Sustainability as a Business Model


A Commitment to Responsible Business

GRI 102-7, 102-8, 102-12, 102-16 / GRI 102-40, 401-1, 405-1, 414-1

Labor and Human Rights

In 2010, we committed to the UNGC’s universal principles on human rights, labor, the environment and anti-corruption. We translate these commitments into policies that counter child labor, advocate for gender equity, equal opportunity employment, and encourage individual freedom of association. We are proud to say that almost 40% of our current employees are women; all employees are remunerated based on experience and position; we hire and train local residents; and all operations implement local community engagement and development programs via our foundation, Fundación Tropicalia.



Number of employees (*)


(*)Information compiled and verified through the employee payroll for calendar year 2016. All employees are permanent and full-time.

Commitments to the UNGC and SDGs

This year, we included an annex listing the principles of the UNGC in contracts with our three major partners and contractors. Our goal is for everyone involved in the construction and operation of Tropicalia to comply with these basic international standards.

We also acknowledge the importance of linking such efforts with the SDGs. Launched in 2015 by the United Nations (UN) after a re-examination of the Millennium Development Goals, the SDGs mark the development agenda through the year 2030, providing a road map of opportunities to solve societal and environmental challenges. Ultimately, the UNGC principles support our efforts for advancing the SDGs; the connection is crucial.²

The UN declared 2017 the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Its goal is to foster a better understanding among people around the world, leading to a greater awareness of the rich heritage of civilizations and the values of different cultures. Three specific SDGs are being supported: SDG 8, Decent Work and Economic Growth; SDG 12, Responsible Consumption and Production; and SDG 14, Life Below Water.³ Our work contributes to the advancement of all three.

Our commitment to human rights, environmental protection, structural integrity, and smart and efficient infrastructure design, as well as our community development activities, are guided and monitored by a proprietary SMS. Through the integration of the SMS into every aspect of our activities, we hope to position ourselves at the forefront of sustainable tourism practices.

Our Sustainability Committee

GRI 102-18

In 2009, we established our Tropicalia Sustainability Committee, a cross-functional team that meets annually to discuss strategy, report progress and define goals for the upcoming year.

We held our 11th annual Sustainability Committee meeting in 2016, discussing strategic decisions for 2017 with valuable input of senior leadership and employees across the organization. Several new members joined the meeting, which we saw as an opportunity to outline why we report, the importance of reporting, and the role of our internal associates, a crucial topic on the Committee’s 2016 agenda.

We implemented internal sustainability working groups that would tackle specific areas of our sustainability approach. We identified SMS and LEED working groups as immediate priorities.

The diversity of our Committee members brings strength to this corporate governance body. In addition to internal participation, we also include external advisors such as Alan Kelso, Chairman and CEO of Sinergo, our development partner based in Costa Rica and specialized in high-end, ecologically sensitive tourism real estate projects. Sinergo’s expertise in the sustainable luxury segment has enriched our thinking when it comes to conceptualizing the strategic path for Tropicalia and the work of the foundation.

Sustainability Management System

GRI 102-46, 103-1, 103-2, 103-3

Concept and purpose

We designed our SMS in 2014 to achieve exceptional performance in environmental, economic and social sustainability. Today, it provides a systemic means of reviewing, improving and implementing sustainability practices throughout our management and operations.

“Our design and construction partners are actively vetting the SMS to identify the indicators we comply with and those that will require extra work or a strategic refocus. The result will be a practical, user-friendly and informative SMS, so that collaborators at multiple levels can report against our proprietary sustainability indicators.”

Leonardo Troyo, Project Manager, Tropicalia.

Materiality assessment

We carefully selected each indicator included in our Sustainability Management System through a materiality assessment, a process that pinpoints Tropicalia’s significant economic, environmental and social impacts within the boundaries of our property and the local community, as well as the issues that substantively influence the decisions of our stakeholders.4

The result: an SMS with 89 criteria that support concrete action in nine key areas, including: sustainable destination management; cultural heritage and community development; legal accountability and human resources; and built and natural environmental management. Each area has a set of indicators and expert guidance that respond to internationally recognized best practices and reporting guidelines, including:

  • United Nations Global Compact

    Ten Principles for Corporate Sustainability.

  • Global Reporting Initiative

    G4 Sustainability Reporting guidelines.

  • Global Sustainable Tourism Council

    Criteria for Destinations and Criteria for Hotels and Tour Operators.

  • Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council

    Pearl Rating System for Estidama.

  • Inter-American Development Bank

    Tourism Scorecard

  • Green Globe

    Certification Standards for Sustainable Tourism.

  • The Ocean Foundation

    Coastal Sustainable Development Standards, named one of the “Best Sustainable Codes, Standards and Policies” in 2010 by the American Society of Landscape Architects.

The SMS was further vetted and cross-referenced with international benchmarks and indicators, including LEED criteria and UN SDGs. As part of our research and investigation efforts, we came across the GRI’s report on Sustainability Topics for Sectors (2013),5 which confirmed that the information portrayed in our SMS is material for the Real Estate and Hospitality sectors, and of interest to the investment and environmental communities.

The final SMS product is a result of a collaborative work with The Ocean Foundation, an independent nonprofit organization based in Washington, D.C. with extensive sustainability expertise.

Finally, we used feedback from other key partners, such as Gensler, Sinergo and Thompson Engineers, and of specific internal teams, to refine the SMS.


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Sustainable Thinking

² UNGC (w/d). The UN Global Compact Ten Principles and the Sustainable Development Goals: Connecting, Crucially. White paper. Obtained from: Accessed December 2016.
³ World Tourism Organization UNWTO (2016). United Nations declares 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. Obtained from: Accessed January 2017.
4 Global Reporting Initiative, Defining Materiality: What Matters to Reporters and Investors, pg. 6 Accessed February 2017.
5 Global Reporting Initiative (2013). Sustainability Topics for Sectors: What do stakeholders want to know? Obtained from: Accessed December 2016.