When Explore Worldwide Managing Director Michael Edwards joined the small group tour operator, he had two immediate and “real goals”. One was simply to restructure and grow the business. The other aim was perhaps less predictable.
“Unashamedly, coming from Intrepid, I’d seen the good things that come out of going through the B Corp process and I was determined for Explore to become a B Corp,” Edwards tells Karryon in an exclusive Australian interview.
Both goals have now been reached.
Last year, the company had the biggest year in its history in terms of sales. And this year, according to the Explore boss, “is very likely to be our second biggest year in history”. The company also witnessed a record single day of sales in mid-January.
In another massive milestone for the UK-based company, Explore Worldwide has just achieved B Corp Certification.
B Corps are companies that meet strict criteria for how they positively impact society and the environment. They’re held to high standards for their actions, accountability and openness about their practices. And Edwards says this project had been a long time in the making.
“We put a project team together. So two and a half years later, we were certified on Friday with a score of 84.1, which isn’t bad first time out of the gate. We’re absolutely thrilled with it,” he explains.
“So we had a bunch of people across HR, finance, product… we’ve changed policies as a result, we’ve tightened up others, we’ve introduced others to ensure that we are the business that we say we want to be.
“That third-party accreditation… means you have to live up to the things that you say you’re going to do, internally and externally.”
Simply put, Edwards says B Corp certification makes a company better. He also envisages many more companies becoming B Corp certified or similar in the future.
“So for a company like ours that prides ourselves on sustainable travel, to not be a B Corp seemed to be an anomaly to me. It felt crucial that we did go through the process,” he says.
“Obviously, we’ll aim to improve that score over time. But we are now one of the growing list of travel B Corps.”
And the Explore Worldwide MD urges other travel businesses to join the cause.
“That would be my message: to get on board if you believe in this stuff and get certified.”
Boost to business?
Edwards also thinks B Corp certification will have an increasing impact on Explore Worldwide’s bottom line, particularly as more and more companies go down that path.
“It’s not the number one reason people go on holiday with us, but increasingly, those purpose credentials are climbing the rankings in terms of importance,” the Briton tells Karryon.
“I’m not expecting a million new customers overnight because we’re a B Corp. But my firm belief is if we weren’t a B Corp in the next two to five years, people would be going, well, Explore with everything you do and say you do, it seems odd that you’re not.
“If you go back a couple of years, I think B Corp was a competitive advantage, as well as being a really great process to go through. I think for companies who don’t have it in the next few years, it could easily be a competitive disadvantage. I think we’ll get some customer growth by stealth because of that accreditation.”
While it’s business as usual for the adventure travel company post-certification, Edwards says Explore Worldwide will continue to look to improve “every facet of our trips, whether that’s how interesting and exciting they are, right through to reducing the carbon footprint per passenger, which we managed to do by 7.1 per cent [in intensity carbon footprint per passenger night] this year”.
“We’re experimenting with SAFs and things like that to augment that ability to reduce our carbon, but through things like introducing more internal train travel rather than domestic flights, really working with our supply chain around plastics and water, etc, we’ve managed to bring that score down by 7.1 cent per person,” he adds.
“We think that’s not enough, but if we can carry on at that pace, we will hit our goals in around 2030. So there are real actions that are coming out of this.” And more business too.
Last year, saw the launch of the Explore Foundation, which among other initaitives, enabled a donation of over £60,000 to the Morocco Earthquake Fund
On the eve of World Earth Day 2023, Edwards shared with Karryon the sustainability Explore Worldwide’s clients want to see and what the company is doing to help – including launching the largest carbon measurement project of its kind in the travel industry.
In an interview with Karryon in early 2023, Edwards said that during its January sale, the company experienced a record day in its 41-year history.
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