In just six months in 2007, The Daily Telegraph's Travel desk received 142 emails from companies claiming to be green. The difficulty for readers was distinguishing between the good and the less good.
In December 2007, The Telegraph asked responsibletravel.com to assist with the analysis of 40 of Britain ís top travel companies in regards to responsible tourism. The companies and categories were chosen by The Telegraph travel team and responsibletravel.com then began work with the paper to establish criteria and a ranking system on which all analysis would be based. We wanted to show to some of the best known companies in the UK travel industry that consumers really do care about responsible tourism. Our aim was to demonstrate through the article the importance of having a transparent responsible tourism policy in place. Ultimately we hoped that the article would persuade those companies that did not come out so well, to make changes to their business, thereby contributing to positive, lasting change within the travel and tourism industry. To complete an exhaustive analysis of every company (and all of their holidays) would take years. Analysing a range of companies presents further problems as itís hard to compare airlines with say tour companies.
Given this, our approach was to use desk research of the public information available in order to compare the tourism companies against the best practice in corporate social responsibility across all sectors over the past 15 years. In general tourism lags behind other sectors and this is reflected across the analysis.
The 3 key things that signal companies that are really committed to creating positive change are Ė
- Do the companies transparently publish strong green policies? These polices should cover their environmental, social and economic impacts.
- Do the companies publish targets and reports on their progress?
- Are the reports independently audited?
The analysis examined policies and actions that were in place at the time and did not take into account of any future plans that companies may have had.
Our analysis focused on five factors that signal whether these companies are really committed to creating positive change:
- Carbon reduction: the use of green fuels, alternative energy, modern vehicles/aircraft and eco-friendly hotels, the management of waste and energy reduction.
- Carbon offsetting: are offsetting schemes available? Does the company make financial commitments of its own?
- Conservation schemes: efforts to minimise harm done to the environment by tourism.
- Responsible tourism (RT) policy: does the company have a strong policy, the staff to put it into practice and independent audits and targets?
- On the ground: sourcing of local produce and services and employment of local staff; support for local social projects, relations between tourist and local people
In terms of climate change we separated out carbon reduction (which is more important) from carbon offsets. Carbon reduction has proved hard to assess as very few companies publish annual figures on their total carbon emissions. We rated companies that pay themselves towards offsetting carbon (or trading carbon) more highly than those who make it voluntary for customers.
Finally, while carbon emissions have become the highest profile issue associated with all travel companies we chose not to focus exclusively on this, but to also examine travel companies contributions to local people and livelihoods; support of local conservation and social projects; and work with suppliers such as environmental auditing of hotels (this is the work on the ground section). We did not look at workers rights/staff welfare as part of this project. Read the article, follow-up piece, and further background on the analysis here