The year has been a journey of discovery in understanding how to be a more sustainable business and how we can encourage our clients to be more conscious when travelling, both for the environment and the communities they visit. We would be the first to admit that we didn’t know what we were doing, but after analysing what we had done generally as a company since the pandemic, we realised that many of the steps we had already taken, we just didn’t know it.
Earlier in the year, we announced the ambition to become BCorp certified and have spent the summer making steps and recording data in alignment with their program. To achieve this, you have to attain 80 points at a minimum, something we’re not quite at. We’ll only apply for certification once we can confidently achieve the 80-point threshold, which we hope will be sooner rather than later, but we don’t want to put a specific timeframe on.
As part of educating ourselves on sustainability, carbon and responsible travel, Ashley took part in TTG’s (Travel Travel Gazette) Sustainable Travel Ambassadors programme, which took place over the summer. This was a specially designed course in association with different travel and consultancy businesses in different areas within this area, including Intrepid, Avis, Iberostar, Hurtigruten and Travelsphere/Planeterra. This ranged from understanding carbon and carbon emissions, through to community projects and our impact on the society of where we visit, to animal welfare and how we promote animal activities around the world. Ashley was a group of just 20 agents from the UK to take part and was a great grounding for taking our policies further. This also included a one-day conference in London, with representatives from across the industry giving practical tips on how to improve our company’s impact further.
Further to Ashley’s work with TTG over the summer, he also attended ABTA’s Sustainable Travel Conference in May, and spoke at their Carbon Literacy Day in September. He also contributed to a roundtable with ABTA’s Chief Executive Mark Tanzer on Animal Welfare, the selling of animal activities around the world, and how new legislation may impact this.
Laying The Groundwork
Since March we have developed a number of different policies around being a more conscious traveller, and a more responsible travel company. It started with our ‘It’s Easy Being Green’ travel guide, aimed to inform our clients (and anyone else who should wish to view it from our website), with tips and information in how to assess their impact when travelling. That could be reducing their impact when trying to lower their carbon emissions – by taking less luggage, using trains and lower carbon-intensive transport, or increasing their impact on local communities by eating in local restaurants or staying in family-run hotels. Combined with this, in the summer we introduced a new Animal Welfare Policy, where we confirmed that we wouldn’t book elephant rides or any other animal physical animal interaction such as swimming with dolphins or pigs (with the exception of husky sledging and horse riding).
Internally, we have also updated our processes so we now prioritise lower carbon forms of transport, as long as it makes sense for the client. So this might include some rail journeys instead of by private transfer (which is also a cost-saving most of the time for them), or it could be by coach or sometimes ferry.
Using existing data, we have estimated our client’s carbon emissions using Trees4Travel carbon calculator, both for the financial year just gone, and the year before that to give us a benchmark. It’s quite difficult to compare like-for-like as the previous financial year travel patterns were not back to normal following the Covid-19 pandemic, where people were generally travelling to ‘safe’ destinations, generally nearer to home and more often than not, staying on a beach on a single-centre holiday. Over the past year, travel patterns have slowly returned to normal (i.e pre-pandemic) and we’re finding that both cruise holidays and long-haul flying are returning.
This year we have enjoyed a 9.5% increase in the number of travellers who have taken a holiday with us. Even with more passengers, the average amount of CO2 emission from each passenger has increased from 1,539kg per person to 1,649kg per person. This is slightly less than the increase of travellers, at just over 9.3% increase. Overall, our clients CO2 emissions in kilograms, increased from 1,465,576kg, to 1,647,271kg.
Again, using the Trees4Travel calculator, we have estimated that our business travel carbon emissions have increased by 58% over 2022, from 1705kg CO2 to 2920kg CO2. Whilst the financial year 2021-2022 we were still emerging from the Covid-19 pandemic, both training events in the UK and foreign fam-trips were limited and as we return to a more familiar pattern, our business travel has also increased. These figures include an estimation of commuting, which we have mitigated by having an electric car, and bicycle – as well as using trains wherever that is practical. Going forward, we understand that this financial year (2022-23) was far more representative and will use this as our baseline going forward.
Within the business, we are plastic-free and have reduced our paper consumption by 80% in the last five years. Any plastic which we receive from any of our partners we will recycle if possible, along with out-of-date and unused brochures. These are often also taken by local schools and colleges who use them for research, and furthering their knowledge of the travel industry, usually as part of Leisure and Tourism.
We continue to play an active part and give back to the local community. As a business, we have increased the number of work experience places we offer and had five students with us over the last year. This included a mixture of local schools and colleges, as well as the Princes’ Trust, in which we have a close working relationship to encourage disadvantaged young adults into the workplace. Over time, we have worked with students who have physical (partially sighted) or mental (anxiety), come from a disadvantaged background or other mitigating circumstances. Jackie also gives time to mentor students at Berkhamsted School in their Young Enterprise programme and has done so for a number of years. We also contribute to charities including the Hospice of St Francis, Hearing Dogs and ABTA Lifeline – including both monetary contributions and volunteer time.
Ambitions for the Year Ahead
We have only just started on our journey after identifying the biggest impacts our business has. These naturally for us are ‘Scope 3’ – our clients travelling, and have put into place processes and projects to help minimise the impact of these. Next year we’re looking to go further including:
1) Implement an optional Carbon Offsetting scheme – although we would prefer to reduce the amount of carbon throughout the holiday, zero carbon is not currently an option, so we’ll offer the option of our client’s carbon offsetting the difference.
2) Identify companies whose ethos is similar to ours in reducing carbon within their holidays – and promote these on a dedicated page on our website, and future ‘Conscious Traveller’ Journal.
3) Start work in accounting for the business emissions – including our technology, office and business operations.
4) Identify charities and organisations we can collaborate with internationally.
5) Reassess our BCorp Impact Assessment, and understand areas where we can improve.