As Environmental Impact Specialist at Intrepid Travel, Susanne is responsible for climate change performance, reporting, and implementing a culture of sustainability within the organisation.
Susanne has lived and worked in six countries and believes that "by empowering people through sustainable travel experiences, we can make travel better for everyone and simultaneously take care of our planet".
Read more about Susanne and Intrepid Travel below.
Can you tell us more about Intrepid Travel?
Intrepid Travel is a world leader in sustainable experience-rich travel and has been taking travellers to discover the world's most amazing places for more than 30 years. The company offers more than 800 trips on every continent and every trip — whether closer to home or further afield — is designed to truly experience local culture.
Travellers eat, sleep and get around the local way, going where the bigger groups can’t. With its own network of destination management companies in 23 countries, Intrepid has unique local expertise and perspectives. Globally renowned as a leader in responsible travel, in 2018 the carbon-neutral business became the world’s largest travel company to be certified B-Corp, joining a growing community of businesses looking beyond the bottom line.
Intrepid is the only tour operator with verified science-based carbon reduction targets and an industry leader in climate action. Its not-for-profit, The Intrepid Foundation, has raised over $11 million for more than 130 charities around the world since 2002.
Why is Intrepid Travel taking climate action?
We haven’t only recently become worried about climate change. In fact, our journey started in 2005 when a group of senior managers read The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery about the history and future impact of climate change.
That started to get us thinking. Fast forward and the feedback we received from our stakeholders, including our customers, was that they wanted us to take definitive action on climate. We subsequently became the world’s largest carbon-neutral travel company in 2010. Since then we’ve offset more than 358,000 tonnes of carbon emissions worldwide.
Being carbon neutral, this is no longer enough. Based on the facts we know today; we would be lying to ourselves if we were to continue as though there is nothing wrong with the travel industry.
Over the last 15-years, the need for climate action has grown more obvious year on year. Not only is the changing climate leading to extreme weather events that threaten people and wildlife the world over, but it is a significant threat to our business. So many of the destinations we love may well be impacted by drought, fire, or other weather events over the next decade.
Can you tell us about your commitments to climate action?
Intrepid has been carbon neutral since 2010, with every one of our trips fully offset. In January 2020, we declared a climate emergency with Tourism Declares, a global collective of tourism businesses, organisations, and individuals who have pledged urgent action on climate change.
Our climate emergency is underpinned by a seven-point commitment plan. It includes continuing to measure our emissions, using 100% renewable energy in all our offices, and a commitment to ambitious emissions reduction targets through the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) by setting a science-based target in line with a 1.5°C future.
Is there a project you are working on that you are excited about?
In 2020, Intrepid Travel became the first tour operator to set a science-based emission reduction target to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions at the pace and scale that science says is necessary to limit global warming to 1.5°C. We are responding to a call-to-action for companies to set emissions reduction targets in line with a 1.5°C future, backed by a global network of UN agencies, businesses, and industry leaders. Setting science-based climate targets will see us reduce our emissions across our operations and supply chains.
What real-world opportunities have you uncovered from taking climate action today?
The first phase of Intrepid’s decarbonisation plan will include a review of its top 50 itineraries to identify trips that include flights under 1.5 hours with a view to replacing these, where a viable alternative transport option exists. For example, Intrepid has already traded out internal flights with high-speed rail on the majority of its trips in China and continues to make similar changes elsewhere whenever there is a feasible land or road alternative available.
Intrepid is also developing new low-carbon trips by providing best practice sustainability guidance. This supports the development of itineraries that include low carbon-intensive modes of travel and activities. For example, the new Intrepid Premium range features a number of accommodations that use renewable energy. Trips also have experiences that support community, environmental, or wildlife conservation projects.
Intrepid has grown its portfolio of walking and cycling-based trips, recognising that they are some of the lowest carbon-output trip styles, while also being in high demand as travellers seek outdoor active adventures following months of indoor quarantining. The onset of the pandemic accelerated the company’s focus on more travel options closer to home in its major source markets, resulting in the addition of 25 new walking tours and 15 new cycling tours across a range of destinations.
New ways of working and living during the pandemic also present opportunities. Air travel contributes the biggest share of the CO2 in the tourism sector. In the near term – a timescale that matters enormously to climate change – the only way to decarbonise aviation is to fly less, which travellers are already doing. The decline in business travel and new ways of working also presents opportunities.
What climate action would you like to see Australia take?
COVID-19 and the vaccination program rollout are at the top of mind in Australia now, but we mustn’t lose sight of the broader sustainability issues, particularly climate change.
While the pandemic poses a huge threat to the viability of the tourism industry, climate change poses an even bigger long-term threat. If anything, COVID-19 is highlighting how much more we could be doing to take climate action. It’s proven what can be achieved when governments work together, find funding, and take action. It has also shown us how much is possible if we have the will to change.
For Australia, we’re already seeing and feeling the impacts of a changing climate. Loved tourism attractions, such as the Great Barrier Reef, and our native wildlife and biodiversity, draw millions of tourists each year. But these are under threat. Climate change is also impacting First Nations communities around the country. We need decisive and urgent action from all levels of government to ensure we have a tourism industry in the future.