Inside Travel Group is pursuing B Corporation status, with co-founder and director Alastair Donnelly hailing the "unique opportunity" afforded by the Covid crisis to spend an entire year focusing on making the business better.
Founded in 2000, the group, which operates the InsideJapan Tours and InsideAsia Tours brands, hit what Donnelly described as "a real high point" in 2019, turning over nearly £50 million off the back of operating the largest unofficial Rugby World Cup travel programme.
"It felt like we’d hit a point where we had to ask ourselves, ‘where should we be taking this?’," Donnelly told TTG.
"Our stated aim is that by 2025, we will be a better and more successful business than we would have been if Covid hadn’t happened."
Intrepid Group became travel’s breakthrough B Corp in 2018, and Donnelly said Inside Travel had been inspired by the Australian firm’s ethos. "No business should put profits ahead of the planet and people," said Donnelly.
"I genuinely believe businesses driven by values and purpose are going to be the ones that come out of this Covid situation as leaders."
B Corp status recognises efforts to meet verified high standards of social and environmental performance, responsibility, transparency, and accountability. Donnelly said after an initial assessment, the group hoped to achieve the base B Corp threshold in 2022.
"We actually brought that forward as we were further ahead than we thought," said Donnelly. "And I have no doubt we’ll achieve it. Many of the B Corp principles are ones on which we already run our business, so we had a solid foundation already.
"Over the past 18 months, we’ve invested in a full-time sustainability officer to drive this forward. What we want to do now is bring our customers along with us. We’ll be sharing a lot more about what we’re doing and making sure they feel involved."
Late last year, the group surveyed its customers on their understanding of, and the value they place on, various environmental and sustainability considerations, which Donnelly said had allowed the team to establish a baseline for their customers.
"They’re concerned about these things, but they’re not eco-warriors," said Donnelly. "They don’t put the environment at the centre of the choices they make in life, but they want to make the right choice and be given that choice. That’s what we learned.
"With the right product, most people are prepared to pay a little extra to do the right thing."
Priorities for Donnelly include action to address the carbon impact of travel. The group has introduced an offset on all trips booked from 1 January, purchasing the necessary carbon credits up front to ensure customers’ contributions support a specific "gold standard" offsetting effort in one of its destinations, namely a bio-gas project in Vietnam.
"I know offsetting isn’t the solution by any means," said Donnelly. "But contributing to a project that has a demonstrable carbon impact is better than doing nothing. And we’ve got a proper plan now for reducing the carbon we produce as a business."
The group’s longer-term vision includes pledging part of its profit to organisations such as the Family Holiday Association, which provides breaks for people who can’t take one for various reasons. "We want to move away from our social contributions just being one-off things," said Donnelly.
"Linking profit to efforts to make a difference is a powerful thing. It means everything we do, from processing bookings to producing final documents for a customer, contributes to something life-changing for someone else."