Monday, February 24, 2014

Smarter Sustainability Vacations

And just in time, ahead of the start of the Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference in London on Tuesday this week, a quick review of TUI Travel and the exciting world of sustainable tourism.

TUI Travel plc is one of the world’s leading leisure travel companies, with over 240 brands in 180 countries and more than 30 million customers. With an aim to "make travel experiences special", TUI Travel employs 54,000 people in 31 key markets.

TUI Travel is a seasoned sustainability reporter and has published five reports to date. The most recent is a GRI G3 Application Level C report and its a really interesting read. Apparently tourism accounts for 1 in 11 jobs globally, and 9% of global GDP, so this industry has a massive impact around the world. TUI outlines some groundbreaking work in the area of sustainable tourism. It's worth taking a look.

You can track the different ways TUI Travel supports sustainable tourism by going on a little sustainable holiday journey:

I managed to get some perspectives from James Whittingham, Group Environment Manager, TUI Travel, who will speak at the Smarter Sustainability Reporting conference on the subject of carbon emissions reporting.

James coordinates TUI Travel plc's work on reducing carbon impacts and other key environmental impacts and manages the delivery of the TUI Travel's  7 current carbon commitments that form TUI Travel's Sustainable Holidays Plan 2012-2014, and supports a wide range of activities including external environmental reporting. James has held the position of Group Environment Manager since the merger that created TUI Travel in September 2007 (bringing together the TUI Tourism businesses of TUI AG and First Choice Holidays plc). Before that, he was the Environment Manager for First Choice Holidays plc from 2004.

Tell us about your professional background and how you came to be Group Environment Manager, TUI Travel.  What specific experience prepared you for this role?
James: I went on a 6-month secondment to First Choice Holidays in 2003 from an Environmental Consultancy – basically, I never left! TUI Travel was created from the merger of First Choice Holidays and the tourism businesses of TUI AG in 2007 and I went from being the Environment Manager for a company with 14,000 colleagues to the Group Environment Manager at a company with 50,000 colleagues. Consulting was a good foundation for getting a broad range of experience in different business segments – construction, aviation, healthcare and more. The diversity of TUI Travel means that today I could be working on supporting our Airline Environment Managers and tomorrow helping one of our Cruise businesses – variety is the spice of life and all that!

What are your current priorities? And looking toward the next few years?
James:  To ensure we deliver as many of TUI Travel plc’s sustainability commitments called the Sustainable Holidays Plan by the end of this financial year, FY14 – year three of three. These commitments are arranged across four key “pillars”: carbon management, colleagues, customers and destinations and I tend to work primarily on carbon and destinations related commitments. These are three-year commitments [2012-2014] and they are scheduled to be delivered in a little over six months so I am supporting colleagues from around the business to deliver these and already looking at the next phase of SD strategy. In the next few years, the business will continue to focus on SD and I envisage we will be addressing carbon emissions, water, waste, biodiversity, supply chain and ongoing environmental improvements to destinations we take customers to as well as the source markets in which we operate.

Tell us a little about the key trends you perceive in sustainable tourism and the most important environmental impacts that are important to travelers?
James: There is a growing awareness among our customers about sustainability, such as the impact of carbon emissions from flying and the need to ensure that local people get a fair deal from tourism. Although these issues are not the major deciding factor for most people when they choose a holiday, it is in the interest of our destinations and the environment that it becomes a strong influencing factor. In several of our key source markets we have found a positive correlation between more sustainable holidays and customer satisfaction. We are encouraging holidaymakers to engage in sustainable tourism through our kids’ club activities, school education initiatives, customer donation schemes and sustainable tourism campaigns.

How does TUI Travel differentiate itself in this space?
James:  It starts with our core values – Responsible Leadership is one of these 4 values and we try to use this as a guiding principle. As one of the world’s leading leisure travel organisations, we need to lead by example. For the first time, in our FY 2013 Annual Report, one of the “reasons to invest in TUI Travel” related to our approach to tackle SD risks and opportunities. Sustainability is ingrained in our business culture, not just for our own future as a business but as industry leaders to set an example to the wider travel industry and beyond.

What have been your key achievements in this area over the past few years?
James: Our businesses have been facing up to this challenge for over a decade. For TUI Travel, responding to these issues means bringing sustainability centre stage, to build on the efficiency and resilience of our business and the services it provides. Our Sustainable Holidays Plan is a major step forward in our journey towards providing special travel experiences whilst minimising environmental impact, respecting the culture and people in destinations and bringing real economic benefit to local communities.  Some recent highlights:
  • For the sixth consecutive year, TUI Travel was featured in CDP’s Climate Disclosure Leadership Index (CDLI) and was ranked in the top 10% of the FTSE 350 for our approach to carbon disclosure and governance. 
  • For the third consecutive year TUI Travel was featured in the RobecoSAM Sustainability Yearbook which highlights the best performing 15% of companies who submit data to the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (the largest 2,500 companies globally) 
  • TUI Nederland was the first major travel company to be certified to the new Travelife standard for tour operators 
  • We were actively involved in the development of the industry’s first ever Global Welfare Guidance for Animals in Tourism, produced by ABTA – The Travel Association, and launched in June 2013 
  • TUI UK & Ireland worked with blueContec and Responsible Hospitality Partnership to provide their differentiated hotels with dedicated environmental consultancy. Of the circa 40 hotels who participated, reductions in energy and water consumption have already generated cost savings of c. €2 million to date 
  • TUI Nederland won the ‘Overall winner’ award and the ‘Best for child protection’ award at the 2013 World Responsible Tourism Awards 
  • TUI Travel has been working with the Travel Foundation, a sustainable tourism charity, since it launched in 2003. 
  • We are the largest industry supporter and donor which over the last 10 years has trained more than 10,000 local people in skills to boost tourism, reduce environmental impacts and improve customer experience – and also trained 800 hotels to reduce energy, water and waste. 
  • We achieved our airline carbon reduction target of 9% (2008-2014) one year ahead of schedule with a reduction in our airlines’ per passenger carbon emissions of 3.2% year-on-year in 2012. 
  • Fritidsresor, our brand in Sweden, was ranked most sustainable travel company in Sweden in the 2013 Sustainable Brand Index. 
We are committed to sustainable development and to making a positive impact on society. We know leadership has to be earned and we never take it for granted. We celebrate local differences and actively seek to contribute to a better world.

What are the most significant challenges for you in the sustainability reporting process?
James: As a business located and operating in regions all over the world, we need to ensure we can appropriately capture the essence of what progress is being made – both in the context of an increasingly mandatory set of requirements (EU ETS, Carbon Reporting, etc.) as well as the breadth of disclosure encouraged and expected – e.g. CDP. As a core team, the Group SD Dept. has 4 people working full time on SD matters – the challenge is to get the balance between “doing” and “reporting” and supporting our 200 brands to make this happen through our network of SD managers across the business.


Thanks, James, you make a Sustainable Vacation sound like a really good idea. Perhaps, after chairing the Smarter Sustainability Reporting Conference, I might just deserve one. In the meantime, I am preparing a ton of super-provocative questions for our speakers and panelists so that all those attending will get great insights and not just more of the same-ole conference jargon that tends to do the rounds. Interested? There might still be one or two places left if you hurry :)

And if I don't see you there, let's meet up on my next sustainable vacation.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of Understanding G4: the Concise guide to Next Generation Sustainability Reporting  AND  Sustainability Reporting for SMEs: Competitive Advantage Through Transparency AND CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices . Contact me at   or via my business website   (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

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