Special Report: Intrepid aims to be first climate positive business

Operator reveals ‘game plan’ to offset 125% of its emissions. Ian Taylor reports

Intrepid Travel has outlined how it plans to become “climate positive” in the latest iteration of its ‘purpose beyond profit’ drive.

The company has bold plans to go “beyond offsetting” and has a “game plan” to counteract more carbon emissions than it produces, according to Leigh Barnes, the adventure tour operator’s chief purpose officer, who was appointed last year.

Having acquired B Corporation certification in 2018 – a rigorous accreditation in environmental and based company, which has been carbon neutral since 2010, wants to take the next step and become climate positive.

Outlining how Intrepid will achieve this goal, Barnes says: “We’ll offset to 125% and invest in climate research.

“We’ve signed up to five science-based targets for our operations and trips, targets set by the World Economic Forum and UN Global Compact.” This is a voluntary initiative for businesses seeking to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

Barnes acknowledges: “There are problems with offsets. Businesses need to reduce carbon and if they are not doing that, offsets are not enough.” But he adds: “They are part of the solution. If we stopped offsetting there would be a big hole in environmental projects.”

So how will Intrepid reduce its carbon footprint to the point where it becomes climate positive? He says: “We’ll have a game plan from October. We’ll use public transport and e-vehicles. We’ll look at our hotels and the restaurants we use and at their waste.”

What about flying? He says: “We’re grappling with that, as is the whole industry. It’s not easy. We encourage travellers to take one long trip, to look at offsetting and also at how often they fly. We believe offsets are a viable way to deal with this. [But] it’s about going beyond offsetting. We’ve been carbon neutral since 2010, measuring the carbon we produce. But we hadn’t done much reduction.”

Barnes stressed the importance of B Corporation certification, adding: “It’s accreditation that your business is a force for good. It’s a pretty tough audit – it took three years – with a focus on the supply chain, staff, communities, the environment and customers. It goes deep into the supply chain and also into your governance.”

He acknowledges the process threw up “a few surprises”, saying: “We weren’t measuring enough and recording, quantifying and understanding our impacts. It certainly benefited the company. We do more in the communities we operate from now, and we realised we weren’t doing enough around the environment.”

Barnes’ unusual job title has attracted interest from other businesses. He says: “I didn’t expect the amount of time I would spend speaking to other organisations about the role. The role is to ensure we have a positive impact.”

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