct and indirect economic interactions and not just the shareholders and the management.
The environmental dimension refers to the conservation and management of resources, including natural and cultural resources, biodiversity and waste management. In a broader sense, it concerns an organisation’s impacts on living and non-living natural systems, including ecosystems, land, air and water.
For Bhutan Tourism Corporation Ltd to become a sustainable tourism company, it should:
Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

Respect socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.

Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural resources and biodiversity.


Indicator Name Definition Measurement
Energy Report on energy use and type of source Energy consumption per tourist night
% of use of more renewable energy
Water Report on use of water for providing services Fresh water consumption per tourist/night
Biodiversity Impacts on biodiversity associated with trekking activities Loss of flora and fauna due to tourism activity on the route
% of trail and margins degraded
Number of tourists on trial, at one time, in a given time period or season, per year
Waste Method by which waste is treated, including composting, reuse, recycling, or landfilling. Volume of waste recycled (percent or per resident per year
Existence of recycling facility
Suppliers Performance of suppliers relative to environmental components in food supply. % of suppliers providing organic produce
% of food imported from outside Bhutan
Compliance Compliance with all applicable international declarations/ conventions/treaties, and national, sub-national, regional, and local regulations associated with environmental issues. Incidents of and fines for non-compliance with applicable rules and regulations
Awards received for compliance
Transport Significant environmental impacts of emission by transportation used for logistical purposes in taking the visitors from place to place. Average travel (km) by tourists from the previous destination to current destination
% of environmental friendly transport alternatives
Source: Adapted from GRI sustainability Reporting Guidelines (2002).

Bhutan adopted Gross National Happiness (GNH) as the development philosophy to measure national wellbeing in a more holistic manner and achieving a balance between the four pillars of GNH is considered the key to achieving GNH. The four pillars are good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, preservation and promotion of culture and environmental conservation and these four pillars are given equal importance. As a business enterprise in Bhutan, BTCL is expected to work towards sustainable tourism by balancing between the various dimensions. However, for the purpose of this assignment, the environmental dimension is considered for assessing of indicators for monitoring.

Achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process and it requires constant monitoring of impacts, introducing the necessary preventive and/or corrective measures whenever necessary. The remaining section of the assignment talks about indicators to measure the environmental dimension as shown in the table 1 below. Bhutan Tourism Corporation Ltd. will use seven indicators which are further bifurcated into twelve measurement indexes to make the measurement more clear and accurate.
The indicators used to measure the environmental dimension of sustainability for BTCL includes use of energy and water, its impact on bio-diversity and waste management, environmental consciousness of its food suppliers and the employees and the impact on environment through the choice of transportation mode for the purpose of travelling the tourist from one corner of the country to the other. The different measurement tools used are the type of energy used, the amount of waste being recycled, the amount of fresh water used, the loss of flora and fauna, organic suppliers, violation of rules and regulations and the type of transportation.


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