Mounting importance placed on responsible climate actions by governments and intensifying consumer expectations of sustainable corporate behaviour have led more companies to take their climate strategy more seriously, observes a climate strategy specialist.
Brayden Lai, senior business development manager at South Pole, told TTG Asia that there are many studies supporting the rising trend in consumption intention being shaped by sustainability concerns.
Lai pointed to a recent blog by South Pole, which stated that 60 per cent of Asian consumers are looking at sustainability as part of their purchasing decision, and are willing to pay to offset their emissions.
2021 saw a 29 per cent increase in the number of companies in the Asia-Pacific region reporting through CDP – an international non-profit organisation that runs a global disclosure system for investors, companies, cities, states and regions to manage their environmental impacts – compared to 2020, and a more than five-fold growth from fewer than 700 companies in 2016. One-third (32 per cent) were first-time responders, demonstrating a growing momentum among businesses towards embedding transparent environmental disclosure in their operations.
The report shows that climate action has risen to the C-suite level, with almost all respondents (98 per cent) having management-level oversight for climate-related issues. Three-quarters (76 per cent) of companies reported having a process for identifying, assessing and responding to climate-related risks and opportunities.
“Even here, at Digital Travel Summit APAC 2022, we are hearing so many conversations around sustainability and responsible tourism,” said Lai.
Lai was a speaker at the event’s An Action Plan for Sustainability panel on August 24, where he and fellow industry colleagues discussed how travel and tourism companies could tap into the new traveller consciousness around sustainable tourism.
He said: “Many governments have announced their own net zero targets, and more and more consumers are aware that their individual actions can help mitigate climate risks in the future. So, climate action is huge and very important.
“Companies now regard sustainability efforts as a way to engage consumers who are highly aware of environmental issues. Many are starting to disclose their carbon emissions and environment impact. And so, South Pole is looking to help more companies do this.”
Currently, South Pole’s website lists many major global firms across industries among its clients – such as Bentley, Nestle, Tetra Pak and eBay.
Within the travel and tourism industry, South Pole supports Hilton, FCM Travel Solutions and Contiki.
With Hilton, South Pole helps to facilitate carbon-neutral meetings at the group’s hotels. Hilton calculates emissions from onsite meetings and events hosted by its clients, and takes part in South Pole’s offsetting projects.
With FCM Travel Solutions, South Pole provides clients of the corporate travel agency with insights into their carbon emissions and facilitates carbon-offsetting through its projects.
Lai told TTG Asia that there is a “huge interest in this because business travel contributes to Scope 3 emissions, which is more challenging for companies to track”.
In Greenhouse Gas accounting, Scope 1 emissions are direct from an organisation’s operations, such as the use of the company’s vehicles; Scope 2 refers to energy consumption by the organisation; Scope 3 are indirect emissions, generated by the organisation’s suppliers and employers in their course of related work.
With Contiki, South Pole provides travellers with a view of the carbon footprint arising from the tours they choose, and to offset that through emission reduction projects.
While most of its current travel and tourism industry clients are large, global firms, Lai said there is keen interest among the local and regional players too.
“These are the companies that we are actively engaging now. We are participating in travel trade events to build our connections and to raise awareness of what South Pole can do for them,” Lai remarked.
When asked what a travel and tourism company could do should they want to get started on the responsible climate journey, Lai said they could begin by helping their customers understand their carbon footprint and make better choices, and by providing their customers with options to offset unavoidable emissions.
“While awareness of climate action is rising, there is still a lot of room for improvement, especially in education to facilitate understanding about impact. Which is what South Pole is through the education consumers, businesses and organisations through blogs, workshops and speaking opportunities at events,” he added.