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  • Writer's pictureKira Day

Why a travel B Corp set science-based climate targets

Intrepid Travel is the world’s largest adventure travel company and has been a pioneer in sustainable travel for over 30 years. After becoming carbon neutral in 2010, they certified as a B Corp in 2018. Intrepid was operating over 1,000 different itineraries in 130 countries around the world at the start of 2020, but COVID-19 has presented countless challenges for the industry. They’ve used this time to double-down on their environmental goals, including their new science-based climate targets.

B Lab ANZ’s Community Manager spoke with Intrepid’s Environmental Impact Specialist, Dr. Susanne Etti, to learn more about what the new targets mean for Intrepid.

A woman with a pack stands in front of a mountain scape.
Dr. Susanne Etti is also a Climate Reality Leader and member of the B Corp Climate Collective.

B Lab: Can you tell us a bit about your role at Intrepid as the Environmental Impact Specialist?

Susanne: I’m responsible for our climate action work including our climate change performance, reporting, advocacy work and working with the business to transition to a low-carbon economy.

B Lab: One of your most recent achievements is seeing Intrepid’s science-based climate targets approved. For the folks who aren’t familiar, can you give a bit more context for what science-based targets are and why they matter?

Susanne: In January this year, we declared a climate emergency with Tourism Declares, a global collective of tourism businesses, organisations and individuals who have pledged urgent action on climate change.

Our climate emergency is underpinned by a seven-point commitment plan. It includes continuing to measure our emissions, going100% renewable in all of our offices, and commitments to ambitious emissions reduction targets. We’re doing these through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) by setting targets in line with a 1.5°C future - which means limiting the rise of global temperature to only 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

The only way we can change the trajectory that we’re currently on is by individuals, companies, organisations and governments taking real, meaningful action based in science on carbon emissions.

That’s why Intrepid Travel has joined other companies to set a science-based emission reduction target and reduce our greenhouse gas emissions at the pace and scale that science says is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C. We are responding to a call-to-action for companies to set emissions reduction targets in line with a 1.5°C future, backed by a global network of UN agencies, business, and industry leaders. Setting science-based climate targets will see us reduce our emissions across our operations and supply chains for scope 1, 2 and 3.

B Lab: We heard you worked closely with fellow B Corp Ndevr Environmental to get there. What type of guidance could they give you that you otherwise wouldn’t have had?

Susanne: Ndevr supported Intrepid Travel through its entire Science Based Target (SBT) process, from a feasibility assessment and preliminary ‘business as usual’ emissions trajectory modelling, all the way through to target modelling and testing, SBT development and support during the target validation process under the Science Based Targets Initiative.

B Lab: What’s the significance of setting science-based targets for Intrepid as a business? And the industry more broadly?

Susanne: We are the first tour operator with approved science-based targets, verified by the Science Based Targets initiative. Business has a vital role to play in helping limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5°C and building the net-zero carbon economy of the future. Setting science-based climate targets will see us reduce our emissions across our operations and supply chains in line with a 1.5° future. Our hope is that we can use this as a rallying cry to the entire industry to take meaningful collective action on climate as a critical priority in travel’s post-COVID recovery.

We simply can’t rebuild at the expense of the planet.
A glacier stands alone in open ocean.
Photo courtesy of Intrepid Travel

B Lab: For a lot of businesses, reaching Net Zero emissions seems a bit daunting. Where was Intrepid 5, 10, or 20 years ago, compared to where you are now?

Susanne: We haven’t only recently become worried about climate change. In fact, our journey started in 2005 when a group of senior managers read The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery about the history and future impact of climate change. That started to get us thinking. Fast forward five years, and the feedback from our stakeholders - including our customers - to take definitive action on climate helped us become the world’s largest carbon-neutral travel company in 2010. Since then we’ve offset more than 350,000 tonnes of carbon emissions worldwide

Over the last 15 years, the need for climate action has grown more obvious year-on-year. Not only is the climate crisis leading to extreme weather events that threaten people and wildlife world over, but it is a significant threat to our business. So many of the destinations we love may well be destroyed by drought, fire, or other weather events over the next decade. But we’ve recognised that being carbon neutral is no longer enough. Based on the facts we know today; we would be lying to ourselves if we were to continue as though the travel industry wasn’t contributing to the climate crisis. Carbon offsetting does not create a license to emit, but it does provide critical funding to projects that are providing clean energy, as well as projects that deliver social, cultural, economic or environmental benefits that work towards regenerating the planet. So, we created a seven-point commitment plan to underpin our climate emergency declaration.

B Lab: It’s easy for individuals to feel powerless when so much of the responsibility sits with governments and big corporations. What small actions can an employee who wants to make a difference take?

Susanne: The first step is to learn about the science, impacts and potential solutions. I recommend David Attenborough’s A Life on Our Planet or the film 2040, which shows the future we could create with the solutions we have today.

As an employee, you can actually do a lot within your business. You can encourage them to transition to renewable energy or switch their default super to one that is divested from fossil fuels. You can do waste audits in your office and improve the amount that can be recovered for recycling, or even set up an organic waste collection to divert food waste from landfill.

You can also organise lunch & learn sessions with your colleagues about the climate crisis, and invite experts or others in the B Corp community to talk about how you can reduce your footprint. The B Corp Climate Collective is also a great place to connect with other B Corps to act together.

'A 10-step quick start guide to decarbonise your travel business', over an image of 5 hikers on the side of a mountain.
Intrepid released its 10-step guide to decarbonise your travel business in July 2020.

B Lab: What’s up next for Intrepid’s climate journey?

Susanne: As part of our SBTs, Intrepid is now identifying key business initiatives to implement that will action emissions reductions, including transitioning to renewable energy in all of our offices globally. We also want to engage our supply chain, wider value chain and the broader tourism sector to decarbonise, so we’ve been sharing our knowledge and learnings publicly along the way. We hope to see more companies measuring their impact and setting emission reduction targets based on science.

Read more from Dr. Susanne Etti here.



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