Our climate commitment
Intrepid has been a carbon-neutral business since 2010 and in 2019 we had 44 offices and offered over 2,700 carbon-offset trips. We declared a Climate Emergency in January 2020; which is underpinned by a seven-point commitment plan. We passionately believe that businesses like Intrepid have a responsibility to do whatever we can to limit global warming to 1.5C in the next decade. That's why, in 2020, we became the first global tour operator with verifiable science-based targets through the Science Based Targets initiative. Climate change is everyone's business and business need to be a part of the solution.
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 Group’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.
Carbon neutral means taking action to reduce and remove as much carbon from the atmosphere as an organisation puts into it. Being carbon neutral means that an organisation has a carbon footprint equal to zero.
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' meaning our organisation is not contributing to climate change.
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. Ultimately, we want to maintain our carbon neutrality year after year and we do this by calculating our climate-damaging carbon emissions, avoiding, reducing and seeking a less carbon-intensive alternative where possible, and then balancing the remaining emissions through carbon offsetting activity. Intrepid follows a project plan which describes the activities and milestones necessary to keep us carbon neutral year after year.
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 manage the carbon emissions that cannot be eliminated entirely and become carbon neutral.
Carbon offsetting is a way for organisations to cancel out carbon emissions they are not able to completely eliminate, by investing in projects that reduce or remove emissions.
Intrepid Travel 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.
The carbon offsetting cost is embedded in the price of the trip – so our passengers have no additional fee to worry about. The average offset cost embedded in our trip price is between $0.14 and $0.42 USD per passenger per day (dependent on the trip and region you are traveling to). 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 (A Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard Revised Edition, World Resource Institute & World Business Council for Sustainable Development - 2007)
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.
It’s true that carbon offsetting alone won’t fix the climate crisis, it’s important to remember that carbon offsets are a crucial part of our broader carbon management plan at Intrepid, and our plan to become climate positive.
There is far more that the tourism industry could be doing to address its role in contributing to the climate crisis, by reducing its emissions as well as offsetting. The projects we invest in through our carbon offsetting are high quality projects with genuine benefits to the environment and local communities, and we make sure of this by working with Ndevr Environmental, a B Corp certified, specialist carbon, energy and sustainability focused consultancy.
By being conscious of the choices we as a business make and the effects on the environment, we need to reduce our own carbon footprint and offset our unavoidable emissions to support the transition to a low-carbon sustainable future. There are some initiatives in place to set reduction targets for our business.
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
Each Intrepid trip offers our travellers a local, authentic, sustainable and carbon-offset experience. Travellers don’t have to worry about additional fees for carbon offsetting, as the offset cost is already included in the cost of the trip.
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.
From 2020 we will be offsetting flights for customers who book their airfare directly with us. We will be offsetting these by investing in the six current offset projects, which we’ll continue to support throughout 2022.
In 2020 Intrepid emitted 7,018 tonnes of carbon, lower than in previous years due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the travel and tourism industury. In comparison, on 2019, Intrepid’s total emissions including offices and trips reached nearly 37,800 tonnes of CO2. Most of the emissions come from transport and specifically air travel. We continue to focus on using more environmentally friendly modes of transport on our trips, but this will be a growing focus going forward.
We offset our carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits associated with a range of renewable energy projects. We have identified six key international projects that we will purchase carbon credits with from 2018-2022.
Those projects are in destinations in which we operate our tours, so they are geographically relevant to our business.
In late 2018, we revised our reporting method in line with Climate Active Carbon Neutral Standard formally known as the National Carbon Offsetting Standards (NCOS). Climate Active is a 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.
Intrepid aims to become climate positive in the future.
In addition to being carbon neutral, Intrepid Travel will create greater environmental benefits by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while decarbonising through reductions in emissions from its trips and operations.
2019 was the second warmest year on record. Climate change is boosting extreme weather events, with severe heatwaves, wildfires and flooding. Transitioning to more sustainable practices is integral to the survival of every business.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a stark warning on the consequences of global temperature increases of more than 1.5°C. Keeping global temperature rise below 1.5°C is a critical limit to protect lives and livelihoods around the world.
The fact that climate change is here is indisputable. But regardless of what is or isn’t getting passed in global senates and parliaments, we wholeheartedly believe that the rest of us can still make a huge difference. There are climate solutions out there – we just need to unite to bring change.
Intrepid is committed to taking action on climate change. 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.
In 2020, Intrepid became the first global tour operator with verifiable science-based targets through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi). This independently assesses corporate emissions reduction targets in line with what climate scientists say is needed to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Intrepid will transform its business for a low-carbon future by reducing emissions across its operations and trips.
As part of our commitment to being climate positive, The Intrepid Foundation donated AU $100,000 to help produce 2040: a film that looks at some of the climate change solutions we have available to us right now, and what the future could look like if we embraced them. One of these solutions – marine permaculture – is now becoming a reality with the help of donors around the world.
In April 2019, The Intrepid Foundation launched a new partnership with The Climate Foundation to fund research through the University of Tasmania for Australia’s first marine permaculture platform. As word travelled around the world – and more people saw the technology featured in 2040 – The Intrepid Foundation raised over AU $300,000 in just six months for the project's two phases. With dollar-for-dollar matching from Intrepid, we raised a total of AU $600,000 for climate action, making it one of our most widely-supported projects to date. With those funds, scientists collected spores from some of the surviving giant kelp populations to identify individuals that are more tolerant of warming waters. Now, they are breeding those kelp in the lab to prepare for planting into the field. The spores may be tiny, but the implications are massive: this stage is crucial to enable the project to be scaled up. Once planted, the spores will help to grow sustainable offshore platforms with giant kelp.
Marine Permaculture is one of the most promising for not only slowing but reversing the effects of climate change. The arrays serve as a marine habitat, cool surface ocean waters, and, most critically, help sink carbon dioxide. In some tropical places, the arrays can also protect coral from bleaching by providing cooler, nutrient-rich waters. As seaweed draws CO2 from the water, it allows the ocean to absorb more, thereby lowering atmospheric levels.
Developing marine permaculture is not just a step for the climate; it’s a step for sustainable, environmentally positive aquaculture, local livelihoods and tourism. The project also supports kelp forest restoration efforts by planting warm-tolerant giant kelp on natural rocky reefs.
We can all make a difference, if we do it now. Even if you feel as though governments are ignoring the warning signs, itdoesn’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 helped support 2040 which is an incredibly eye-opening film and good place to start); 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 can’t ignore climate change. If we do, who will face the worst of it? The generations to come deserve a planet where things are changing for the better. There is still a chance to slow down and even reverse some of the impact, but action has to start now. And as it turns out, seaweed could be the hero just beneath our feet all along.
We know travel can be a significant source of global carbon emissions. That’s why we created our carbon management program in 2010, when we became the largest carbon neutral travel company. We continue to manage the impact of our trips and offices around the world using Measure – Reduce – Offset carbon management principles. We measure and offset the main sources of emissions on our trips from transport to accommodation and waste. When it comes to our offices, we measure and offset our emissions from electricity, bottled gas, natural gas, water, flights, vehicles, waste and paper. Intrepid is committed to protecting our planet. That’s why we take a sustainable approach to our consumption and production during trips and in our offices. We do this by using public transport, encouraging travellers to take reusable water bottles, and minimising the number of flights included in our itineraries. In our offices, we recycle waste and have introduced resource efficiency measures. We offset our carbon emissions by purchasing carbon credits associated with a range of renewable energy projects. We have identified six key international projects that we will purchase carbon credits with from 2018-2022.
A key company goal is for Intrepid to become Climate Positive in the future. In addition to being carbon-neutral, Intrepid will create greater environmental benefits by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while decarbonising through reductions in emissions from its trips and operations.
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 business need to be a part of the solution. Part of our commitment plan is creating a climate positive company in the future. This means, we’re creating environmental benefits by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and decarbonising our business by reducing emissions from our trips and global operations.
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. With the help of The Intrepid Foundation, we're investing in an innovative project in Tasmania to restore the disappearing kelp forests. Supporting Seaweed: The (re)generation is our first step to becoming climate positive this decade/ in the future. And 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.
Our seven-point commitment plan
Our seven-point plan included the following commitments:
- To annually measure our emissions, from transport, to waste, to energy use – we need to know where our emissions are coming from so, we can understand how to limit them.
- To offset 125% of our emissions each year, starting in 2020. We expanded our carbon management program to offset sources of emissions beyond our trips and offices – like offsetting our customers’ flights, and double offsetting our Polar Expeditions.
- To set a science-based target to reduce emissions (more on this later!), to ensure our business will be on track for low-carbon growth.
- To transition to 100% renewable energy in all our offices around the world by 2025, and on our trips by 2030.
- To be the first travel company in Australia to invest in green deposits, which support assets and projects consistent with delivering a low carbon economy.
- To continue empowering women around the world to ensure sustainable growth, through projects such as Eden Reforestation Projects in Kenya.
- To continue to invest in research and innovative solutions. We’ve already raised more than $650K for the Seaweed project with the film 2040, the Climate Foundation and the University of Tasmania, and will be funding $100k for Antarctic climate change research in a bid to help preserve the Antarctic.
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.