Responsible Travel

What Do We Do?

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 as ethical and sustainable as possible. It's a start. There's always more we can do and we are regularly reviewing our policies and method of approach to this cornerstone of our business. 

Travelife Certified

We are Travelife  Certified in Sustainability. In 2018, we became the first company in the whole of the UK (and we're still one of only four companies) to achieve this international recognised award by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council

We have worked hard to gain this award and undergone an audit in over 200 different areas of our business. This demonstrates our commitment to sustainability and responsible tourism and has seen us create new policies and adapt our existing methods to ensure that we meet the criteria set by Travelife.

The Travelife standard helps us to manage the full range of sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility themes and issues (based on The Global Sustainable Tourism Council and ISO 26000 requirements). These include:

  • Energy efficiency and conservation
  • Water and waste management
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Labour practices
  • Human rights
  • Community relations
  • Ecosystem conservation
  • Cultural impacts
  • Health and safety
  • Fair Business practices
  • Customer protection
  • Animal Welfare

To read more on this - view our 'Top Marks from Travelife' blog

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.

Trees for Life

We partner with the fantastic Trees For Life - a multi-award winning conservation charity working to rewild the Scottish Highlands. Through Trees for Life we have committed to plant a tree for every individual who travels with us. As a result, we are now helping to restore, protect and expand a unique habitat of global importance – home to rare wildlife and incredible biodiversity, whilst also locking up additional carbon.

Travellers Against Plastic

Travellers Against Plastic (TAP) is a campaign which seeks to educate global travellers about the harmful impact of plastic water bottles and encourage travellers to clean their own water instead.

Here at the STC we have taken the TAP pledge which states:

I pledge to use my company to promote sustainable travel and will encourage travellers to avoid buying bottled water when they travel. In addition, I will provide our travellers the proper information they need to treat their own drinking water. I also pledge to spread the word to travellers I meet, both at home and abroad.

For more information visit our dedicated TAP page.

Supporting Fairtrade

We are advocates of Fairtrade and STC Expeditions is based on similar ethical values, our office is even based in a Fairtrade City! Being industry leaders in responsible travel, we make Fairtrade purchasing choices as well as help to raise awareness of global issues surrounding human rights. We work closely with our in country partners to maximise the positive impacts of travel on the host community and try to improve local sustainability. This is what led us to organise Fairtrade School Trips, bringing students to visit plantations in Ghana, India and Peru (so far!).

Proudly, we are part of the Workplace of World Changers and you can click here to see the many other ways we support all things Fairtrade.

Environment Clean Up

We have added an 'Environment Clean Up' to all itineraries where it is needed. Our expedition teams will spend time collecting and clearing waste from coastline or inland areas which will then be properly disposed of. Our commitment, as the leading responsible school expedition company, is to educate responsible world travellers of the future. We hope this project will benefit both the natural environment and local people in the destinations we visit, as well as educating UK students about the issues. Destinations include Costa Rica, Borneo, Vietnam, Kenya, Morocco and Thailand.

Recycling and 100% renewable energy

In the office, we do our best to look after the planet: from an extra layer or two on a chilly day and catching trains to client meetings,  to printing our brochures on recycled paper and making sure we switch off the computers and lights before we all leave. We have a policy of only using fairtrade coffee and tea in the office, and our electricity comes from 100% renewable energy through 'Bulb'.

All but one of the team walk or cycle to work too. Happy days.

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. 

ChildSafe Certified

We are the first (and, as at July 2018, the only) tour operator in the UK to be awarded Childsafe Certification.  

ChildSafe is a global movement protecting children worldwide from all forms of abuse. The organisation’s flagship Certification is awarded to companies who meet stringent policy procedures regarding the welfare and treatment of children across the world.

STC Expeditions joins hundreds of other ChildSafe alliance partners, supporters and certified businesses around the world. These are all listed on the ChildSafe website – a comprehensive resource and source of information to ensure a global approach to child protection.

Members of Scottish Fair Trade Forum

We are proud members of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum who are working hard to challenge global poverty and raise awareness of major issues across schools in Scotland, as well as society as a whole. Scotland is a Fair Trade Nation and are working hard to raise awareness of Fair Trade among the young, particularly at school level. We look forward to helping spread the word working alongside schools in Scotland.

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.

To see what we do about working (or not) with animals, please see our Animal Code of Conduct

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. 

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.

Beach Clean Ups

Each year the team at STC Expeditions host a Beach Clean to remove rubbish from popular sections of our local Devon coastline. The local community, friends and family join us, along with students wanting to fundraise for their expedition. This is arranged through the Marine Conservation Society and part of our global Environment Clean Up project - to reduce waste along the coastlines and inland areas of the countries we visit. 


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 is a long time campaigner on the subject having spoken at the Young Explorers’ Trust forum, The Royal Geographical Society and The Festival of Education about the need for school trips to be sustainable. 

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.

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.