Next year, we will celebrate our thirtieth anniversary as a well-respected professional travel agency. Businesses are only successful for that long if they represent the values of their customers, sell the products they want to buy and provide excellent service. Over that time, our clients know that we truly care about them, many of which we have formed great friendships, understanding as much about them to tailor their holiday exclusively for them. It’s that trust and respect which has served us well and continues to be core to our business.
However, to remain relevant you have to evolve and act differently as a business. No longer is it enough to just care for our clients (and sometimes our suppliers as well), but we have to consider a much wider reach using our platform as a force for good improving both the environment and society as a whole.
So what are we doing?
Today, we’re launching ‘It’s
not easy being green‘, our Responsible Travel Guide for clients to travel as responsibly as possible no matter where they travel. This includes helpful tips and reminders such as reducing their use of single-use plastic, travelling lighter, being conscious of local customs and contributing to the local economy. There are many more included on our webpage, which can be found here. This is available for everyone via our website and is included in our pre-travel documentation as a reminder. We’ll follow this up after our clients return home, to see if they have travelled responsibly and carried out any of the tips we have suggested through a short survey.
Why are we doing this?
In order to do this, we had to consider what our purpose is as a company and what we want to achieve. Going forward we aim to positively contribute to the world through our love to travel, for when we travel it is a force for good and has a positive impact on the environment and communities.
We want to make sure we’re able to have the same experiences in thirty years’ time, there for our children and grandchildren to enjoy just as much as we have been able to. For them to lie on the same beach in the Maldives, visit the same indigenous community in Fiji or see the coral at the amazing Great Barrier Reef.
Alongside this, we are launching our first Environmental, Social and Governance Policy (ESG), which set out the grounding principles of our journey in making both our company and our client’s holidays both sustainable and responsible. These are aligned with the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals, in particular for travel focusing on climate change, life on land or in water, and developing sustainable communities.
What we’re already doing
When we started to think about our impact on both the environment and society, we were amazed at how many small things we have done. Jackie drives an electric hybrid car (where you’re able to choose between electric and combustion), Ashley has a Brompton bike, and we both travel as economically as possible with as little luggage as possible. We have also reduced our paper consumption, implemented a cycling scheme and were one of the first agencies to remove set uniforms. We also work with several local charities including the Hospice of St Francis, Young Enterprise and the Princes Trust – all of which have a beneficial impact on our local community.
We believe that we have to look to the future and understand what is socially acceptable and campaign for change where it’s needed. For example, whilst there may be a legitimate case for paper-based ticket packs at the moment, is everything that is included in the needed or justified, or is there a more sustainable and responsible way to do this? We’re already talking to our tour operator partners in how the paperwork you need for your holiday can be rationalised to what you really need, delivered in a more sustainable way. We believe that the days of faux-leather (or leather) documentation cases are behind us, and emplore our partners to find alternative solutions.
This also applies to how we promote the business, we’re not producing unnecessary promotional items such as bags or bottles, balloons or pens, luggage labels and ticket wallets ourselves.
Our plans for the future
Travel can be a force for good in the world and being environmentally and socially aware of our impact isn’t about being an ‘eco-warrior, but understanding what that impact is and how you can minimise it.
We aspire to the principles set out by B Corp, a certification standard for companies around the world, where businesses make a positive impact on everyone – workers, communities, customers and ultimately our planet. As part of this, we have taken our first steps by taking their B Impact Assessment, which we will update over time as we assess and implement. It’s our ambition to be one of the first travel agencies in the UK to reach this standard.
Along with the charities we support in our own local community – most notably The Hospice of St Francis and The Princes’ Trust; we are also looking at working with charities abroad, giving back to destinations we and our clients travel to regularly.
We are also committing to producing an annual ‘Impact Report‘, detailing our impact on the environment and society over the previous year as a business and our aims for the year ahead. In this report, we’ll also include the survey results from our clients and measure this over the next few years so we can see how behaviour has changed, and start basic reporting of their carbon emissions, whilst we develop methods in how we can measure this for a whole holiday.
What we’re not going to do
It would be very easy for us to announce a carbon offsetting scheme, or carbon capture – planting trees for example. However, we want to understand what our, and our client’s impact is on the environment first, and then implement mitigations later. We don’t believe that token gestures now will garner positive results in the future unless we have assessed what impact they will have. We’ll have more information on this in the near future.
Instead, initially, we’re going to influence and educate – by selling products which are more environmentally friendly, recommending hotels which have a positive contribution to the environment and methods of transport such as trains which have lower carbon emissions, as well as habits and behaviour when travelling.
This is just the start of our journey. We realise there are not necessarily right answers to everything, and the path might change along the way. However, what we can say is that we are committed to playing our part in making travel a force for good, one which both respects our environment and makes a positive contribution to communities around the world.