STC Expeditions Carbon Action Plan: Commitment to Engagement and Education
Worldwide (offering educational tours and school expeditions in various destinations across the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America) / Registered in the UK
- Get started. Even if it's only working on a few small aspects of your plan, that old proverb, “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”, is very true. Start by identifying small easy wins and implementing them straight away.
- Engage your employees. Try and get everyone on board. Acknowledging that some issues are difficult for some of them to understand, appreciate or engage with, be honest about the reasons for your climate action efforts and their expected financial and social impacts, as well as consequences on your business operations.
- Seek help from experts where needed. Some aspects of your carbon measurement and analysis steps will require technical expertise. To ensure credibility, work with those who specialise in carbon calculations and reductions.
- Know that you still need to put in your own work. While collaborating with external consultants, specialists and researchers can be an important part of your climate action planning, know that ultimately your plan needs to be driven by someone internally that has both the position and clout to keep things moving forward.
- Don’t wait till you have a “perfect” plan. Tackling the climate crisis might seem overwhelming, but we don’t need to burden ourselves with the pressure of being “perfect”, which is an unattainable goal. Knowing that your actions can positively influence various other stakeholders - from your partners, suppliers, clients and their community members - start taking steps to reduce your emissions, and continue improving your plan as you progress.
- Share and invite feedback. Know that your climate action plan is a work in progress, and that you don’t have all the answers. Be open to advice and feedback, as well as constructive criticism, which will help you improve your work over time.
Reflecting on the Climate Crisis
STC Expeditions, a specialist educational travel company, has always embraced sustainability and responsible tourism. In 2018, STC became the first UK travel company to receive the Travelife certification (“Travelife Certified”). STC has also been working with both local and international partners to support ethical tourism and also biodiversity protection, including supporting the Trees for Life project in Scotland, and contributing to offsetting projects in different parts of the world.
However, with the climate crisis escalating, STC has sought to more proactively engage in climate action, both because of the business philosophy of caring for the world, and because of the important opportunity such engagement presents; namely, to lead the educational travel sector and show more schools, teachers, and families that companies like STC can and do truly care about the environment, and are committed to take urgent action. That’s why STC declared a climate emergency in 2020 and publicly pledged to undertake concrete climate action.
This philosophy of ethical tourism comes also from the many years of experiences visiting and connecting with communities around the world. STC’s programmes take student groups to amazing places around the world, many of which are on the front line of the climate crisis - from Maasai groups in Kenya and small communities in Morocco’s Atlas mountains, to organic farms in the foothills of the Indian Himalaya.
While these communities benefit from tourism, tourism also contributes to the crisis and as such, each tourism company has a responsibility to address the challenges facing those in the front line communities.
Steps to Developing a Carbon Action Plan
In addition to the existing responsible tourism policies that STC Expeditions have already implemented, the company worked - in 2020, taking advantage of the freed-up time during the initial COVID-19 lockdown - on developing a Carbon Action Plan looking at the business’ whole operations.
The process of creating this plan started with listening. All staff members were asked to share examples and thoughts on how and where the company could reduce carbon emissions. The plan was designed to address both the UK based operations and international tour programmes. As such STC also reached out to suppliers and local partners from around the world to share their suggestions.
The first draft took around a month to formulate. The intention was never to be “done” with the first version; rather to continuously work on improving the plan. Since the initial development of the plan, STC has achieved various “quick wins” - for example lowering baggage allowance and removing internal flights to reduce transport-related emissions.
With each of these improvements, lessons have been applied to further develop and refine the plan.
"We welcome engagement, debate and discussion from inside and outside our industry on our Carbon Action Plan. Responsible and ethical travel is a cornerstone of our business, but whilst we try really hard to make good decisions, we are also limited by our resources – both time and economic. We don’t pretend to get everything right, or know all the answers, so if you can help us in our journey, then please get in touch. We are committed to doing all we can to reduce our carbon footprint and making our small corner of the travel industry a better place."
Measuring and Understanding Emissions
To better understand where and how carbon emissions are generated across different areas of STC’ global value chain, the company has implemented a few steps to measure relevant emissions.
- In 2021, STC worked with a Master’s student from the University of Exeter on a research project, surveying all STC’s clients to understand their footprints, as well as to receive their feedback on “carbon labelling” - or a carbon rating system for “labelling” each itinerary based on the carbon emissions associated with the trip.
- A survey of accommodation providers across STC’s supply chain has been conducted, in order to better understand the carbon footprint related to accommodations.
- STC has also worked with ecollective, a specialist consultancy focused on carbon accounting, to implement a full business-wide carbon count and to analyse the climate impacts of STC itineraries.
The main goal of implementing these steps to measure the carbon emissions related to STC’s operations and itineraries is to better understand where to focus efforts on reducing carbon.
While some of these steps related to research and analysis may seem theoretical and time-consuming, they are all an important part of climate action, enabling businesses to more accurately focus carbon reduction efforts.
Climate Action as a Business Imperative
One important “side effect” of working on and establishing a carbon action plan, for STC, has been that the process has helped the whole team to more clearly see the importance and relevance of climate action, and thus helped put climate-focused commitments at the heart of business operations.
There is an ongoing debate that the changes needed to become climate positive may be bad for business. The reality, however, is that inaction is not an option. If our society fails to successfully address the climate crisis, there will be no business to be done. So even within our current context with various economic challenges (slow recovery of long haul travel from the impacts of the pandemic, rising costs, etc.), it’s important not to lose sight of this big picture perspective.
For STC, that means continuing to engage internal and external stakeholders around ideas on positive climate action, looking to develop new destinations closer to home and continuing to educate and exchange with destination partners on effective ways to measure, avoid and minimise emissions wherever possible.