Impact travel moves the needle in corporate ESG programs

Karim Hajjarco-founder of a sustainable and educational travel company and Sam McManusfounder and managing director of sustainable travel company YellowWood Adventures discusses how organizations are making ESG programs more efficient and ensuring sustainability by supporting impactful projects.

Somewhere between the 2015 United Nations Paris Agreement and COP26 last year, with the pandemic spreading and the prevailing realization of climate change, global organizations have begun to commit to Net Zero and build Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) capacity to facilitate that change. Chief Sustainability Officers (CSOs) are appointed, but their functions are far from clear.

To accommodate sustainability and make ESG programs more effective, leading organizations support locally and internationally influential projects that fit their business models. Projects that directly reduce an organization’s emissions (and thus environmental impact) and support the communities in which it operates are often prioritized and complemented by global carbon offsetting and social development projects.

We have interviewed more than 20 CSOs and Chief Sustainability Officers from leading global companies focusing on the premise that employees can only connect with and be affected by these projects and the surrounding communities if they travel to see them.

As Brent Trenga, Director of Sustainability, North America for building materials company Kingspan said succinctly: “For us, it is so important from the top to the bottom of the business that we see, touch and feel how these projects are making a difference.” The elephant often appears in the room at this point when the projects are far enough away that flights are required. We argue that when these emissions are also offset, they actually pale in comparison to the positive effects that companies and employees can have on both social and nature-positive projects, and just as important, the inspiration and behavioral changes employees take with them.

Leading organizations are also choosing impact travel as a new form of motivational travel, combining team building and ESG programmes. This purpose-driven form of motivational travel increases a sense of belonging, reduces attrition, while supporting impact and community development projects through volunteerism and tangible exchange. We have distilled lessons learned from these interviews into an actionable five-step process for making ESG programs more effective through impact travel:

1 – Understand the environmental and social footprints of your organization

The first step is to conduct an in-depth analysis and mapping of the organization’s environmental, social and governance issues, usually called an assessment of the materiality of ESG. At the environmental level, more in-depth analysis and quantification of emissions from Scope 1-3 are undertaken to identify major sources of emissions and quick wins.

While Scope 1 emissions cover those related to organization-owned and directly controlled sources (such as emissions from shipping company-owned boats), Scope 2 covers the use of purchased energy, and Scope 3 covers all other emissions from the organization’s supply chain and activities, including travel for the purpose of work.

Osten Jensen, Chief Sustainability Officer for Norwegian shipping company Odfjell, also stated: “We monitor Scope 1 and 2 emissions closely and report on our carbon intensity every quarter. We have set clear climate targets on lowering the intensity, so improving efficiency and reducing our direct emissions is key. For us now. On the other hand, tracking our Scope 3 emissions has been a challenge. Therefore, we have started a data collection and analysis project with our suppliers to improve our understanding of Scope 3 emissions and identify areas for improvement.”

Organizations also try to involve all employees in the process through well-defined frameworks and outreach efforts. Mona Marghani, Head of Human Resources and Sustainability at the Hajjar Group in Sudan explains: “The policy was set up to serve as a guide and framework for all employees and executives at the Hajjar Group to integrate and understand the factors that are most critical to our business operations, our society and our environment. This was coupled with very frequent awareness sessions and presentation of the projects implemented. successfully to help bring about a paradigm shift in the minds of our employees to interact with the concept of sustainability and social programmes.”

2 – Develop ideas and solutions to reduce and compensate for environmental impacts and contribute to social initiatives

The second step is to identify solutions to reduce and offset environmental impacts and contribute to social initiatives. From a carbon emissions standpoint, this begins with the replacement or improvement of the assets used and owned by the organization, the use of renewable energy, the replacement or improvement of the inputs used in products and across the supply chain, and in the application of recycling principles.

Novo Nordisk, a leading pharmaceutical company based in Denmark, has converted all of its plants to 100% renewable energy and is committed to achieving net zero emissions across its value chain by 2045 at the latest. They also have an interim goal to reach zero emissions from operations and transportation by 2030, according to Swati Randev-Verma, APAC Sustainability and ESG Lead.

Once all possible solutions to reduce emissions have been exhausted, the remaining measured emissions are what must be addressed through compensation projects. While offsetting can speed up an organization’s journey to Net Zero, it certainly should not replace a 1-3 scale reduction in emissions. Only unavoidable emissions (using existing technology and options) should be offset. There is a rapidly growing number of carbon offset solutions available to companies to assist in this process.

3- Identify and prioritize impactful projects, in partnership with global and local NGOs and social institutions

Once solutions are developed, organizations can begin to identify and prioritize impactful projects that will allow employees to contribute and experience as a group. While some of these projects are directly related to the organization’s activities in specific countries, others are designed as a vehicle for carbon offsets or philanthropy.

The hospitality company, Marriott International’s sustainability and social impact platform, Serve 360, includes a 2025 goal to halve food waste, source 95% of the 10 first priority categories, facilitate 15 million hours of shared volunteer work, plus company flag based goals and zero net liabilities. To achieve these goals and support the company’s sustainability and social impact strategy, they have allocated funds to support NGOs and strategic partners.

For example, Marriott is focusing on reducing food waste and responsible seafood with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). The company is collaborating with The Ocean Foundation to contribute to innovative carbon sequestration projects to capture sargassum, a seaweed that is wreaking havoc in the Caribbean. “At Marriott International, it is imperative that our efforts are supported and informed by industry experts, while at the same time allowing colleagues and guests the opportunity to participate in the sustainability and social impact journey,” said Dennis Najib, Global Vice President, Sustainability and Social Impact. Diversity of suppliers.

Rob Chesright, Head of Sustainability at Pinwheel, an organization set up at COP26 to specifically partner companies with development projects, commented: “They are also the kinds of projects that can engage and excite people. Leading organizations give their employees or even clients a choice over the projects they support, Which increases their conviction of a broader sustainability and loyalty strategy… We have seen a real appetite for the idea of ​​giving employees experiences, enabling them to travel to and see projects firsthand. We expect this trend to accelerate.”

4 – Select the top ESG contributors to your organization and share their impactful travel experiences

It’s a huge amount of work to create this business infrastructure, before the challenge of employee engagement begins. Civil society organizations are now looking to travel to do this work on their behalf, notes Ibrahim Al Zoubi, a senior civil society official at the leading shopping mall, retail and leisure pioneer Majid Al Futtaim in Dubai:

“Impact travel can become a catalyst for Majid Al Futtaim to raise awareness and engage with different layers of the company. We will consider environmental impact projects with our employees such as coral reef cleanup, renewable energy development, and tree planting, also as social and community development projects. These will take place in countries where We operate in them like Egypt and Jordan. Impactful travel can help Majid Al Futtaim achieve key ESG goals while providing team building opportunities.”

Richard Batten, a global CSO at real estate services firm JLL in London was recently included in Sustainability Magazine’s “Top 10 CSOs for Global Organizations” recently, and asserts: “Sending top performers to climate-appropriate projects in South America and Africa To create positive impacts is something JLL might be interested in. We have a volunteer week in June when we encourage our workforce to volunteer on projects relevant to the local community, so, in due course, such a scheme can go along with this.”

5- Strengthening the company’s relationship with the project through continuous communication and communicating positive effects to the wider organization

It seems that Kingspan, the global company in the field of sustainable construction, is already ahead in this field; Taking key employees from across the companies to participate in national and international impact projects such as partnering with SeaBin to clean up oceans in Los Angeles and Australia. They have found that it helps educate and inspire employees on how to be more responsible and sustainable in their home lives, as sharing information when employees visit projects inspires them to take steps to integrate these topics into their daily lives. Today’s jobs.

Brent Trenga, Director of Sustainability North America explains: “Structural steel is always reusable, but we are now focusing on the recyclable angle of other products and building with materials salvaged via the circular economy model as a result of these projects. Employees affect projects and projects affect employees in Positive feedback loop Engaging every employee in this is a critical component as we report on the progress of our Planet Passionate Program on a monthly basis and it is one of the most requested information from our Investor Relations team.It is important that our clients see this too – They need and want to see the software. It’s good for business.”

The environmental, social and economic benefits of impact travel far outweigh the carbon emissions of flights taken by employees involved in impact projects, when properly organized while also being carbon neutral. With countries reopening to tourism after two difficult years with COVID, organizations must seize the opportunity to offer impactful travel to increase employee engagement and make a positive impact in the world.

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