How travelling with us makes a difference - responsible travel
Intrepid is committed to maintaining our integrity, living our values and ensuring that we're fulfilling the core purpose of our business. This being, to operate in a responsible manner, incorporating the principles of sustainable development in the way we provide our travellers with real life experiences. However, these values are more than just words on a page; they are ingrained in the culture and daily operations of every Intrepid office and tour. In addition, we expect our staff and travellers to demonstrate the principles of responsible travel - respecting people, cultures and local environments; in the distribution of wealth; in good will and cross-cultural sharing; and in contributing to sustainable development.
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- To ensure we're consistently working towards protecting the environment and using resources in an efficient, fair and responsible way.
- To ensure that our trips are designed in a way that limits the physical impact on the destinations we visit, so that they may be enjoyed by many generations to come.
In late 2010 we reached our goal to become a carbon neutral company. A goal that we set ourselves in December 2006 and achieved through our Carbon Management Plan.
Intrepid recognises that climate change is one of the most urgent problems facing our world today. The tourism industry is both impacted by climate change and it's also a sector that's a growing contributor to the problem. As a travel company which creates and promotes holidays within the tourism sector, we see it's our responsibility to ensure that the negative impact we have on global warming is minimised and we work toward sustaining our environment. Therefore, as a business we made a commitment to tackle climate change through the development of our Carbon Management Plan.
The current portfolio of offset projects includes the Akbuk Wind Farm Project in Turkey, this is a Gold Standard (GS) project that involves the installation of 15 turbines reducing 67,570 tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere each year. In addition to the wind farm we are purchasing the GS carbon credits of the production and dissemination of ceramic water purifiers in Cambodia. This project provides access to clean drinking water for an estimated 400,000 people and saves 43,087 tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere. Rounding out our portfolio for 2015 is the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS) Kasigau Corridor REDD+ project in Kenya. This program avoids unplanned deforestation and degradation of forest that are home to vulnerable species such as the African Elephant, cheetah, lion, African hunting dog and Grevy’s zebra. It is estimated that deforestation accounts for 18% of global carbon emissions, this is greater than transport and aviation combined.
Our Carbon Management Plan helps us to operate our business in a sustainable manner and address our environmental commitments under the United Nations Global Compact which in turn work toward the 7th Millennium Development Goal: Ensuring Environmental Sustainability.
As part of our Carbon Management Plan, we offset our global business carbon emissions (from our offices and retail stores), our trips, and offer carbon offset flights to passengers booking their flights through Intrepid. Through these offsets, significant monetary contributions are being made on behalf of our business, suppliers, staff and travellers to internationally certified carbon abatement projects, equating to over $1 million since 2007.
The majority of Intrepid trips are Carbon Offset - that's over 800 trips! We measure and offset the main sources of emissions created on our trips by our passengers:
Our trips are also low impact by design. How? We try to use public transport where possible, stay in locally owned and simpler styles of accommodation and eat at locally owned eateries where the food has been locally sourced, therefore reducing food mile emissions.
To minimise carbon emissions on Intrepid trips, we make the following considerations:
- Local services - We engage locally-owned and operated services thereby supporting local people and not using long and carbon-intensive supply chains.
- Local transport - We use local public transport wherever we can to reduce fuel usage per passenger. Water Conservation - We support initiatives that encourage conservative use of water and hot water such as low-flow shower roses.
- Local food and goods - We endeavour to include and strongly encourage our travellers to eat locally produced food and goods. This reduces the 'embodied energy' (energy consumed through production and transport) of the food and goods purchased by our passengers.
- Water bottles - We encourage our passengers to refill a water bottle from water 'bubblers' where available to avoid unnecessary purchasing of bottled water and the subsequent waste disposal issues. In addition to the water in bottles, the production of a 1 litre plastic bottle takes 2 litres of water and 200ml of oil. Therefore for every 1 litre of water sold, 3 litres of water is used.
- Economic empowerment - Economic empowerment of local communities through tourism can help improve education and health services, water supplies and sanitation and reduce dependence on non-sustainable livelihoods such as deforestation.
- Local employment - We use local leaders and guides so that we learn about the culture and way of life directly from those who live it and put money into local hands and economies. We can particularly learn from indigenous rural communities about their relationship to the land and how they've practiced sustainable agriculture for centuries.
- Recycling - Intrepid leaders also provide travellers with awareness on how they can practice principles of reduce, reuse, recycle and appropriate waste disposal at their destination.
Since 2007, we've been offering all customers the opportunity to offset the most carbon intensive portion of their trip - their flight - when they book their air travel with us. The emissions produced from flights are calculated (from departure region to destination region) and the cost of offsetting that flight is then included in the price quoted. Carbon offsets are optional on the airfares we sell, however we do encourage our customers to help us tackle climate change by choosing this option.
So if you book a Carbon Offset Flight through Intrepid, you'll fly with the knowledge that your environmental impact has been reduced.
An impressive number of Intrepid travellers have chosen to book our Carbon Offset Flights. In the first year alone our travellers offset 18,700 tonnes of carbon! Since then, we've offset a further 27,400 tonnes, meaning over 45,000 tonnes of carbon emissions have been offset since 2007. That's equal to approximately the amount of carbon that 2,796,047 trees would absorb over 10 years, or taking over 4,753 passenger cars off the road for an entire year!* We thank our thoughtful passengers for their consideration of the environment.
Intrepid Travel currently offsets our carbon by investing in internationally accredited compliant projects that are based in our biggest destinations, including China, Thailand, Vietnam, India and Brazil. These projects not only offset Intrepid's emissions but they also improve the environment of the local communities by providing an alternative to fossil fuels and therefore produce less pollution.
* Calculations are based on information provided on the Environmental Protection Agency - Greenhouse Gas Equivalencies Calculator webpage.
Intrepid adopts the following principles to manage our environmental footprint in all offices and stores around the world:
- Measure - We currently measure emissions from electricity, gas, waste, business travel and water. We have a comprehensive Carbon Assessment Worksheet that's completed annually by our global offices.
- Avoid - We adopt a number of energy efficiency measures including, but not limited to, automatic computer shut down at 8pm in our head office and Skype conferencing rather than travelling for face-to-face meetings.
- Reduce - We have significantly reduced paper waste and waste to landfill; many offices adopt a comprehensive recycling plan and we have reduced the number of business trips taken by management and staff on an annual basis.
- Offset - Whatever emissions can't be avoided are offset by our investment in high-quality renewable energy projects.
This is how we're greening our office spaces:
- We're using 100% Green Power energy (where available) in our offices and retail stores.
- 'Reduce, reuse and recycle' policies for our paper usage. All office paper and paper products are recycled where possible and we purchase Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accredited or similarly sustainably sourced paper. Double-sided printing is the default setting on all printers.
- We have implemented a Waste Management System at head office which has dramatically reduced what we send to landfill and maximised what goes off for recycling.
- We're conscious that our brochures consume a lot of paper, so since 2000 we've had an annual tree planting day. In the last year, staff and travellers planted over 1,100 trees and shrubs.
- We have our very own worm farm and bokashi bins that composts all our fruit and vegetable scraps, tea bags and coffee grounds.
- We have reviewed our lighting and have successfully 'de-lamped' unnecessary bulbs.
- We have regular presentations for staff on sustainability matters including topics such as waste reduction, sustainable seafood options and ethically sourced paper.
- Intrepidites are a pretty active bunch and many walk or cycle to work. We encourage the use of public transport.
What does it mean to be carbon neutral?
There's no internationally agreed upon definition for 'carbon neutral'. Australia has recently defined carbon neutrality under the National Carbon Offset Standard (1 July 2010) as "a situation where the net emissions associated with a product or an organisation's activities are equal to zero through the acquisition and cancellation of carbon offsets that meet additional criteria". The general principle: to have a 'carbon neutral' product or service means to have zero net CO2 emissions for the activities assessed.
How does Intrepid maintain its carbon neutrality?
Being carbon neutral involves calculating Intrepid's climate-damaging carbon emissions, avoiding, reducing and seeking a less carbon intensive alternative where possible and then balancing the remaining emissions through a carbon offset activity. Intrepid follows a project plan which describes the activities and milestones necessary to keep us carbon neutral year after year.
What is carbon offsetting?
Carbon offsets are a way for individuals and businesses to balance out their greenhouse gas emissions by allocating funds to emission reduction programs. For example, if your flight emits 4.14 tonnes of CO2, you can balance out these emissions by purchasing 4.14 tonnes of carbon credits from carbon offset programs which work on avoiding or absorbing CO2 emissions, such as renewable energy initiatives.
Still confused? Try this simple analogy. If you ate 300 calories worth of gelati in Italy but then walked around Rome for two hours, the net impact (in terms of calories) of eating the gelati would be zero. While it's not ideal - in that you probably shouldn't have eaten that gelati in the first place - it's far better than not doing anything at all. Offsetting carbon works in a similar way.
How do we measure our trip emissions?
We initially conducted detailed assessments of the carbon emissions of 38 of our most popular trips around the world. With so many trip components potentially emitting greenhouse gases, we had to define clear boundaries of what we would assess and subsequently offset. We decided to concentrate on the main emissions, being transport, accommodation and waste.
Our group leaders, given their experience and expert knowledge of the precise activities, locations and transport modes of the trips, collected the data. We then sent this data to an independent assessor to determine the carbon emissions associated with each element. The scope of components included in our emissions assessment was:
- Transport - all intra-trip travel including flights included as part of the trip, taxis, tuk tuks, boats and trains. As direct emissions from transport makes up the vast majority of the emissions when travelling, offsetting this component is vital!
- Accommodation - all included accommodation from hotels to camping.
- Waste - while we attempt to reduce waste in all ways possible, recycling isn't accessible in all countries we visit. We have therefore considered emissions generated through the average waste generated per person in that particular region.
By completing a detailed assessment of emissions on our top 38 trips, we were able to use this data and extrapolate it across our whole portfolio of trips by trip style and region. In doing so, we were able to offset the carbon emissions of our trips on behalf of our passengers!
So by travelling with Intrepid, you do it in a way which dramatically reduces your carbon footprint.
How do you calculate the offset cost?
The offset cost is embedded in the cost of the trip - so our passengers have no additional fee to worry about. The average offset cost embedded in our trip price is between $0.19 and $0.54 AUD per passenger per day (dependent on the trip and region you are travelling to). Even with the offset included, these trips are still competitive, ensuring you get both the best price for a fantastic grassroots adventure with a reduced environmental impact.
What offset assessment standards do you use?
Greenhouse gas emissions generated as a result of stationary energy use, transportation and waste generation and disposal were assessed in accordance with the GHG Protocol (A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard Revised Edition, World Resource Institute & World Business Council for Sustainable Development - 2007).
Information relating to energy use and waste generation and disposal rates were based on data provided by Sustainability Victoria and the United Nations Statistics Division. Emission factors were derived from a number of sources including the Department of Climate Change (DCC), Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change and the World Resource Institute.
Why do companies charge different amounts for offsets?
A tonne of carbon can vary greatly in price due primarily to two reasons:
- the cost of producing the offset and
- the assessment boundary and method used in determining how much greenhouse gas was produced in a specific activity which then determines the number of offsets required.
What is climate change?
Climate change is the term commonly used when talking about global warming. The Earth is like a giant greenhouse, but instead of having glass panes which trap heat, it has gases such as methane and carbon dioxide. As the sun's rays shine on the Earth this blanket of gases (Earth's atmosphere) traps some of the heat - which has the effect of warming the planet and keeping it at a relatively constant level. Without it the Earth would either get too hot or too cold.
When greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere by human activity like burning fossil fuels and clearing land, it's like constantly adding more glass layers to the greenhouse, ultimately raising the temperature inside. If we don't reduce greenhouse gas emissions, there's a risk that the Earth will heat to a level which could seriously affect life on our planet. For more information on climate change, please go to the Australian Conservation Foundation's website. For the latest scientific observations of climate change, please see the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's website.
Why the focus on carbon dioxide and not other greenhouse gases?
Greenhouse gases include methane, nitrous oxide and halocarbons but the mostly commonly referred to greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2) so it has become the standard measure of greenhouse gas emissions. Greenhouse gases are released every time we turn on the light at home, switch on our computer, take a flight or drive the car.
Our economic commitment
To ensure our wealth is distributed in a way that's beneficial to our staff, host communities, suppliers and key stakeholders, while achieving responsible and sustainable growth of Intrepid Travel and our associated companies.
How are we doing this?
Our trips are designed to ensure that we support local communities by:
- Hiring local leaders and staff where Intrepid operate, therefore contributing directly to local employment and ensuring competitive local remuneration.
- Using locally owned ground transportation and accommodation.
- Recommending local eateries and stores to our passengers.
- Incorporating local public transport into our trips where possible.
- Investing in renewable energy projects which support the local economy through temporary and permanent employment, as well as contributing to the communities' infrastructure.
- Creating procurement policies.
In order for sustainability to remain embedded in our operations, we take a holistic view of our business and its various points of impact. This means looking beyond our balance sheet and to the areas to which our business is intrinsically linked: the environment, society, economy and governance/ethics. We want to ensure that we're taking responsibility for our impact in these areas and contributing to, rather than diminishing, their health and value.
Intrepid is also a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact - a framework used to align a company’s operations and strategies with universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, the environment and anti-corruption.
We've integrated respect for people and the environment into our company culture in a variety of ways, most notably through the company's core values - all Intrepid staff are rated on their contribution to environmental and social sustainability in their annual performance reviews.
To ensure that we're working on managing our impact and reducing our carbon footprint across the business, Intrepid has integrated a number of sustainability goals into key performance measures across the company:
- Company KPIs - Intrepid has a company goal around sustainability.
- Our subsidiary offshore companies have a local sustainability KPI that they need to achieve.
- Our staff are also rated on their individual contributions to sustainability at Intrepid through their annual performance reviews.
Since signing the United Nations Global Compact, Intrepid has gone on to create a Sustainability Policy which guides the way the company manages its impacts and how it goes about making decisions.
View our Sustainable Development Policy
As a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact, each year we submit a 'Communications on Progress' report, outlining our progress in each of the sustainability areas we have committed to tackling, these include:
Responsible travel is about the attitude you take and the choices you make when travelling - to respect and benefit local people, their cultures, economy and the environment!
Some of the responsible travel features embedded into Intrepid trips include:
- Using public transport where possible
- Staying in smaller-scale locally owned accommodation where possible
- Buying locally produced food and drink, and purchasing souvenirs from local artisans
- Spreading the economic benefits by patronising a range of suppliers
- Minimising plastic waste where possible
- Careful management of limited energy and water resources
- Offering real life experiences which promote cross-cultural understanding
- Avoiding the exploitation of the vulnerable - including women, children, animals and endangered species
For more information on Intrepid's Responsible Travel policies and practice see the following documents and individual destination pages:
- To protect human rights within our sphere of influence and to ensure that all parties impacted by our business including staff, travellers, suppliers, local communities and other stakeholders, are treated with fairness and respect.
- To work with our stakeholders on issues around responsible practices in order to promote justice and equity across our global community and protect our most vulnerable societies.
Some initiatives include:
- Providing training to all our leaders on safety and social issues in the areas they operate to help them educate our passengers on matters such as local customs, cultural etiquette, religion, prostitution and child safety.
- Providing HIV/AIDS training to our staff and leaders in high-risk regions.
- Working in partnership with child protection organisations such as ECPAT, ChildWise and ChildSafe Asia, to help protect children in our destinations. Read our ChildSafe Traveller Tips.
- Employment and supplier policies which support and encourage fair practices. Read our Porter Policies.
- Providing support for many grassroot not-for-profit organisations globally to help advance local communities through The Intrepid Foundation.
- All Intrepid companies have specific annual goals to increase annual donations to The Intrepid Foundation.
- Visits to community projects on trips to raise awareness and engage passenger support for the projects.
- Organising guest speakers to regularly speak at our stores and offices to help raise awareness on various social sustainability topics.
Project SAMA was a three year global gender equality project which aims to improve the lives of communities and help bridge the gender gap through education. To help us achieve this, we worked with Plan, one of the world's oldest and most experienced children's development organisations.
Intrepid have adopted a global Human Rights Policy which formalises our commitment to supporting and respecting internationally proclaimed human rights and ensuring we aren't complicit in human rights abuses.
The aim of the Human Rights Policy is to:
- Protect human rights within our sphere of influence and ensure that all our people including our staff, passengers, suppliers and local communities, as well as other stakeholders who are impacted by our business, are treated with fairness and respect.
- Work with our stakeholders to address issues that act as barriers to responsible practices in order to promote equity across our global community and protect our most vulnerable societies.
- Give guidance to our staff on Intrepid's stance in relation to human rights issues.
- Commit our support to the principles contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
- Protect, respect and remedy human rights issues within our sphere of operations and supply chain as outlined in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: The "Protect, Respect and Remedy" Framework.
Intrepid, in association with Victoria University and the government body Aus Industry, completed a two year research project to assess the impacts of our trips to sensitive rural communities titled "Small Tour Group Impacts on Developing Communities". The comparative report on five village communities (in Thailand, Vietnam and Borneo) demonstrates that Intrepid trips are providing mixed outcomes for local people in these communities.
Some of these outcomes include:
Renewal or support for traditional practices, such as arts and crafts, through local initiatives like craft markets.
Empowerment of women due to employment and leadership opportunities created by Intrepid's visits.
Increased knowledge and awareness of other cultures amongst local people due to direct and meaningful interactions between local people and Intrepid groups.
Support of household livelihood strategies through financial benefits gained by activities associated with Intrepid's visits.
Direct employment opportunities for some members of the community through activities such as traditional massage, guiding, portering and cooking.
As part of its commitment to providing leadership on sustainable tourism practices, Intrepid has decided to make this report available to the general public. This report was completed in 2002, but we believe the issues and the recommendations remain current and relevant to remote community-based tourism.
Introduction [PDF 26KB]
Research Design & Methods [PDF 32KB]
Literature Review [PDF 64KB]
Skandis Community, Iban Longhouse in Sarawak, Malaysia [PDF 89KB]
Kiau Nulu Community, Dusun Community in Sabah, Malaysia [PDF 88KB]
Van Village Community, White Thai Village in North Western Vietnam [PDF 92KB]
Baka Community, Akha Village in Northen Thailand [PDF 92KB]
Khun Puai Community, Karen Village in Northen Thailand [PDF 96KB]
Comparative review of case studies [PDF 80KB]
To support our efforts as a responsible business and evaluate our impacts on the destinations in which we travel, we have provided support for academic research in key areas.
Intrepid Travel has recently worked with Community Based Tourism researcher David Knight to explore the impacts and benefits of tourism amongst four communities in Peru’s Sacred Valley.
With funding support from Intrepid, David worked with community tourism groups to better understand how to unlock opportunities for local people through sustainable tourism. The report, entitled “Poverty Alleviation Through Tourism”, detailed several findings and recommendations from a series of community interviews, including:
- Enhanced opportunities for women in the communities, through visits by Intrepid Travel groups (Increased income, employment, respect from their husbands)
- Greater community involvement in training of tour leaders
- Improved communication between communities and our local offices
- Awareness of rising cost of providing services to travellers and ability to adjust prices accordingly Recommendations from his research have been implemented by our operations team in Peru.
Want to learn more?
Peru Research Summary, David W Knight
Peru Research Literature List, David W Knight
Chichubamba, Peru Research Report, David W Knight
Amaru, Peru Research Report, David W Knight
Sacaca, Peru Research Report, David W Knight
Qorqor, Peru Research Report, David W Knight
We partner with many international and local organisations to tap into their areas of expertise and to ensure that we are addressing our social and environmental impacts adequately. We're members or associates of the following organisations:
ECOCLUB (International Tourism Club) promotes social and ecological change through and within tourism. They maintain an excellent news and social network with members, practitioners, academics, students and organisations worldwide.
The International Ecotourism Society is an international non-profit organisation with members in more than 70 countries. Their mission is to promote ecotourism, which they define as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and improves the well-being of local people". IIPT (International Institute for Peace through Tourism) are dedicated to making travel and tourism the world's first global peace industry by promoting the belief that every traveller is potentially an 'Ambassador for Peace'. IIPT aims to mobilise the travel and tourism industry to be a leading force for poverty reduction.
Plan is one of the oldest and largest children's development organisations in the world with no political or religious affiliations. They work in 50 developing countries to empower communities to overcome poverty, and to protect and promote child rights.
Intrepid is a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact - a framework used to align a company’s operations and strategies with universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labour, environment and anti-corruption.
Intrepid work with Carbon Trade Exchange to source internationally accredited carbon offset projects.
Articles on responsible travel
This is the one thing a traveller can definitely do without
Posted on Fri, 4 Sep 2015
Bottled water is an easy habit to get into, but one that makes absolutely no sense when you sit down and think about it.Read more
Nepal update: a letter from our co-founder
Posted on Tue, 23 Jun 2015
Having just returned from visiting the Nepalese Himalayas, Darrell Wade (Intrepid co-founder) has penned a heartfelt letter describing his experience.Read more
7billiondreams: make your pledge for World Environment Day
Posted on Fri, 5 Jun 2015
There are still things each of us can do to give our planet, the only one we’ve got, a hand. They’re not big or earthshattering or dramatic, but their effects can be.Read more