Numerous sustainable certifications exist within the travel sector but offering a holistic view, B Corp certification could be the new hot trend for travel operators.

B Corp certification identifies businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purchase. As the travel sector is recovering from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, businesses and customers alike are evolving to more sustainable ways of travel.

As it stands, around ten travel operators hold B Corp status. Despite various certifications out there, B Corp certification offers a holistic view, and it will undoubtedly hold a positive edge for future successes.

The drive for sustainable initiatives is accelerating

Both companies and consumers are more sustainably focused and certification will play a large part in future travel.

Climate change (68%), resource scarcity (63%) and supply chain management (49%) were ranked as the top three most material environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues in GlobalData’s poll*. The nature of travel is not sustainable but there are numerous livelihoods and economies that are heavily dependent on tourism. Therefore, travel operators are being urged to be more transparent with their sustainability initiatives going beyond solely environmental responsibilities but taking into consideration all ESG goals. This is an area where B Corp certification will help companies to illustrate this.

For consumers, environmentally friendly services are more influential than how ‘smart’ a service is. A GlobalData survey** found that ‘how ethical/environmentally friendly/socially responsible a product/service is (‘always’, ‘often’ and ‘somewhat’) influenced 76% of global respondents when purchasing a product or service. This was a greater percentage when comparing the response to ‘how digitally advanced/smart the product/service is’ (which only influenced 66% of global respondents’ purchasing behaviour). This highlights where priorities now lie for consumers and travel operators can tap into this preference with B Corp certification.

Bigger players may be lagging behind

Having worked towards certification for three years, Intrepid Travel was the first tour operator to achieve the feat of B Corp certification. There are now various other alternative operators that have also achieved this status, such as Frontier’s North, Amazon explorer and Joro. Many start-ups are now also working towards B Corp certified status. These include niche operators such as Byway travel and Modern Adventure.

However, there is currently a lack of bigger travel operators with this certification. Larger online travel agencies (OTA) have formed their own sustainability goals, one of the most notable being the Travalyst (launched 2019) led by the Duke of Sussex in partnership with, Skyscanner, Group, TripAdvisor and Visa. Whilst this is a positive initiative, B Corp certification highlights a company is working as a force for good and ESG issues are at their heart. Therefore, certification is likely to become more desirable for all travel players and B Corp businesses may be the future trendsetters for sustainable travel.

* GlobalData’s poll – live since 1 Feb 2021 – 253 respondents

** GlobalData’s Q1 2021 consumer survey – 21,768 respondents