During a recent holiday in Ecuador, I spent five days at an eco-lodge deep in the Amazon basin. However, this wasn’t any just any old eco-lodge, it was part of a larger eco-tourism project run by (and for) the local tribal community.
The Napo Wildlife Centre is 100% owned by the Anangu tribe, with all profits going back into health and education projects within the community. The lodge allows the community to preserve pristine rainforest from oil exploration, whilst providing employment opportunities and an income for the locals.
Not only that, it has been deliberately built and maintained to minimise its impact on the environment – generating its own electricity through solar power, treating waste water and recycling it back into the river system, and composting biodegradable waste.
To borrow from M&S’ advertising lingo, this isn’t just eco-tourism, this is proper, joined-up, Ecuadorian eco-tourism, with all aspects mutually reinforcing and evidently geared to supporting all stakeholders.
What was interesting for me (and what a lot of businesses could learn from) was how all this translated into an outstanding customer experience. It wasn’t just about the warm and fuzzy feeling the trip gave me. It was the amazing service I received from staff who were totally committed to – and had a genuine stake in – the business.
OK, so it’s not easy to translate directly to the corporate world, and perhaps it’s simpler when the business is small, and owned and run by most of the stakeholders.
Nevertheless, the underlying threads are the same. Ultimately, it’s all about effective stakeholder engagement including excellent customer service around an inspiring mission and purpose, and good Corporate Responsibility holds the key.