Three years after Intrepid Travel became the world’s largest travel company to become a certified B Corporation, the responsible tour operator has completed an extensive external audit to recertify its status, proving its commitment to running a purposeful business despite the immense pressures and challenges facing the tourism industry during the pandemic.
Intrepid Travel has achieved a new score of 91.2 from the B Corp Impact Assessment, an increase from its 2018 score of 82.7. The recertification shows a 10% improvement in the business’ overall social and environmental performance, focusing on the company’s practices specifically in 2020 and 2021, two of the most challenging years the business has endured in its 32-year history.
With greenwashing and impact washing becoming more common than ever in travel, Intrepid has pursued this all-encompassing certification because B Corporations are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.
“There are currently over 180 sustainable certifications available in the tourism industry, and there are even travel providers that create their own. This makes it incredibly difficult for consumers to differentiate which ones are trustworthy or legitimate,” said James Thornton, CEO of Intrepid Travel.
“This is why we were drawn to the B Corp movement. To become a B Corp, a company must submit to a rigorous independent assessment of its entire business to ensure it not only meets the highest standards, but also continues efforts to improve its business over time,” he added.
The assessment evaluated the environmental and social impact of the business within all 32 of Intrepid’s majority-owned companies in five categories: governance, workers, community, environment and customers. Examples of improvements made in each category by Intrepid Travel include:
Intrepid Travel has become “mission-locked.” This means that the company has amended its constitution to protect its commitment to pursue both profit and purpose for the future. This will legally hold Intrepid to a higher standard of accountability for its decisions. Companies with mission locks commit to consider the impact of their decisions on all stakeholders – employees,
customers, suppliers, shareholders, the community, and the environment. Not only is this a core element of B Corp certification, it helps Intrepid protect its purpose mission through potential capital raises and leadership changes, and aligns potential investors, directors, founders and management.
The B Corp auditing process helped Intrepid to better understand the diversity of employees within its business, which has helped it to be more inclusive, attract talent, tell its brand story and set new goals. Through staff surveys, the company learned that 16% of people who work at Intrepid are from a racial or ethnic minority and that more people speak English as a second
language than those who are native English speakers. This data has helped Intrepid to tweak how it communicates internally and set goals for increasing diversity and inclusion within the business in the future.
Intrepid Travel is committed to understanding the diversity and ownership of its supply chain to ensure it effectively supports locally owned businesses and employs an inclusive supply base for its tours. As of June 2021, 91% of Intrepid’s suppliers are majority-owned by a citizen of the country where they operate and together support over 28,000 workers worldwide, proving Intrepid’s business model helps to grow local economies and create jobs. Intrepid also gives preference to suppliers with ownership from under-represented populations, with 28% of suppliers being majority women-owned and 18% being majority-owned by an ethnic minority.
In October 2020, Intrepid Travel became the first global tour operator to set verified science-based carbon reduction targets approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a collaboration between four organizations, including the United Nations Global Compact, in line with a 1.5°C future that was laid out by the Paris Climate Accord. B Corp recognized Intrepid’s SBTi achievement and pushed the business to accelerate its implementation with the development of bespoke climate action plans for 12 sub regions.
Intrepid Travel’s shared mission is to change the way we all see the world. The certification gave the tour operator an opportunity to show how they do this through an external survey of its travelers, which has proved that its customers are experiencing positive impacts to their own lives as a result of traveling with the company. For example, following their travels, 99% of customers surveyed believed their experience with Intrepid enhanced their education, 98% had more cultural understanding and connection and 91% believed their health and wellbeing improved. They also reported more long-term improvements, with 61% of respondents saying their travel experience has motivated them to take more action around environmental issues.
“The past few years have not been without challenges,” said Thornton. “The COVID-19 pandemic caused us to cease international travel for the first time since the company was founded in 1989, which you can imagine caused an extreme toll on our business.”
“Despite impediments such as a reduced work force and virtually zero incoming revenue in 2020, we never allowed our vision to be the best travel company for the world waver, and I’m proud of the achievements our team has made to advance our industry in such taxing times.”
Intrepid Travel also attributes its B Corp status to being a main driver for giving the company the focus and opportunities it needs to continue to improve on its business, which in 2021 saw a strong result of $124.2 million AUD in bookings globally, despite a year faced with ever-changing travel restrictions and border closures.
“We still hold the title as the world’s largest travel B Corp, but this isn’t a label we wish to keep for long,” said Thornton. “It’s our intention to share how being part of this movement isn’t just better for the world, but is also a smart business decision. We hope to inspire other big players in tourism to pursue B Corp certification for themselves.”