Sustainable and ethical travel doesn't just happen. It requires commitment and a concerted effort in many different areas. Here you can find out more about the work we do behind the scenes to make our tours and expeditions for ethical and sustainable.
We are Travelife Partners in Sustainability, and we are the ONLY school tour operator and expedition provider in the UK to achieve this international recognised award.
We have worked hard to gain this award and undergone thorough assessment to become registered. This demonstrates our commitment to responsible tourism and has seen us create new policies and adapt our existing methods to ensure that we meet the criteria set by Travelife. We are now working towards higher level certification within this.
Ethical Tour Operators Group
We are members of Tourism Concern's Ethical Tour Operators Group - a group of companies that seek to ensure that travel is ethical, fair and a positive experience for both travellers and the people and places they visit.
Tourism Concern is one of the world's leading charity's promoting responsible and sustainable tourism.
Leaders in the Field
We believe passionately that our leaders are the best in the industry, and our clients regularly agree. Not only do they have an unrivalled enthusiasm for showing off their homeland but it also means they are the most informed on local issues, trekking and escape routes and, of course, the language! This allows participants to gain so much more from their trip while also increasing the safetyof our trips due to better local knowledge and experience.
The use of local leaders directly benefits the local economy by employing local people and inspiring the next generation to look at alternatives to heading to big cities for work which often leads to rural degeneration. Our leaders also benefit the economy in other areas from guiding you to the best restaurants, to advising on which craftsmen to purchase souvenirs from. They can also give assistance on the fair price to pay and generally ensure that while trekking, our groups are making the least possible impact on the areas they visit.
Training and Development
In order to make travel sustainable, we must be sure that those involved in the industry have the correct knowledge to work safely and responsibly. We work hard to be sure that everyone involved meets our due diligence checks and receives the training they require. This raises the bar in the industry and encourages more to follow suit and train their new employees to meet these standards too, all benefiting the local economy and helping to prevent rural degeneration. All of our local leaders undergo training with us so that we can ensure the high quality staff we desire but to also enhance their careers and options in life.
Many of our schemes also encourage the training of local people to allow them to earn a living for themselves and gain valuable skills. This might be through supporting female guides in areas where women are often kept at home, or working with local NGOs and cooperatives where locals can gain valuable skills and build an economy for themselves.
Let's Go Local
Without wishing to repeat ourselves we aim to make everything local. As far as possible we strive to use local suppliers, restaurants, staff, accommodation and transport. This positively impacts local economies whilst also allowing us the opportunity to help develop their businesses for the future by helping them adhere to our strict safety policies in place. By encouraging high standards, we are raising the bar while also ensuring new staff are trained.
One of our favourite examples is Sindyanna Galilee whom we often visit during our trips to Israel and Palestine. A not-for-profit, female-led, fair-trade ‘business for peace’. This NGO sells Arab producers’ olive oil, honey, almonds and soaps on the international marketplace before channelling all profits back into education for Arab women, bridging cultural divides and encouraging sustainable agriculture and supporting organic farming. The organisation is run by both Arab and Israeli women who share a vision of peaceful co-existence.
Keeping the Wild Wild
Some of the environments and creatures which our participants experience are truly breath taking but we must remember that they are all examples of wildlife and should be kept that way. We create itineraries where students really learn about the wildlife they are seeing, from monitoring tiger movements in India to getting involved with turtle conservation in Costa Rica our aim is to educate and preserve the wild as it should be.
Sometimes working animals may be used during one of our trips, such as donkey porters, and in these instances we seek to be sure that all animals involved are properly cared for and looked after. How do we do this? We will never work somewhere which we believe the animal’s rights are not considered or cared for.
Respecting Local Cultures
Part of the reason so many of our groups head abroad is to experience a culture different to their own. Therefore, it is important that we make the effort to respect these differences otherwise we may lose them. This is done through educating our clients and being culturally aware when we plan our itineraries of how our activities may impact the local way of life. It is just another reason why our in country leaders are so important to us.
Without a doubt, one of the biggest environmental impacts from travel is caused by flying. We include the cost of carbon offsetting for flight emissions in all of our quotes and this money goes to Friends of Conservation, don’t worry even a flight to New Zealand is just £23 to offset! We also offset the carbon emissions for all of our staff flights overseas.
Encouraging Responsible Clients
We at the STC are only one side of the responsible travel story, the other depends on our clients. While abroad, we expect our participants to act in a responsible and sustainable manner. Don’t worry, you are not alone! Throughout your journey the STC is here to help from pre-departure information evenings to prepare you, to a guide on responsible travel and of course our trip leaders who will encourage good practices while you are away.
It is our belief that educating our clients on responsible travel will help to create a generation who considers the impact of their explorations and promote good travel practices everywhere.
We really believe in responsible and sustainable tourism and as such we work hard within the travel industry to promote our beliefs and values. This includes supporting porter protection, using local leaders and educating young people on how to travel responsibly.
In the office we’re a pretty vocal bunch. We make a noise in the industry to promote responsible travel and also spend a lot of time encouraging our clients to consider how their actions can be made more responsible when they head overseas, take a read of one of our most popular blog posts about the ethics of orphanage volunteering. Our Director Adrian has been asked to speak at the Young Explorers’ Trust forum about our use of local leaders and why this is beneficial on so many levels.
Volunteer Work and Projects
Volunteer work can be life changing for our clients but we also believe that it should be life changing in a positive and long term way for the locals whom it may impact.
Please head to our Volunteer Project page for more information.
Water, Water Everywhere
In many of the places that our groups visit water scarcity is a never ending issue. Through education we aim to encourage our participants to act sensibly in terms of their water use and to follow local guidelines as to preserving this commodity. Moreover, we encourage the use of water purifying techniques where suitable.
Zero Litter Policy
We fully support a zero litter policy on all of our expeditions, following the ‘pack it in, pack it out’ method. Our local leaders will encourage participants to carry their litter until they are able to dispose of it responsibly and in a suitable way.
Where possible we seek to recycle the products that we can however, we do appreciate that in many of the places that our groups visit this can be difficult. We also encourage our participants to use reusable and biodegradable products so as to reduce their litter production whilst they are travelling.
In the Office
It is our shared ethos for responsible travel which makes it so important to us not only in our work but in our own lives too and we all make an effort to ensure that when we take our own holidays we do so responsibly.
In the office we do our best to look after the planet too from an extra layer or two on a chilly day, catching trains to clients meeting and printing our brochures on recycled paper to making sure to switching off the lights before we all leave. Not to mention we are all within walking or cycling distance too!
A Word on Elephants
Often on the bucket list of any South-East Asian gap year is the experience of an elephant ride. You may have noticed that none of our itineraries include this as an activity and we are proud to say that they never will. Here at the STC we believe that these majestic creatures deserve to be treated with respect and with regards to our animal welfare policies, elephant rides could never conform. Instead we seek out option in which students will be able to experience the wonders of nature while allowing wildlife to act in their natural way.
Better Volunteering, Better Care
Our Director Adrian is a part of the Global Working Group of Better Volunteering, Better Care. This inter-agency initiative was formed by the Better Care Network and Save the Children UK and aims to discourage international volunteering in children's care centres while promoting ethical volunteering alternatives which support local initiatives. We talk about ethical volunteering a lot in the office and Adrian is certainly very active in industry challenging currently accepted 'norms' and promoting better alternatives to short term 'feel good' volunteering.