My first approach to the idea of Stewardship was many years ago when reading the article written by Davis, J.H.; Schoorman, F.D. & Donaldson, L. titled “Toward a Stewardship Theory of Management”, published by the Academy of Management Review (1997, 22, 1, pp.20-47).
This seminal paper was oriented to propose the foundations of a new corporate governance system, under the basis of a different view of the relationship between shareholders and top managers, overcoming the theoretical limits of the dominant Agency Theory.
In a nutshell, the Agency Theory represents an economic approach to governance, with a series of assumptions about the “model of man”, which draw a reductionist model of his behaviour: individualistic, opportunistic, self-serving (the “homo economicus” mould).
As clearly simplistic, additional theory was needed to explain other types of human behaviour, and this was found in literature beyond the economic perspective; to be more specific on the sociological and psychological sciences.
The new steward mould was built based on an opposite “model of man”: collectivistic, pro-organizational and trustworthy, looking for the convergence of interest. Therefore, it is believed that:
-by working toward organizational, collective ends, personal needs are met;
-its interests are aligned with that of the corporation and its owners.
Therefore, a steward is motivated to maximize organizational performance, thereby satisfying the interests of shareholders.
Because the steward perceives greater utility in cooperative than in individualistic behaviour, and behaves accordingly, this behaviour can be considered rational.
The table below summarizes the main psychological and situational (or sociological) mechanisms characterizing the stewardship approach:
-Motivation: higher order needs (growth, achievement, self-actualization), intrinsic.
-Identification: high value commitment.
-Power: Personal (expert, referent).
-Management philosophy: involvement oriented.
-Risk orientation: trust.
-Time frame: long term.
-Objective: performance enhancement.
-Cultural differences: collectivism, lower power distance.
Source: Own elaboration based on Davis, Schoorman and Donaldson (1997).
-Managers whose needs are based on growth, achievement, and self-actualization; who are intrinsically motivated; who identify with their organizations and highly committed to organizational values, are more likely to serve organizational ends.
-Situations in which the managerial philosophy is based on involvement and trust; the culture is based on collectivism and low power distance, generally result in principal (shareholders)-steward (top managers) relationship.
This stewardship approach has been also connected with the idea of good governance, and its corresponding codes, enlarging its scope from its original corporate perspective to a more comprehensive view embracing the society as a whole.
In this venue, I can argue that steward behaviour is a right way to facilitate collaboration among stakeholders through a convergence of interests, and to promote a more responsible management on available (limited) current resources, thinking on future generations.
2.-APPLICATION TO THE TOURISM INDUSTRY
Unemployment is, likely, the most serious problem and concern in many European regions, especially in Southern countries. The expectations of net employment generation, at least in the next few years, are very limited in quantitative terms. These expectations are even worse when watching the quality of that employment. In addition, the official data are clear when pointing out the youth as deeply affected by this crisis.
Generally speaking, except for the new technologies (ICTs, bio-genetics and others) and some particular niches such as, using a colourful symbolism, those of green employment (environment and tourism), blue one (energies, namely clean and renewable energies) and white one (health and care of elderly/handicapped people as a result of an increasingly aging population), the remaining industries have a problematic growth forecast. Particularly in Spain, almost all the international employment markets have better potential conditions, which add some more drama to this landscape, which demands revisited our productive modelseriously, including the education system at all levels, paying much more attention to Research, Development and Innovation efforts.
Within this context, and ethical (although I prefer to say responsible) approach to the management of scarce resources is more necessary than ever, both collectively and individually. As any other value, this has to be assumed by each individual, and consistently applied in our daily actions, bring it to the organizations and groups were we belong to. Don’t wait that others do this job: do it yourself.
Sustainability is the great word, the paradigm of the moment. Although it is not, by far, a new concept among specialists in the academia, now it is part of the vocabulary of common citizenship, including business people (their agendas and Board of Directors).
Nevertheless, when a word becomes popular and is overused, not always properly, it tends to lose its authentic profiles, creating confusion about its meaning. For example:
-A sustainable economy is not an artificially sustained economy with endless grants and subsidies, although at the beginning they were justified to signal a particular path to follow.
-Sustainable economies are not those considering parameters of environmental protection only, forgetting the social dimension of their decisions (for instance employment, without going further in times of severe crisis). They are those able to find a certain room to balance their economic, social and environmental dimensions.
The initial wave of quality management certifications has been followed by others: safety, environmental management systems… and we have a new one now (see ISO 26000): that of responsibility (usually called Corporate Social Responsibility). Perhaps the term responsibility is (or can be) better understood as sustainability: it is the adoption of responsibleeconomic, environmental and social behaviours.
Social responsibility has been generally conceptualized as the option to go beyond the mere and strict enforcement of laws, therefore, as something voluntarily self-imposed as an element of differentiation, although institutional pressures (coercive, normative and mimetic pressures –for more details see the contributions of the Institutional Theory-) are very powerful forces to align and standardize behaviours in a certain way. Another debate is whether these targets (certainly laudable) and such measures improve the competitiveness of companies (in a short and medium / long term) in a globalized economy (economic sustainability), as in the tourism industry. Or if it has been inserted at the corporate level in the strategic decision-making process, or, by the contrary, it is a mere marketing action of image washing.
Going to the particular activity of tourism, and with very basic questions:
-Have all municipalities the potential to invest and develop tourism? They have the right if they choose that path, of course, but would not it be more responsible, for efficient and effective, the concentration of public resources (now scarcer than ever) in those places and economic activities with higher chances of success? Each territory must make its bet for its own future, but it does not have to go through tourism necessarily, as it seems in recent times.
-Have the authorities the courage to define what is known as the carrying capacity of a specific place or resource, so that the impact on the environment (the environment that we enjoy today is our main asset for the future) is not too aggressive and, therefore, tourists and residents can receive services with satisfactory levels of quality? For sure that in the minds of all of us there are tourist areas whose planning seems to have led to an overrun in the number of people that can coexist in harmony with each other and with the environment in peak periods. Avoid overcrowding perception is essential for not killing the “goose that lays the golden eggs.”
-Is a responsible economic bet the replacement of stable industrial jobs, with a high level of skills, productivity and added value, for seasonal jobs, medium to low skilled, with low productivity and added value, which are the very majority of our tourist industry? Would not it be better to bet, too, in favour of new technologies and innovation (in a broad sense) in the tourism sector, that is, in favour of the generation of brainpower instead of manpower (cheap and temporary)? Our competitiveness has to pass through innovation, by the transfer of scientific, technical, artistic knowledge to the productive tissue, by the enhancement of the new generated knowledge through new companies. But this requires a strong support to rigorous and cutting-edge research and innovative companies (usually SMEs) related to tourism, able to develop new solutions, create new products, and provide services with high added value. Concerning research, today we are very far from supporting a sustainable tourism economy.
Sustainability (not just environmental) is the effect of a number of causes. To achieve the desired result of building a sustainable tourism destination, a powerful lever is available to be used: responsible tourism will lead to sustainable tourism.
Responsible tourism, as opposed to the predator mass tourism – clearly and fortunately in decline – is one which is well aware of its impacts on the local environment, respecting and promoting the greatest benefit for it (for local stakeholders). Only a question as a provocative example: does the “all inclusive” model respond to this concept?
The wave of Corporate Social Responsibility has also come to tourism, as demonstrated in the Madrid Declaration of April 2010 (“Towards a Socially Responsible Tourism Model”: http://ec.europa.eu/enterprise/sectors/tourism/files/madrid_stakeholders_conference/declaration_madrid_en.pdf) , developed in the framework of the Spanish Presidency of the European Union. It states that: “Corporate Social Responsibility is essential in the tourist industry and should be therefore taken into consideration in tourism activities and practices at destination, enterprise and tourist level. The raising of public awareness and promotion of responsible attitudes of European tourists is also essential in order to increase the demand for responsible tourist products and services in Europe.”
This is the new wave, which, in my view, is here to stay. As stated from the findings of that statement, “The Member States declare their willingness…To promote responsible and ethical tourism and, especially, social, environmental, cultural and economic sustainability of tourism”. I’d add that to move in this direction there is something as basic as the awareness and education of the local people.
Together with sustainability, accessibility is another concept closely related to stewardship, when talking about tourism. The aim is to increase the participation of people with disabilities in the tourism phenomenon, based on a fundamental principle of fairness and respect for the rights of these citizens with special needs.
To make progress in this field, it is relevant to consider:
-Actions to prevent discrimination against this group (large and heterogeneous), from the above mentioned “umbrella” of Corporate Social Responsibility.
-The consideration of this segment of potential customers as a business opportunity for the tourism industry, based on the figures corresponding to its size in Spain and Europe, as well as the demographic trend towards an increasingly aging population, whose substantial growth will rise the attractiveness of this niche, at least with respect to the people with reduced mobility.
The estimated data (taken from the Tourist Accessibility Plan of Spain) tell that:
-3.5 million people suffer some form of physical disability (disabled) in Spain, 50 million in the European Union, 600 million worldwide.
-In Europe, demand for potential tourists with disabilities stands at 127 million people, not counting those who accompany them, since many of these people cannot travel alone. However, a European potential market of 133 million tourists may represent a yearly income estimated at 80 billion euros.
-Disability is not such an exceptional phenomenon in our society: the current ratio of people with disabilities in Spain is 9%, that is, nearly one in ten Spaniards.
-There are still many people with disabilities wanting and being able to financially afford traveling and, however, do not do it, or do it less often than they would like, due to the barriers found in transportations and tourist destinations.
-Major obstacles also remain for these people to find a job, either by inaccessibility of the workplace, by a misperception about their possible performance or by breaching the law.
Nevertheless, although the road ahead is still long, significant steps forward have been done with regard to the rights of these people. For instance, some standards or certifications have been launched, such as DISCERT (the European Certificate that recognizes companies and organizations committed with disabled persons) or UNE 170001 for global or universal accessibility.
To sum up, we should learn that accessibility must be integrated as a component of the broad and complex concept of tourism excellence: there is no excellence without full accessibility. Accessibility means quality and safety for everyone, not just for disabled people. It must be, then, in any tourism development strategy. And this requires education, awareness, information, training to break prejudices and unfounded stereotypes.
These issues (sustainability and accessibility in tourism) have to be part of the Stewardship agenda.
The world evolves pushed by large vectors of change, whether political, economic, social or technological. The green, the sustainable, is one of those vectors that, of course, affects tourism in all its aspects: its momentum requires political and business decisions; it has noticeable economic implications, becoming a segment increasingly attractive; this market responds to an increasingly widespread and entrenched social demand, which values that profile while claims the necessary investments to public and private actors; technological advancements further strengthen this positioning, with the development of technologies that enable an increasingly efficient use of resources (water, energy) and minimize the impact on the environment (recycling, reducing carbon footprint, etc.).
The event “Green innovation in tourism ” (Rio de Janeiro [Brazil] , June 19, 2012) held in the context of the Rio +20 meeting , emphasized that changes in tourism practices can lead to significant benefits towards greater sustainability within the supply chain. Communications showed that pay more attention to sustainability, particularly green innovation, can lead to the creation of more jobs and the reduction of environmental impacts and their costs, increasing the competitive advantage of companies and destinations, while enhancing the visitor experience.
Despite the significant progress made, innovation continues to face obstacles, including lack of awareness of tourists, many of whom are reluctant to pay a higher price for sustainable holidays, lack of information from companies on the costs of investment, limited access to finance by micro and medium-sized enterprises, or lack of political integration among key sectors such as tourism, transport, energy and the environment.
Alain Dupeyras, Head of Tourism Program of the OECD’s Centre for Entrepreneurship, SMEs and Local Development, said in that event: “A more strategic approach in promoting green innovation in tourism will require greater horizontal and vertical policy coordination, by example, improving access to the necessary financing to small and medium enterprises to cover their efforts in the field of green innovation”.
I went back to this issue because is an intrinsic value of what has been recently called “Smart Tourism Destinations”.
The stewardship spirit can be conceptualize as a driver to achieve a higher level of sustainability both in companies or other kind of organizations (because of its mechanisms to promote collaboration among diverse stakeholders and individuals) and in the society in general.
We should remember that since the 1980s, sustainability has been used more in the sense of human sustainability on planet Earth and this has resulted in the most widely quoted definition taken from the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations on March 20, 1987: “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
In a more and more global and complex economy and society in general, because of the diversity of interests in conflict, we are convinced that this spirit of stewardship is increasingly necessary and will expand. I see this effort as part of the development of a new (and general) strategic theory, able to deal with the new challenges of the 21st century. This search for a new strategic approach is a multidisciplinary attempt, trying to go beyond the economics-and-business focus that has been dominant till now.
In fact, Strategic Management has revealed the importance of context and social structure, the relevance of interactions and the complexity of human behaviours in organizations (personal relationships, cognitive biases, emotional and psychological issues). To face this challenge, the stewardship approach has a significant role to be played.
As a last observation, I want to emphasize the urgent need to recover the centrality of human factor as a social being. Given the current context of a deep crisis, this means the recovery of some values banished by the dominant economic paradigms in recent decades: managers with awareness on the importance of an ethical behaviour, together with excellent technical competences. In a nutshell, rethinking how to conduct an economy and its companies to emerge stronger from the crisis, with more accountable and steward leaders.
 There are a lot of ethics, being usually controversial because of the cultural/religious connotations of this word.