Tourism has ‘vast potential for good’, says co-founder of Responsible Travel, which has also started labelling the CO2 footprint of its trips. Jenny Southan reports

Similar to the nutritional content labels found on food and drink packaging, inovative new “carbon labels” show consumers the CO2 impact of the trips they book. Although carbon offsetting schemes are “likely junk“, measuring carbon impact is the first step to reducing it. It also makes people more conscious of their own carbon footprint.

With this in mind, Responsible Travel is rolling out carbon labelling to its 6,000 or so holidays. So far, about 350 of its trips have been carbon labelled but the company says that “in time, all our members will opt in to carbon labelling”.Responsible Travel

How did it arrive at this decision? In 2020, Responsible Travel published a “small but groundbreaking” study measuring the CO2 emissions of a selection of its holidays. The detailed methodology wasn’t possible to scale up and apply across its operators, but the findings led the company to call for carbon labelling in tourism.

Three years on, Responsible Travel says it is “grateful to our partner Explore Worldwide for sharing their carbon measurement methodology with us – and crucially, for allowing us to share the tool with our network of 479 global tour and accommodation members”.

Justin Francis, founder and CEO of Responsible Travel, says: “As an industry, we need to do all we can to help facilitate a fair transition to lower carbon travel. Part of that is being transparent about the impacts of holidays. Introducing carbon labels to our site is another way to help our travellers make informed choices, as well as encourage further emissions reductions across trips on our site and in tourism more widely.

“Sharing ideas that move us all forwards is at the heart of the responsible travel movement, and its’s thanks to Explore Worldwide sharing their methodology that we can offer all our partners the opportunity to have their trips on our site carbon labelled.”

Further living up to its brand name, Responsible Travel has also published its first major impact report – Tipping The Scales – which examines company goals, actions, and progress between 2021-2023, as well as its wider work and story to date.

Since 2001, the company has screened 22,665 trips, and provided responsible tourism policy advice to more than 5,000 potential partners. This year, it has updated its screening criteria – strengthening its focus on reducing carbon, protecting and restoring nature, and improving inclusivity.

As an “activist company” with a 20-year “history of groundbreaking advocacy and campaign work on issues across tourism”, going forward it seeks to reduce carbon emissions from travel, and protect and restore nature.

Responsible Travel’s new purpose is: “To inspire travellers to discover our beautiful and fragile planet; act urgently to restore nature and reduce carbon whilst being honest about our limitations and our need to be more inclusive.”

Francis says: “Working in travel is a fantastic privilege, and comes with a responsibility to protect, and benefit, the places and communities we visit. Tipping The Scales examines how we’re working to do that, and how we’re progressing. But we’ll always have a drive to keep improving – and sharing the challenges we’ve encountered, and our learning, also felt important.

“Travel has vast potential for good, and the report highlights some of the many ways in which the industry, individual businesses and travellers can unleash that – and some inspiring stories of those who are already doing it so well.”