Carbon Management

Carbon Management

How we measure and manage our carbon footprint

We know that travel not only enriches lives and supports communities, it also provides an incentive to protect the world’s most beautiful landscapes. We also know that if we don’t do everything we can now to protect the planet we love, we may irrecoverably damage the very things we travel for.

The Planet pillar of our People, Places & Planet plan sets out a plan to reduce the carbon footprint of our adventures, help mitigate for the remaining emissions through biodiversity protection and carbon compensation, and collaborate to accelerate change. Here, we give a little more detail on the carbon measurement, management and compensation aspects of this plan.

NB. Please note that when we refer to ‘carbon’ or ‘CO2’ we mean ‘carbon dioxide equivalent’ which refers to the combination of greenhouses gas emissions we seek to reduce.

Topics:

How we measure our carbon footprint

How we have set our carbon reduction target

How we are planning to reach our target

How we are compensating for our carbon emissions

How we measure our carbon footprint

We’ve been working with environmental management experts, Green Element, to measure our carbon footprint baseline. This includes the footprint of our offices (across the UK, North America and Australia) and the trips we ran in 2019. To allow for the wide range of different trips in our portfolio, we have selected six representative trips and measured carbon emissions of the transport, accommodation, activities, food and plastics (embodied carbon) used on these trips (see table below). We then multiplied their footprint according to the number of trips taken in that year that they represent.

Trip categoryRepresentative tripCarbon footprint p/passenger excluding flights
(kg CO2e)
Carbon footprint p/passenger including flights to and from UK
(kg CO2e)
Carbon footprint p/passenger including flights to and from Canada
(kg CO2e)
Carbon footprint p/passenger including flights to and from Australia
(kg CO2e)
Short/mid-haul trekkingWalking the Amalfi Coast2988412,7205,445
European self-guidedClassic Catalan Cycling2196152,4433,832
Long-haul culture/wildlife/cycle/familyDiscover Costa Rica2963,1871,5395,032
Long-haul trekkingEverest Base Camp Trek3202,7524,2953,503
Long-haul cyclingCycling Vietnam4233,8234,9552,644
Polar/cruise expeditionAntarctic Explorer3,3607,8057,0194,896

In the coming years we will continue to refine this methodology in order to gain an increasingly accurate picture of the carbon footprint of our trips, starting with a goal to ‘carbon score’ or measure the footprint of every one of our trips by 2022.

How we have set our carbon reduction target

Green Element is helping us to set science-based carbon reduction targets (in line with the criteria of the Science Based Targets Initiative). Simply put, science-based targets are targets set to be aligned with the Paris Agreement’s goal of limiting our global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures. So these targets can be worked out per industry and per company to ensure global emissions are collectively reduced enough to hit this goal.

In summary, those targets will be an almost 50% reduction in the carbon footprint of our ‘scope 1 and 2’ emissions (primarily the fuel and energy we use across our offices) and a 50% reduction in the carbon footprint of our ‘scope 3’ emissions (primarily the trips we run).

How we are planning to reach our target

Our style of trips, in general, have a lower carbon footprint than many other styles of holidays – small groups, staying in smaller local accommodation, enjoying locally produced food, not to mention all the cycling and hiking instead of time in coaches and cars. However, any transportation – especially flights and boats – can still have a significant carbon impact, along with other factors such as energy used by accommodation, any imported food provided and so on.

There are a number of ways we will be looking to reduce the carbon emissions of our trips, including:

  • Opting for lower impact in-country transportation, for example, swapping internal flights for trains, using public transport where feasible and looking for opportunities to switch to electric vehicles as soon as destination infrastructure allows.
  • Aiming to ensure at least 90% of food provided across our trips is locally sourced, meaning it’s not been transported long distances.
  • Further increasing our use of accommodation with a smaller carbon footprint, such as eco-lodges and hotels which use renewable energy.
  • Eliminating use of single-use plastics across our trips as quickly as possible (plastic contains lots of ‘embodied carbon’).
  • Though the flights to and from our trips aren’t included in our scope 3 target, we will still be actively pursuing a reduction in the footprint of these flights, by:
    • Expanding our train travel booking service, offering train travel as an alternative to flying to most European trips by the end of 2021 (which will constitute a third of all our trips globally).
    • Increasing the number of ‘closer to home’ trips, such as our new UK collection, meaning less reason to fly.

For more on the carbon reduction goals we’ve set ourselves, see our Planet Plan.

We also project some reductions coming from wider parts of the tourism sector that we rely upon; for example, a reduction in aviation emissions through increasing use of biofuels. (Through involvement in movements such as Tourism Declares a Climate Emergency, we are joining with others in the sector to advocate for much needed acceleration in such progress.)

We recognise that our reduction goal is an ambitious one, and our roadmap towards the 2030 target will continue to evolve in the years ahead as we progress, learn and share knowledge with many fellow tour operators across the sector.

How we are compensating for our carbon emissions

Our Planet Plan focuses first and foremost on carbon footprint reduction over and above mitigation. However, we also have both a desire and a responsibility to help protect the biodiversity and landscapes which play such a vital role in removing the carbon we emit and helping us tackle the impacts of climate change. That is why we have partnered with Rewilding Europe and are – with them – launching the Nature & Carbon Corridors project (read more about this partnership and project here).

Over time, this rewilded land will provide a rich carbon sink, removing many tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. But in the first couple of years of the rewilding process, this carbon sink hasn’t yet reached its full carbon removal potential. So in the meantime, we will also be partnering with South Pole in order to compensate for all the remaining carbon emissions of our trips, through carbon removal and reduction projects verified by VCS, Gold Standard and Verra.

 

We don’t have all the answers yet and recognise we have a big challenge ahead, but we commit to keeping you updated on the progress of our climate action. We also welcome your comments, ideas and questions: [email protected]