Our climate commitment
Intrepid has been a carbon-neutral business since 2010 and in 2022 we offered over 1,800 carbon-offset trips. We declared a Climate Emergency in January 2020; which is underpinned by a seven-point commitment plan. We believe that businesses like Intrepid have a responsibility to contribute to efforts to limit global warming to 1.5C. That's why, in 2020, we became the first global tour operator with verifiable science-based targets through the Science Based Targets initiative.
Intrepid was also one of the first signatories and a launch partner to the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism in November 2021. By becoming a signatory, we've agreed to implement the commitments detailed in the Glasgow Declaration, most notably supporting the global commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero as soon as possible before 2050.
Our climate change solutions ecosystem
Since founding the business in 1989, Darrell and Manch had a vision for a style of travel that would be low impact while creating benefits for places and local people. Today, this commitment continues to be a driving force behind Intrepid’s strategy to Grow with Purpose. But our commitment to climate action started in 2005. Darrell was sitting under a tree in the African savanna when it hit him: the company he'd co-founded was contributing significantly to the planet's carbon emissions. At the time Intrepid was considered to be a leader in responsible tourism, but he realised that we are part of an industry in which few businesses have made efforts to minimise their environmental footprint. That realisation kicked off a companywide effort to measure, reduce and offset the emissions generated by our offices and our trips.
By 2010, Intrepid had become a completely carbon-neutral business, carbon-offsetting trips for all our travellers, too.
Climate change is the term commonly used when talking about global warming. The Earth is like a giant greenhouse, but instead of glass panes trapping the 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 in some of the heat and keeps the planet at a relatively constant temperature. Without it, the Earth would either get too hot or too cold.
When greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere by human activity – such as burning fossil fuels and clearing land – it's as if we’re adding extra ‘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 that could seriously affect life on our planet. For more information on climate change, visit the Australian Conservation Foundation's website. For the latest scientific observations of climate change, visit the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's website.
Since 2010, we have been the world’s largest carbon neutral travel company, a result of us measuring the total carbon emissions generated by our trips and offices, offsetting these by investing in renewable energy projects.
An organisation becomes carbon neutral by reducing emissions through energy-saving tactics and using renewable energy, and compensating for the leftover emissions by investing in emission reduction projects or 'offsets'. The overall emissions produced are balanced out or equal to 'zero'.
We work hard to reduce carbon emissions and seek less carbon-intensive alternatives where possible, and then balance the remaining emissions by purchasing internationally certified carbon credits. To decrease our trips’ carbon footprint, we make sure our trips are low impact by using 21 different kinds of public transportation worldwide, staying in simple, locally owned accommodation and eating at locally owned restaurants where the food has been sourced close-by. Offsets are purchased on behalf of each one of our travellers, ensuring the carbon emitted from all departures is offset.
In our offices and stores around the world, we also measure, avoid, reduce, and offset carbon-related usage and ‘green out’ our office spaces. We’re always looking for ways to reduce the level of emissions generated and follow our Carbon Management Program diligently. While we want to maintain our carbon neutrality, we want to pursue less carbon-intensive operations across our entire company and the wider value chain in order to achieve the structural change needed to secure a 1.5°C future.
Our trips are low impact by design. How? We 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.
As part of our Carbon Management Program, (we measure our electricity, gas, paper waste, flight emissions; aim to reduce and be more resource efficient and then offset the rest) we offset the carbon emissions from our global business offices and the emission created on our trips.
Through these offsets, significant monetary contributions are made on behalf of our business, suppliers, staff and travellers to internationally certified carbon abatement projects.
Also, to minimise carbon emissions on our trips, we make the following considerations:
- Local services: We engage locally owned and operated services, thereby supporting local people and avoiding the use of long, 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 hoses.
- 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: The production of a one-litre plastic bottle takes two litres of water and 200 millilitres of oil. So for every one litre of water sold, three litres of water is used. We encourage our passengers to refill a water bottle from water 'bubblers' where available to avoid unnecessary purchasing of bottled water and subsequent waste disposal issues.
- Economic empowerment: Economic empowerment of local communities through tourism can help improve education, health services, water supplies and sanitation, and reduce dependence on non-sustainable livelihoods such as deforestation.
- Local employment: We employ local leaders and guides so that we learn about other cultures and ways of life directly from those who live it – and it puts 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 educate our travellers about how they can practice principles of ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ and dispose appropriately of waste in their particular destination.
- We're using 100% Green Power energy (where available) in our offices and retail stores.
- We observe 'reduce, reuse and recycle' policies when it comes to 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 in many of our offices 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 reviewed our lighting and have successfully 'de-lamped' unnecessary bulbs.
- We have regular presentations for staff on sustainability matters as waste reduction, sustainable seafood options and ethically sourced paper.
- We encourage our staff to walk or cycle to work. We also encourage the use of public transport.
- Our offices set emission reduction targets every year, and implement initiatives to meet these targets.
Carbon offsetting is an internationally recognised way for organisations to compensate for carbon emissions they are not able to completely eliminate, by investing in projects that reduce or remove emissions.
Intrepid invests in projects in Australia and around the world that reduce or remove carbon from the atmosphere to offset the emissions that we cannot eliminate. The projects we invest in are providing economic/social/environmental benefits to communities as well as reducing emissions. However, Intrepid recognises that carbon reduction is necessary to avoid the worst aspects of climate change.
The carbon offsetting cost is embedded in the price of the trip – so our passengers have no additional fee to worry about. Even with the offset included, these trips are still competitive, ensuring you get the best price for a fantastic grassroots adventure with a reduced environmental impact.
Greenhouse gas emissions generated as a result of stationary energy use, transportation and waste generation and disposal are assessed in accordance with the GHG Protocol, an initiative of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and World Resources Institute (WRI).
Information relating to energy use, waste generation and disposal rates are based on data provided by Sustainability Victoria and the United Nations Statistics Division. Emission factors are derived from a number of sources, including the Department of Climate Change (DCC), Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change and the World Resource Institute.
Although the sustainable development benefits delivered by a renewable energy project i.e. wind projects are important, often carbon credits from i.e. cookstove projects will sell at a higher price. This is due to the value over and beyond carbon that a project delivers, the tangibility of these benefits and that many investors feel they can make more of a direct impact at a community level.
Greenhouse gases include methane, nitrous oxide and halocarbons, but the mostly commonly referred to greenhouse gas is carbon dioxide (CO2) – thus CO2 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 a car.
There are more of us now than ever before, emitting more greenhouse gases than our atmosphere can handle, so it's important we all make some simple and achievable changes to reduce our emissions. Climate change is happening right now and we need to take action right now. We can all do this by making simple changes in our lives to reduce our carbon emissions.
Lowering your carbon footprint helps reduce the impacts of climate change, such as sea level rise and extreme weather events. Many small individual emission reduction activities together add up to a large total reduction. Lowering the total amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere limits the greenhouse effect which in-turn reduces climate
All flights that are included in our trip itineraries are offset. As direct emissions from transport make up most emissions when travelling, carbon offsetting this component of our tours is vital.
Your flights taken to and from the trip are not offset by Intrepid, however we encourage customers to offset their flights using their airline's offset program, or to arrive by ground transportation where possible.
In 2022, Intrepid emitted 27,898 tonnes of carbon across our offices and trips. More than half of the emissions on our trips came from transport, specifically air travel. We continue to focus on using more environmentally friendly modes of transport on our trips, and this will be a growing focus going forward. A large portion of our office emissions come from operational expenses such as information communication and technology services and equipment, office equipment and supplies, non-company-owned vehicles and professional services.
We offset our carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits from six international renewable energy projects. They are in destinations where we operate our tours, so they are geographically relevant to our business.
In 2022, we redeveloped our trips' GHG inventory in line with the best-practice requirements set by Climate Active, which is an ongoing partnership between the Australian Government and Australian businesses to drive voluntary climate action.
Our Destination Management Company in Peru has also been certified under Rainforest Alliance since 2015.
In addition to being carbon neutral, Intrepid has committed to removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through decarbonisation, specifically through reductions in emissions from our trips and operations.
For us, it’s not a matter of stopping travelling. It’s about changing the way we travel. After all, what is seeing the sunrise over Machu Picchu if there’s no cloud forest? What is travel without the Serengeti plains or the Amazon rainforest? We believe that it’s our responsibility to help preserve the planet for the next generation of travellers and the communities that call these places home.
Find out more about our specific climate commitments by checking out our seven-point commitment plan.
The Intrepid Foundation is supporting the Blue Carbon Lab to help restore natural coastal wetland areas around Port Philip Bay near Melbourne. The Blue Carbon Lab uses cutting-edge blue carbon research to mitigate climate change to support the restoration and protection of three crucial blue carbon ecosystems across Victoria.
These projects - at Swan Bay, Truganina Wetland, and Avalon - will involve working with local communities, citizen scientists, and volunteers. At Avalon we are supporting restoration efforts by Wadawurrung Traditional Owners Aboriginal Corporation (WTOAC) to protect sites of cultural heritage.
We can all make a difference, if we do it now. Even if you feel as though governments are ignoring the warning signs, it doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t make a difference. We can all vote with our wallets by supporting NGOs and businesses who prioritise the environment; we can all join a climate change group, or even pick up a placard in protest; we can all keep learning and educating ourselves; we can all continue to reduce and reuse in our everyday lives.
While the issue of climate change might feel overwhelmingly big, we want you to know that solutions do exist. But it’s up to us to stand together and embrace those solutions to help save the planet.
We know travel can be a significant source of global carbon emissions. That’s why we created our carbon management program in 2010 and became the largest carbon-neutral travel company. However, in line with climate projections and explicit warnings from the scientific community, we have recognised that carbon offsetting alone won’t be enough to mitigate the climate crisis.
This is why in September 2020, Intrepid became the first global tour operator with approved science-based targets, verified by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). This step is intended to shift our focus from offsetting to emissions reduction. While we want to maintain our carbon neutrality, we also want to pursue less carbon-intensive operations across our entire company and the wider value chain in order to achieve the structural change needed to secure a 1.5°C future.
A big part of this is decarbonising transportation. We know that more than half of the emissions on our trips in 2022 came from transport and specifically air travel. While we can’t control how our travellers arrive at their destination, on our trips we prioritise the use of public transport and remove non‑essential flights where viable alternatives exist.
We encourage customers to travel to and from our trips by ground transportation where possible, or offset their flights using their airline’s offset program.
Intrepid Travel believes in avoiding single use plastic where possible and ask our travellers to do the same and bring a reusable water bottle. Sometimes water must be bought in order to access safe water.
Climate Active is Australia's collective initiative for climate action and is a partnership between the Australian government and Australian businesses to drive voluntary climate action. Climate Active certification is awarded to businesses and organisations that have achieved a state of net zero emissions, otherwise known as carbon neutrality. Being an Australian-owned, carbon neutral business, Intrepid is Climate Active certified.
Based on the facts we know today; we’d be lying to ourselves if we were to continue as though there is nothing wrong with the travel industry. We declared a Climate Emergency in January 2020, together with a group of other businesses, organisations and individuals in the tourism industries. Our climate emergency is underpinned by seven-point commitment plan. We passionately believe that it is the responsibility (and obligation) of businesses, like Intrepid, to do whatever we can to limit global warming to 1.5C in the next decade. Climate change is everyone's business and businesses need to be a part of the solution.
Our climate emergency declaration
We are committed to create environmental benefits by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and decarbonise our business by reducing emissions from our trips and global operations. We have set a science-based emissions reduction target in line with a 1.5°C future.
Together with a group of other businesses, organisations and individuals in the tourism industries, we are declaring a Climate Emergency, as part of Tourism Declares. Intrepid was also one of the first signatories and a launch partner to the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism in November 2021. By becoming a signatory, Intrepid has agreed to implement the commitments detailed in the Glasgow Declaration, most notably supporting the global commitment to halve emissions by 2030 and reach net zero as soon as possible before 2050.
Our seven-point commitment plan
Our seven-point plan included the following commitments:
- Measure our emissions annually, including from transport, waste, energy use across offices, trips and our wider supply chain.
- Continue to offset 100 per cent of our emissions each year. We have evolved away from our initial commitment to offset 125 per cent of emissions in favour of greater investment in decarbonising our business and biodiversity or nature-based solutions.
- Meet near-term targets and set a science-based target to reduce emissions and reach net zero as soon as possible before 2050.
- Transition to 100 per cent renewable energy in all our offices around the world by 2025 and on our trips by 2030.
- Invest in green bonds, which support assets and projects consistent with delivering a low-carbon economy.
- Empower women around the world to ensure sustainable growth, through projects such as Cambodia’s hyacinth weaving program.
- Invest in research and innovative solutions and advocate across industry for decarbonisation.
Find out more about how we, as a business, measure, reduce and offset our carbon emissions, both on our trips and in our offices around the world.