Sustainability Advocate Megan Williams, Sustainable Business Network Founder Rachel Brown, Industry Strategy Manager Bruce Bassett, Senior Communications Advisor Cheryl Whitfield and Sustainability Advocate Lynn Robinson at the Sustainable Business Network Awards.
After two years of measurement, we were proud to announce recently that TIA has achieved Toitū Envirocare carbonreduce certification. The certification, previously known as CEMARS, helps businesses measure and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The process involves accurately measuring a business’s GHG emissions, and putting in place strategies to manage and reduce impacts. Certification and compliance with the programme is independently verified annually.
To start the process, we allocated a person from our team (our Business Services Manager, Alex) to manage the project of measuring our baseline. Alex loves data and spreadsheets so he was the perfect person for the job! The measurement period looks at a year (April 2018 – Mar 2019) so it involved going back through our records. Alex pulled together data from our energy bills and other sources to come up with a report of our GHG emissions by source for that year. The sources included air travel, rental cars, electricity, private and public car travel, waste to landfill and freight. As you would expect from an organisation which revolves around travel, air travel made up the majority (over 80%) of our emissions so most of the work revolved around that. Alex worked with our main providers (Air New Zealand and Corporate Traveller) to find the best method to get the emission reports we needed.
As part of the process, we had to commit to a reductions target. A silver lining to COVID-19 is that due to the inability to travel, we have already achieved our target reductions for this year. The challenge for us will be how (or whether) we can continue to reduce once our busy team starts travelling again. We have a list of actions around reducing our emissions, including looking at how we can reduce our travel, and considering changing to a carbon neutral energy provider.
The next step is for our TIA TSC Committee to review the audit report and recommendations, which will also be summarised for our Board at their next meeting. We will also start measuring the 2019-20 period.
Measuring your carbon footprint is a key action to meet Commitment 12 of the Tourism Sustainability Commitment. If you’re interested in finding out how to measure the carbon footprint of your business, check out our guide to achieving Commitment 12: Businesses have carbon reduction programmes towards carbon neutrality.
The TSC working group reconvened last week – and for the last meeting of the decade, we were lucky to welcome TIA Sustainability Advocate Lynn Robinson to the group.
The Host Community Commitment was once again the focus of a lengthy discussion. This is proving to be a tricky one for us to address, with many charities and volunteer spaces here in Wellington (where the TIA head office and majority of staff are located) often oversubscribed. We discussed looking into 'pay it forward' schemes, rather than trying to find hands-on activities, and talked about what a meaningful community engagement initiative for TIA really looks like.
Ultimately, we decided to put the question to all TIA staff to see if we can come up with some ideas as a wider group.
Saying that, we do already do a lot. TIA staff members took a collective nine hours out of the day a few weeks ago to serve strawberries and ice cream to the community as part of the Mary Potter Hospice Strawberry Festival – contributing to a fantastic $52,000 raised at the annual fundraiser.
So – are we being too hard on ourselves? The group admits we have a tendency to think we're not doing enough, reflected in the low score we initially gave ourselves for the Host Community Commitment. Yet along with the Strawberry Festival, we’re also engaged in our communities in our personal lives – Rachael, for example, volunteers with Search & Rescue – and as a workplace, we’re always willing to get involved where we’re needed and when relevant opportunities arise. Rather than trying to ‘tick a box’, we acknowledged that we can be engaged in our communities in less formal ways.
Whether this means we’re doing enough as a business is still open for discussion.
As much as we all need to focus on what needs to be done, it's important to regularly take stock of our achievements and celebrate how far we've come. That doesn’t just mean having a system for tracking progress – it means taking the time to really acknowledge our work, efforts and successes so far.
After all, we can't be doing too badly: a few weeks back, Lynn and her team (Sustainability Advocate Megan Williams and Industry Strategy Manager Bruce Bassett) were congratulated as finalists in the Sustainable Business Network Awards in the Communicating for Change category!
If you have any suggestions on community engagement projects for TIA, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. We'd love to hear from you.
Measuring our movements
In August the TIA TSC working group met to record our performance against the five Commitments we decided to focus on at the last meeting.
While we felt we were tracking positively in the right direction in all areas, we weren’t sure how to precisely measure our targets on our 'internal scorecard' - currently decided by committee vote.
Measuring is a fairly scientific process when it comes to carbon reduction, but how do we accurately and precisely measure improvements in, for example, community engagement? Hours logged doesn’t necessarily equate to real value, so we’ve decided to re-evaluate how we measure our progress.
Speaking of carbon reduction, we’re confident TIA is tracking in the right direction with this Commitment, thanks to the new partnership with Enviro-Mark Solutions. Enviro-Mark will measure our baseline carbon emissions so we can be precise and targeted with our management and reduction.
Meanwhile, our new video conferencing equipment means we’ve been able to cut down on some short-haul flights and can check in with other staff and stakeholders around the country from the comfort of the office, so this was a good investment.
We’ll continue to work towards a sustainable office environment. Recently we had to remove a large amount of old furniture from our offices. We donated both the furniture and our old technology equipment to charity rather than adding to landfill. However, we found it challenging to replace the furniture with recycled products – sourcing good quality second-hand furniture was more difficult than expected!
At the meeting we also discussed the importance of sourcing sustainable supply chains and products. Our procurement policy now states sustainability will be our first criteria when choosing a new product. This includes ensuring we’re sourcing products from companies who are actively working towards a Living Wage, wherever possible.
Our events team is continuing to lead the way with examples of waste reduction. Throughout July, we hosted four Discussing Tourism events across the country, and in early September we held the first two-day Tourism Summit Aotearoa. At both events we used table talkers instead of individual programmes, along with a mobile app, to save on printing. For catering purposes the team had recyclable cups but encouraged attendees to bring their own reusable cup to use instead. Once again plastic water bottles and plastic wrapped candy were banished from the events, and print-on-demand name tags cut down on waste.
Our Industry Advocate and working group member Rachael Moore dedicated some time on Daffodil Day to help raise money for the Cancer Society of New Zealand. Rachael is based in Wanaka so while we couldn’t join her, it’s clear she had some excellent moral support from her dog Tui! We’ve been trying to find some environmental volunteer work for all staff, but haven’t had a huge amount of luck with our search. We’ll keep looking for new opportunities and will be doing our annual Hospice Strawberry Fair day as a team again in November.