Keywords: small enterprises, stakeholder engagement, ecotourism, environmental protection, ecological economics
Stakeholder engagement and environmental protection: a new framework for small ecotourism operators
Small, sustainable enterprises involved in ecotourism, cultural tourism, organic farming and sustainable forestry are reliant on natural capital for their viability. Identifying and engaging stakeholders are two issues central to enterprise sustainability. Many small enterprises do not undertake stakeholder engagement due to perceptions of high costs incurred and organisational ignorance of stakeholder engagement theory. Engaging stakeholders creates many benefits, including environmental protection, a social license to operate, opportunities for local community involvement, increased information and knowledge flows and conflict mitigation. But there are some risks to engagement as well: uncovering problems that an organisation may prefer to avoid, raising issues of power and equity, revealing conflict and implementing changes mandated to the organisation's operations all present challenges to the enterprise. This paper revises existing stakeholder engagement methodologies to provide small enterprises with an affordable and viable framework for engaging stakeholders.