Sustainability & Social Responsibility
A Brown + Hudson bespoke trip represents a perfect convergence between our intimate knowledge of the world’s most fascinating regions and your hopes and wishes in exploring them. As we craft your ideal travel experience, we ask a series of questions to establish your precise goals – including your thoughts in the realm of sustainable travel and environmental responsibility. Then we mesh your personal priorities with our own Sustainability & Social Responsibility Policy as detailed below.
In everything we do, our overriding aim is to moderate the impact created by your trip – both on the communities we’re privileged to visit and on the surrounding natural environment, where the choices we make today will be felt by future generations.
Here are two simple examples of our efforts to be considerate travellers:
On biking trips we offer only top-quality bicycles – but we also source them locally. Unlike many luxury travel companies, we don’t see the logic in shipping fleets of bikes around the planet (or even just driving them across Europe) when there are perfectly good alternatives available right near our destinations. The short-sighted rush to cart along “the best bikes” typically delivers the worst in terms of environmental costs – not to mention added financial costs for our clients.
Unless asked to provide a particular brand of imported bottled water, wherever there is a healthy and tasty alternative available nearby, we prefer to offer that. It may be a relatively small gesture, but in the larger scheme of things we feel it just doesn’t make sense to ship water from one country to another – across continents and even oceans – when we can give a boost to local suppliers (and once again avoid wastefully burning hydrocarbons).
Sustainable Travel: The New Imperative
“The supreme reality of our time is…the vulnerability of our planet.”
– John F. Kennedy, 28 June 1963
In recent years we’ve noticed a shift in how people choose to travel. Clients are asking us to craft more meaningful and enriching experiences abroad. They’re spending longer at each destination, taking time to dig beneath the surface – in part, many tell us, to reduce their travel-related carbon footprint. We’ve also noticed more interest than ever in trips that involve low-impact activities such as biking or walking, and that weave in educational or philanthropic components.
There’s a growing sense that we can no longer justify leisure travel if the act of travelling actually puts at risk the very sights we’re hoping to see. The luxe style that was so popular in the 1990s is today rightly seen as nonsensical and passé. More and more, clients come to Brown + Hudson seeking a style of sustainable, environmentally conscious travel that we call intelligent luxury.
Unless we all embrace the goals of sustainability, the landscapes we dream of exploring could be irreparably compromised – or may vanish entirely. And the fact is it’s quite possible to enjoy a travel experience in a distant land for which your carbon footprint is smaller than if you’d stayed at home.
At Brown + Hudson, we’ve always believed that travel presents an opportunity to make a positive contribution to the planet rather than threatening its well-being. We share the view expressed by a growing number of our clients – that this small planet offers countless intriguing journeys, both physical and emotional, each filled with hidden surprises and unpredictable moments that make it uniquely special. In return for that gift, we will continue doing all that we can to be socially responsible while helping sustain balanced, diverse and untouched natural environments.
Our Sustainability & Social Responsibility Policy
Brown + Hudson works hard to minimise the environmental impact of our business, both in the field and at our London office. We’re committed to sustainable development, helping to protect and regenerate not only the natural environments we explore but also the human communities that welcome and support us.
Rather than place too much emphasis on single issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, we prefer to consider the broader context. Sustainable tourism is demonstrably good for the environment and for local economies. Biodiversity and habitats benefit from more sensitive travel practices, while communities are encouraged to create enterprises that conserve and nurture regional species.
Above all, we believe that the key to effecting positive change begins with face-to-face communications. In a global society, travel breaks through barriers and tears down walls of cultural misunderstanding.
We’ve identified the following general objectives for our Sustainability & Social Responsibility Policy, echoing the guidelines proposed by the Travel Foundation, a UK-based not-for-profit that has led the way in this area:
- Reduce our consumption of resources and minimise waste through recycling and repurposing programs.
- Promote awareness of sustainability goals among our clients, in the communities we visit and with our business partners.
- Address the issue of climate change through energy management and CFC emissions control.
- Employ local staff and service providers wherever possible.
- Use the best locally sourced equipment (e.g., bikes, rafts and vehicles).
- Promote the use of socially responsible and environmentally friendly products, particularly those with organic and Fair Trade certification.
- Integrate environmental and social concerns into all of our planning and decision-making processes.
Taking Action on the Environment – Our Office
- We encourage staff to bike, walk, use public transit or share lifts to work wherever possible.
- We closely control paper consumption and recycle all paper products and other materials.
- We monitor thermostats and set timers on our heating system – and have eco-conscious valves on our very British radiators.
- We do not use air conditioning (and our guides are encouraged not to use it when abroad).
- We turn off all non-essential equipment overnight – not just lights, but also photocopiers, computers, monitors, printers and other devices.
- We involve our staff in all sustainability discussions, providing a forum for new ideas and getting everyone behind a proposed course of action.
Taking Action on the Environment – Our Trips
- Staying true to our roots in luxury active travel, we always encourage clients to consider biking or walking components in their bespoke trips – for the greener alternative, but also because it’s a great way to stay healthy while discovering the life of a region up close.
- We encourage our local suppliers around the globe to adopt carbon-saving measures, and we regularly update them on our sustainability goals.
- We try to ensure energy-efficient transport for transfers and visits to places of interest. We insist that our suppliers have new and/or properly maintained vehicles, and we’re exploring opportunities to use alternative energy sources such as electric power, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and fuel from biomass.
- We encourage hoteliers and other accommodation suppliers to audit their environmental practices and work toward improving them in line with the expectations of our clients – and the needs of the planet.
Sustainable Trip Planning and Leadership
When creating and leading Brown + Hudson trips, we carefully consider the impact we’re likely to have on the people, environment and economy of each place we visit. In our view, sustainable travel must:
- benefit local communities economically and socially
- promote local culture and traditions
- help conserve the natural environment
1. Ensuring that communities benefit economically
We consider the extent to which your trip provides income-generating opportunities for a region’s inhabitants – either from their provision of goods and services as part of your visit, or through your group’s spending in shops, restaurants, markets and other local businesses.
- We tend to patronise locally owned or managed cafés and restaurants.
- We prefer restaurants and caterers to either grow their own produce or source it nearby.
- On the road (or footpath or hiking trail), we vary refreshment stops so that the benefit of our custom will be shared among several providers.
- Without compromising quality, health or safety, we favour restaurants and other establishments that are not generally frequented by other travel companies – again, to spread the economic benefits, and also because our clients tend to prefer being away from the obvious spots.
- We help you give back to communities by buying locally made gifts and crafts. And we provide appropriate guidance on “bargaining” so that traders achieve a fair price for their products while you have an enjoyable cross-cultural experience.
- We know that local markets often provide a more engaging shopping experience (and great photo opportunities) as well as the ability to purchase directly from artisans and small-scale manufacturers.
- We favour cooperatives where income is shared among all the producers, even if only a few items are purchased.
- We often visit workshops rather than retail outlets.
- We support and promote community ventures through donations or by giving materials to, for example, local schools.
- We also cover the cost of visiting sites where the entrance fees help pay for upkeep. If a site has free admission, Brown + Hudson makes a donation and we encourage our clients to do so as well.
- We ask our local suppliers to employ people from the community wherever possible.
2. Promoting local culture and traditions
Wherever Brown + Hudson creates your bespoke trip, we want to help you gain a better understanding of the region’s cultural heritage and traditions.
- We encourage travellers to familiarise themselves with the political, economic, social and cultural history of the region they’re visiting.
- Our menus reflect authentic home-grown cuisine, and we invite you to try our favourite local specialties.
- We encourage you to shop for products from the area by creating opportunities to see firsthand where and how they’re made. We prefer locally produced handicrafts to mass-produced or imported items – and we show you how to distinguish them.
- We foster deeper understanding of a region by visiting its historical, cultural and religious sites. We also arrange art, music and dance presentations, as well as access to festivals and other special events. We typically invite a local expert to enhance our cultural appreciation and help bring each place or event to life.
- Our Brown + Hudson guides brief travellers on appropriate conduct at historic or religious sites to avoid giving offence or causing any inadvertent damage.
- We provide information on how to minimise potential negative impact on sensitive local cultures, including guidance on appropriate behaviours such as public dress codes or the protocol for asking to photograph someone.
- We encourage you to interact with people by teaching you a few words and phrases in the local language.
3. Conserving the natural environment
At the very least, Brown + Hudson’s sustainable approach to travel avoids damage or disruption to the natural environment. At best, we take tangible positive measures to help conserve it.
- When visiting a protected area – for instance, a national park – we strictly comply with all rules and regulations.
- We give you suggestions on how to reduce and conserve natural resources, especially water.
- Our local experts provide background information and answer all of your questions about the flora and fauna you’re likely to see, increasing your enjoyment and appreciation for the area you’re exploring.
- When a trip includes wildlife encounters, we make you aware of best practices for acceptable viewing distances and ensuring animal welfare. These guidelines are published in our pre-departure notes and reinforced by our expert guides in each local briefing.
- If your trip involves any freshwater or marine-based activities – e.g., snorkelling, scuba diving, boat excursions – we take practical steps to minimise any disturbance to flora and fauna, including thorough briefings on safe, eco-sensitive conduct.
- We avoid accidental pollution by encouraging travellers to wear biodegradable sun lotions if the trip involves swimming, diving, wading or any other contact with water.
- Wherever possible, we only arrange hikes on marked paths – at least in regions with established trail systems.
- We support nature preserves and parks through entrance fees, thereby helping local authorities with financial management and maintenance.
- In protected areas, our guides maintain a strict “pack it in – pack it out” policy; all waste generated on an excursion is brought back to home base and recycled if possible.
- When selecting guides, we ask our local partners to ensure their people have received training on environmental issues, particularly with regard to minimising impact.
- In many regions we typically try to include a visit to a research or conservation project that has direct or indirect environmental benefits.
- We make clear that it’s illegal to purchase goods made from endangered species: e.g., coral or tortoiseshell jewellery, and garments or accessories made from animal skins. What’s more, it’s simply not in the spirit of environmentally sensitive travel that Brown + Hudson stands for – and that our travellers enthusiastically support.
- Wherever you choose to explore, we encourage you to follow that well-worn yet wise adage: Take nothing but photos and leave nothing but footprints.