SustainabilityX®’s #DecadeOfAction Interview Campaign
As part of SustainabilityX®’s #DecadeOfAction change-making campaign for 2020 to help achieve the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, we’re interviewing trailblazing global leaders in sustainability who’re taking the world by storm through their groundbreaking work and impactful contributions to advancing global sustainable development.
The goal is to gain more depth and understanding of sustainable business and development in practice while celebrating leaders’ work to inspire and motivate others to take action in such a crucial era.
I had the pleasure of speaking to the Contiki’s Tasha Hayes in this regard, Global Sustainability Officer, Contiki Services Ltd.
Here’s what she had to say:
Q: How do you define sustainability and sustainable development, and what does it mean to you?
Sustainability for me is a way of life that ensures we are taking care of the planet not only for us at this very moment but also for future generations. It steers us to consume resources more responsibly and makes us consider the things we buy and use. Sustainable development is about finding a better way to do things whilst meeting the diverse needs of all the people and communities that share our planet now and in the future. It focuses on the environment but is far broader, ensuring a just and healthy society and creating equal opportunity, and improving it.
Q: Why did you decide to go into the field of sustainability?
I have been with Contiki for a total of 9 years and started as a Trip Manager until I eventually progressed into my current role as the Operations Director for Contiki in Europe. I’ve always championed sustainability initiatives and advocated the ways we can do things better, both on the road, and in the office. We started with addressing issues, so I worked hard to eliminate plastics from both our coaches and offices. When the role of Sustainability Officer at Contiki was created it was the perfect opportunity for me to integrate my personal passion into my existing role at Contiki — given our company relies heavily on our operations teams to achieve our sustainability targets.
We’re so fortunate to have the support of TreadRight and with it, a dedicated team of sustainability experts to support Contiki on its mission. Our How We Tread Right strategy, the evolution of Contiki Cares, and now, becoming a carbon-neutral brand, the natural next step was to have a dedicated person to lead Contiki’s great sustainability initiatives at the brand level. Contiki becoming a carbon-neutral brand is massive. It’s the perfect opportunity to step up and support this direction, ensure we stay on track, and achieve the incredible goals we’ve set out for ourselves.
Q: How can business help advance sustainable development and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals?
No matter the size or industry, businesses have a role to play in advancing sustainable development and weaving the UN Sustainable Development Goals into their company’s DNA. Taking responsibility and embedding sustainability across all functions of the business is key to its success. The Sustainable Development Goals offer businesses an opportunity and framework to identify where they can make the most impact among the most pressing global issues. When developing our sustainability strategy, we used the SDGs as a lens to focus on the issues we could impact. We chose 11 of the 17 Global Goals to focus on and we have committed to annually reviewing all 17 Global Goals against our sustainability strategy and revising or reprioritizing where necessary. Engaging with the team at all levels and all departments is also essential in weaving the SDGs into the company’s core beliefs and planning. The SDGs can be used as a tool to begin engaging with these groups as they are simple to understand and increasingly used as a “common language” to introduce sustainable development. The next and most critical step is to connect these goals with customers and partners and bring them alongside our journey.
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Q: How do you incorporate sustainability practices into your business strategy to help achieve these goals, and what practices are they?
Contiki‘s Sustainability Strategy, How We Tread Right, is mapped directly to the SDGs, with a focus on 11 of the 17 SDGs where our business and the traveler experience can make the most impactful contribution to the fulfillment of the goals. This ensures our efforts are laddering up to global efforts. For example, to address SDG 13: Climate Action, we developed a Climate Action Plan to guide us as part of our wider sustainability strategy, which sees us prioritize reducing emissions and removing carbon ahead of offsetting unavoidable emissions. Our plan is not marked by one quick fix, because there isn’t one. It’s marked instead by our commitment to learn and adapt, as tech and innovation move us closer to the collective global goal of reducing carbon in our atmosphere. Beginning in 2022, in partnership with a leading offset provider, South Pole, we will offset all Contiki trips by purchasing carbon credits from a combination of three verified carbon reduction projects.
Contiki is also including MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences on our itineraries. These conscious travel experiences are chosen with great care based on the positive social or environmental impact they have on their communities and those who experience them. Using a proprietary assessment tool endorsed by sustainable development industry experts and developed exclusively for us, MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences are assessed against a robust set of criteria tied to the UN Global Goals. By participating in a MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experience our travelers will be educated on pressing global issues and local community actions being taken to address them.
Q: Where do you see the world 10 years from now in terms of the Sustainable Development Goals and global sustainable development?
To fulfill the Global Goals, we will require an unprecedented effort by all sectors of society with businesses playing a very important role. The last year has been extremely impactful for communities around the world but also served as a wake-up call, that the planet cannot and will not wait. This has made the role of the SDGs and sustainable development that much more critical and will require an immense amount of collaboration and effort. The UN Climate Change Conference happening later this year already sparks hope that world leaders will leave united in their approach to tackling climate change. I believe in the next 10 years that companies like our parent company, The Travel Corporation will have shown others how to advance sustainable development, both by minimizing negative impacts and maximizing positive impacts on people, the planet, and wildlife. I also believe and do hope that governments oblige this of businesses.
We can already see that sustainability plays a role in people’s buying decisions. A recent survey from Booking.com showed over half (53%) of global travelers wanting to travel more sustainably in the future as COVID-19 has opened their eyes to humans’ impact on the environment. I believe this will only increase in the years to come, so it’s integral for Contiki and the travel industry to pay attention. People will always want to jump on a plane and head to foreign destinations — it’s our job to provide a responsible way for them to do it. Young people are engaged with and concerned about, the effect their travel has on the environment. They’re also socially and environmentally aware and spend in line with their values. If every travel company makes commitments to the environment like Contiki, we all win. A brand that fails to take on any sort of substantial sustainability promise will be left behind, and it will only become a bigger prerequisite and demand from the younger generation.
Cheers to a sustainable world!