Sustainability: Small Business Impact

Sustainability in travel is crucial for protecting the environment, culture and local economies. It means making responsible choices to reduce harm to nature, support communities and keep destinations thriving for future travellers but what does this mean for SME businesses and how do you get started? We know this is a key area for many of our members and so, this year, we've set up an ESG member steering group to create a community where members can learn from one another and discuss tools and tactics to help member businesses start on their sustainability journey.

We recently spoke to Ashley Quint, Director & Chief Travel Maestro at TravelTime World, who sits on the steering group, to hear about his efforts in supporting sustainability, how he stays informed on emerging sustainability trends and why he thinks this is an important focus in the travel sector right now.

Can you provide an overview of your organisation’s sustainability initiatives and goals?

We started 12 months ago with very little knowledge on sustainability and only until it was pointed out to us how much we had already done did we formalise our vision and develop our understanding. 16 As an agency, we follow two main streams: the business operations and the holidays/travel we book for our clients. We have reduced our business carbon emissions by investing in an electric car and commuting by bike/walking, along with making it company policy to use public transport to events when we can. We are now plastic free and have reduced paper consumption by over 75% in the last four years. Although we haven’t set a deadline as yet, we would like our business operations to be carbon-neutral in the next few years. On the client side, it’s now our policy to try to include a sustainable or responsible travel element within their holiday. This could be using trains where that makes sense, using hotels which have stronger environmental policies (such as Iberostar, Beachcomber or Ikos/Sani), or suggesting community tourism projects in their destination. We also provide a ‘Responsible Travel Guide’ at the point of booking so that clients can make informed decisions on making their holiday more sustainable. We’re trying to avoid carbon offsetting, instead favouring trying to reduce their carbon footprint at the outset, combined with work we’re hoping to achieve with nature projects in our local area. We have publicly stated that it’s our ambition to be B Corp certified, although we haven’t put a deadline on this as the principles of working towards this are more important than the work needed to achieve the certification for us now. 

Can you share recent successes or achievements related to sustainability?

I’m currently working with our local town council on making nature projects more accessible for businesses to contribute to, either through volunteering or funding equipment or resources. It’s more impactful for a business like ours, which sends people all over the world with no specific leading destination, to help biodiversity in our location than contribute to something that isn’t visible to us and we're unsure of its impact. For a small business, it's also lower cost than contributing to carbon offsetting schemes, grows awareness for your business in the local community and offers an opportunity to contribute to improving the environment you live and work in. 

What challenges or obstacles have you encountered in implementing sustainability efforts, and how have you addressed them?

As a business, it’s quite easy to operate more sustainably if you stand back and assess all aspects of how you operate. For us just having an office we commute to every day, reducing the impact of the commute was a starting point, along with how we get to and from events. Educating clients has been somewhat more of a challenge, but I have discovered it’s more in the way it’s proposed than just bandying around the term sustainable. Overall, people won’t ask for a 'sustainable'. holiday. However, that tide is slowly turning, and we are finding people are starting to ask how they can have a more sustainable holiday. 

How do you stay informed about emerging trends in sustainability?

Sustainable travel is ever-evolving, and something valid a year ago may have completely changed. I have found it incredibly helpful to attend the ABTA Sustainable Travel Conference and take part in their Carbon Literacy Day, along with the TTG Fairer Travel Week and their Sustainable Travel Ambassadors last summer. It’s also good to follow the GSTC and WTTC and there has been some great work done by Intrepid available for agents. 

And finally, how did it feel to win ESG Champion of the Year at the Big Celebration Lunch in December? 

It felt like a huge achievement, considering I had only really started to gain an understanding of sustainable travel in February. I don’t profess to know everything, but I’ve shown that you can make an impact quickly and efficiently even within a small business. If I can achieve it, any other member can do the same. 

TravelTime World is based in Berkhamsted. You can find out more about them by visiting


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