With an Eye on Impact and Sustainability, UK Travel Companies Aim for B Corps Certification
by JoAnna Haugen
Fifteen years ago, it was the rare travel company that outlined an animal welfare policy or put protocols in place to ensure tourism dollars didn’t leak out of a local community. Today, the travel company that doesn’t centre corporate social responsibility is the outlier. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that there’s been a surge of tourism-focused companies in the United Kingdom applying for and receiving their B Corps Certification — arguably the penultimate achievement for businesses committed to environmental and social integrity.
Founded in 2006, the B Corp movement was built on the vision of doing business so that it not only benefited shareholders but all other stakeholders, including local community, staff, and the environment. B Corps Certification is the designation businesses receive for meeting rigorous standards of performance, accountability, and transparency. The 5,627 companies that have achieved certification cut across more than 150 industries and span 79 countries, which is one of the primary factors that sets it apart.
“There are so many tourism certification schemes out there, it’s very crowded, and no doubt very confusing for customers to try and decipher which certifications are actually credible,” said Sam Bruce, founder and chief marketing officer of Much Better Adventures, which received B Corps Certification in August 2022.
“B Corp is a simple and universally understood way of demonstrating commitment to sustainability and communicating the fact we are one of the travel companies that are actually walking the walk.”
Travel Companies Walking the Walk
The certification must be renewed every three years, which holds companies accountable and encourages improvement.
As more companies double down on environmental and social responsibility, undergoing the B Corps Certification process is a natural decision, but it wasn’t always this way.
“When I moved to the UK three years ago, B Corp wasn’t known by the travel industry,” said Zina Bencheikh, managing director EMEA at Intrepid Travel, which became certified in 2018.
The company connected with Pura Aventura, certified in 2020, to form Travel by B Corp to support other travel-related UK companies going through the certification process. Initially a group of six, the association now includes more than 40 companies.
“The movement became very, very popular during the pandemic,” Becheikh said, and Travel by B Corp is responding to the growth with more structure, support, and opportunities for partnerships among values-aligned companies.
Wild Dog Design, which also received certification in August, is one of the companies that took advantage of the COVID-19 crisis to look into every aspect of its operations and relationships. The company signed onto the Glasgow Declaration, committed one percent of its sales to a charity, and fine-tuned its internal policies, for which it sought an external audit.
“This is where B Corp came into play,” said Michael Hughes, managing director for Wild Dog Design. “We felt that if we can achieve B Corp status, then it is not just us making an internal statement that we are aiming for high standards. If we can achieve certification, then this has been verified by a highly respected, external international movement.”
There is currently a significant queue of B Corp applicants: Both Wild Dog Design’s and Much Better Adventures’ certification processes took about 18 months.
Yet, the effort aligns with what travellers increasingly expect: “The fact is business must become a force for good in the face of the climate crisis and other challenges we face as a society right now,” Bruce said, “and customers need a simple way to understand which businesses are actually walking the walk in the sea of greenwash and choose to spend their hard-earned money with brands that are doing the right things and fundamentally match their own values.”
About the Author
JoAnna Haugen is an award winning writer, speaker, and solutions advocate who has worked in the travel and tourism industry for almost 15 years.
She is also founder of Rooted, a solutions platform at the intersection of sustainable tourism, social impact, and storytelling.
A returned U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, international election observer, and intrepid traveler, JoAnna is always on the hunt for her next great adventure.