Climate update: How we’re progressing towards a 1.5-degree future
At Intrepid, our carbon management program is guided by 14 climate goals – this update provides a view of how we’re advancing our climate action.
By Susanne Etti, Global Environmental Impact Manager
As part of our Ethical Marketing Guidelines, we’ve committed to providing greater transparency, including our sustainability efforts. In this update, we’re sharing more on our 14 internal climate action goals, which range from education and activism to changes across our products, offices and workforce.
Halfway through the year, we’re on track to achieve at least half of these. And while I can’t dive into them all, I can share a status update on some key objectives. Here’s a look at where we’re on track, where we’re behind and where we’ve completed our goals.
To start with, overall to date in 2023, we have emitted 37,009 tonnes of CO2. That’s about the same as 4,664 American homes’ energy use in one year*. This carbon output is a result of a period of rapid growth, including some of the best sales in our history, nearly doubling our workforce and launching operations in four new countries, but it also means that we’ve also exceeded our annual footprint for 2022.
This highlights the challenge of how to balance decarbonising our business, while also growing our company.
Measuring and reporting remains a key aspect - because the better our understanding of our impact is, the better placed we are to address it. You couldn’t run a business by only benchmarking your financial performance once a year – and the same applies to sustainability. To hone our focus and actually achieve our goals, we need to check-in regularly.
Here’s how we’re tracking with some of our 14 climate goals:
Where we’re on track
Goal: Create 10 purpose-led advocacy initiatives in our sector to improve environmental and social practices
Sri Lanka’s Zero Plastic Walk, an initiative of the Intrepid Foundation and its partner the Zero Plastic Movement, took place in July and represented the largest environmental cleanup in the country’s history.
I love this example as it’s a great case study of how a cross-industry collaboration can amplify purpose-led advocacy and achieve even greater results. With 4000+ participants including 60 Intrepid staff and 16 Intrepid travellers, walkers retrieved almost 5,000kg of waste in the UNESCO World-Heritage Listed Sigiriya.
This is just one example, but there’s plenty more purpose-led advocacy happening behind the scenes too. Our people are more engaged than ever, and I can’t wait to see where they take their activism in the second half of 2023.
Goal: Stay on track to meet our 2025 science-based targets and reduce emissions
I’m also happy to report that we’re building off our work as the first global tour operator to introduce science-based emissions reduction targets by applying for a Net Zero target. This is a critical next step in our decarbonisation journey and will ensure we shore up our efforts to achieve long-term change.
In the immediate term, we’re reviewing our 2025 targets to reflect the rapid growth of our business post-pandemic, including the acquisition of several businesses. Naturally, expanding our product also means expanding our footprint, so conducting this review will be pivotal in refining our direction for the next few years.
Where we’re behind
On the other hand, we’re not where we’d like to be in a few key areas. Global, external pressures have slowed our pace in some markets, whereas in others, we lack the resources to move at speed.
Goal: Increase renewable energy uptake across offices
We’ve set a goal to power all of our global offices by renewable energy by 2025, but right now, we’re only at seven out of 50. There are a few reasons why - a big one being that only select countries we operate in have retailers that actually sell renewables.
We continue to look at ways to address this, including by purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs), which essentially involves buying the environmental benefits associated with green energy generation in lieu of being able to achieve them, similar to the way carbon offsetting works.
Goal: Engage suppliers in carbon reduction education and measures in a supplier engagement program
We’re also working hard on our supplier engagement goals, although this is taking longer than we hoped. For an asset-light business like Intrepid, 98% of our total carbon footprint comes from the supply chain, so bringing them on the journey is mission critical if we’re going to meaningfully decarbonise our operations.
We’re awaiting supplier data to identify those who are already engaged on environmental measures. Once we know this, we’ll issue our first dedicated survey to calculate CO2 emissions from our supply chain.
Where we’re finished (for now)
Goal: Invest in at least two partnerships to accelerate climate action
In 2023, the Intrepid Foundation has welcomed close to 30 news partners spanning every continent and more than 20 countries. Of this new cohort, eight are working to accelerate climate and environmental action, including Greening Australia (Australia), Cooperativa Coraggio (Italy) and Grand Canyon Conservancy (USA).
It’s been excellent to see our teams really get around these partnerships. In the first half of 2023, our people have already logged an incredible 3000+ hours volunteering, with more than 300 people participating.
Recently some of our team in Australia planted 950 native trees and shrubs in partnership with TreeProject, a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to protecting waterways, improving ecosystem health, and creating habitats for wildlife through revegetation.
Where to from here
The fact is decarbonisation and climate action is not always easy and we’re constantly discovering areas where we need to do better and coming across challenges that we didn’t expect.
One challenge that we’ve identified since publishing our 2022 annual report is an error in the emissions calculation we used to evaluate the footprint of our trips. We have since reviewed our model and made significant improvements, including applying a greater error margin. In the interest of transparency, we will restate these numbers in our 2023 impact report.
This work complements the recent rollout of carbon labels across more than 500 of our trips to empower customers to make more informed choices about their holidays.
At the beginning of this article, I mentioned the balance between business profitability and good corporate citizenship. These days, we all know these aren’t mutually exclusive, but being successful at both requires constant innovation, tough conversations and a commitment to full transparency – something that doesn’t come naturally to a lot of businesses.
I’m proud of the progress we’ve made. We’re not perfect but we are committed to doing the work and staying accountable.
Our 2023 performance will be published in full in our next integrated annual report in March 2024. Until then, we’d love to hear what you think about our progress. Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.