We are a responsible company, interested and engaged in the changing world around us. We want to take responsibility for the activities we undertake and mitigate negative impacts wherever we can.

This stuff matters to us. We aren’t interested in publishing a ‘corporate responsibility strategy’ to tick the right boxes, or in offering click-and-forget absolution of guilt.  Many of our adventures pass through fabulous wilderness, and we want to keep it that way. So, without making a song and a dance about it, here’s a little of what we are up to.

Overall Aims

We aim to:

  • Reduce the negative and increase the positive impacts that our company’s operational practices have on the social and physical environment of our areas of our operation.
  • Inform and demonstrate to our staff, suppliers and guests our commitment to social and environmental best practice.
  • Educate and inform our guests about responsible travel and any beneficial actions they might take outside of their travel with our company.
  • Differentiate our product from other operators and add true value to the quality experiences we offer by virtue of continually improving our responsible travel performance.
  • Ensure the above will not be to the detriment, but to the benefit of our core mission – to provide immersive, personal, unique and thoughtfully-crafted travel experiences to our guests.
asian children posing for picture on the silk road

Travellers Code of Conduct

We will undertake the following:

  • Brief our guests on the cultural norms for each place they will travel through. It takes very little to ensure that we aren’t offending people by being insensitive to their culture, and knowing the basics will help our guests get the most out of their experience.
  • Provide accurate pre-trip information concerning the social and political situation in the destination country.
  • Inform our guests about how and why purchasing locally produced goods and services (such as souvenirs, crafts etc) benefits local communities.
  • Suggest measures that can reduce water consumption in the destination(s) and why it is important.
  • Provide travellers with relevant suggestions to minimise damage to the environment, wildlife and marine ecosystems.
  • Suggest destination visits to appropriate local social projects with direct or indirect benefits to the host community

Environmental Policies

  • We have a compact office in the UK where we separate and recycle all waste, are largely paper-free and use 100 per cent recycled paper for the printing we are obliged to do.
  • We choose not to print annual brochures and where printed literature is required by a guest for one reason or another, this is done on a print-on-demand basis only.
  • Our office procures energy from 100 per cent renewable sources.
  • We encourage cycle commuting for staff and visitors alike. At present all of our staff either walk or bicycle to work.
  • We share our office to make better use of the space and to ensure it never sits empty when we are travelling.
  • Our in-country packs, delivered within a month of departure, provide suggestions on how guests can reduce their impact on and damage to the environment, wildlife and marine ecosystems.
  • Most – if not all – of our trips include the opportunity to visit local environmental projects, and some trips are based around local wildlife and conservation projects. The environmental benefits of such visits are provided in the in-country pack.
  • Wherever possible we will choose operators, guesthouses and suppliers who use renewable energy.
  • We will never encourage the use of firewood or other wild collection of unsustainable timber/brush for fires where this can have a negative impact on the local ecosystem.
  • We will not litter, nor permit our guests to litter, and we will encourage resource reduction, re-use and recycling at every possible stage.
  • We will discourage and report any instances of animal cruelty we encounter along our routes and will, wherever possible, avoid the use of animals in any instance that is considered exploitative.
  • We encourage frugal use of fresh water and discourage the spoiling of water sources by any means. We provide water filtration bottles to all customers as part of their package and encourage them to be used as alternatives to bottled water.
  • Our use of filtration water bottles permits the reduction of our single-use plastic footprint. Where filtered water is necessary, we will purchase only in bulk containers and request that wherever it is available, our local partners supply filtered water in the same way.
a water to go bottle placed atop rocks on the silk road

Economic Impacts

  • We always employ local guides to accompany groups visiting local communities. Wherever possible, we work with people from a local community to ensure that maximum economic benefits, skills and knowledge are retained in that community, and that our guests derive the maximum understanding of each community visited.
  • We will contribute to the training of local guides and suppliers in good practice, with particular reference to our Responsible Tourism policy.
  • All of our trips and tours are immersive – they are designed to be of net benefit to each community that we visit. In this way we not only always employ local guides, drivers and suppliers but often work with local providers to ensure that services provided are utilising local resources as far as is possible.
  • We stay as often as possible with local people to encourage cultural exchange, to give our guests the best possible cultural experience and to ensure that economic benefits are retained locally within a circular economy.

Cultural and Social Impacts

  • All guests are provided with accurate pre-trip information on the social and political situation in each destination. This is part of our in-country information pack, delivered within 1 month of departure date.
  • The in-country information pack also includes details on cultural sensitivity, local practices and folklore where appropriate and the basics of the local languages that can be expected along their route.
  • We exert direct control over our itineraries, all of which use the services of local guides, drivers and interpreters. This ensures not only that our guests are being culturally and socially sympathetic, but that both the host community and our guests have the greatest chance to learn from one another.
  • All trips include suggestions as to which local social projects may be visited on the route. It may be that we are staying within such a social project, or perhaps it might be available in a destination as an additional activity.
Tourist meeting local

How our Responsible Tourism Policy is Operated

  • Copies of this Responsible Tourism Policy are distributed to all staff members, destination suppliers and is available to guests via our website at any time.
  • Complaints and comments pertaining to our Responsible Tourism Policy or the Travellers Code of Conduct will be handled from the outset by one of our Directors. They will personally manage and ensure satisfied closure of any such complaint or comment.

Net Benefit Travel

We travel in many places that few tourists reach and where foreigners are still a welcome novelty, and the money we spend there goes to families and rural communities who really need it. We also run expeditions in some places where the positive stories we bring back help, in a small way, change people’s opinions for the better.

We ascribe to the UNWTO (United Nations Word Tourism Organisation) Guidelines for Sustainable Development of Tourism. These are:

  1.  Make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.
  2. Respect the socio-cultural authenticity of host communities, conserve their built and living cultural heritage and traditional values, and contribute to inter-cultural understanding and tolerance.
  3. Ensure viable, long-term economic operations, providing socio-economic benefits to all stakeholders that are fairly distributed, including stable employment and income-earning opportunities and social services to host communities, and contributing to poverty alleviation.

We also support the principles of the UNWTO Global Code of Ethics for Tourism.

The United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has published a specific action plan on the development of tourism along the Silk Road and we take an active interest in this document and how it is being applied. The whole document can be downloaded by clicking here, or see below for the basic visions for the initiative.

silk road action plan objectives

Trees, carbon dioxide and re-wilding

Marley, one of our directors, has a background in sustainable energy and climate science, and we therefore want any carbon dioxide ‘offset’ scheme to be more than just a matter of mindlessly ticking a few boxes.

Marley, having completed a Masters Degree on carbon offsetting schemes way back in 2001, is of the opinion that carbon offsetting and the industry that has grown up around it may actually have done more harm than good, in terms of attitudes towards the environment. This isn’t the place to try to summarise a thesis, but suffice to say we aren’t offering tree planting as a panacea to ‘fix’ our emissions because put simply, it doesn’t work to change behaviour, and that is what is needed.

Instead, we are working behind the scenes on activities to help mitigate our impacts on the environment, with specific reference to carbon dioxide emissions from flights taken by ourselves and our customers.

Now, we know that we are guilty of hypocrisy. We sell travel and some of this is accomplished by air. While we didn’t develop the jet engine or the long haul vacation economy, we are guilty of being among the two per cent of the global population who fly regularly and are responsible for three per cent of global carbon dioxide emissions. So we as a company acknowledge that we are hypocrites, but that should not mean that we should stand idly by and do nothing.

We hope that by choosing to travel with us instead of an alternative supplier, our customers have a lower environmental impact and a higher positive social impact than they could possibly have had with another company. Perhaps some of our guests don’t agree with our view on climate change, and perhaps others don’t care, but it should not stop us doing what we feel is right.

We won’t be hiding our environmental commitment away or making it as unobtrusive as possible – that doesn’t help to change anything. No – we will be very open about what we are doing and encouraging as much engagement between our guests and stakeholders as possible. Hopefully this little section helps to provide some understanding of our actions.

Our efforts focus on rewilding, not just tree planting.  Now, rewilding does include tree planting, but where a tree planting enterprise often permits the planting of single species woods, rewilding is all about helping the land to become wild again, through careful tree planting, habitat creation and species conservation/re-introductions. Rewilding has been defined as “to restore (an area of land) to its natural uncultivated state (used especially with reference to the reintroduction of species of wild animal that have been driven out or exterminated).

Rewilding has been demonstrated as providing a very significant increase in carbon uptake and storage.  A group of international climate science campaigners and scientists have started a global initiative to focus attention on this method – you can find this more at Natural Climate Solutions. They are proposing a cluster of possibilities involving the restoration and creation of carbon-storing environments such as forests, mangrove swamps, peat bog, salt marsh and seagrass beds. These are known collectively as Natural Climate Solutions, and recent research shows that they could achieve up to 37 per cent of carbon capture goals.

We support a couple of initiatives.

Firstly, we make an annual donation to the Wales Wild Land Foundation, through its project called “The Cambrian Wildwood“, and with our support for this initiative we cover the emissions directly generated by our company activities, including company flights. With this donation as “Wild Wood Founders” we provide more than the required ‘offset’ for our office carbon footprint each year and also support a vital UK-based rewilding scheme. The calculator we use for these sums is here.

 

We also support Mossy Earth, and in doing so we actively support rewilding projects across Europe and a growing number of locations worldwide. We pay for an annual membership for each of our staff members, each of whom now has 44 native species trees planted and maintained ever year in their name, with GPS locations of each and every tree planted.

For every single guest who books with us, we now establish an annual membership with Mossy Earth. As a member, you will get a personal welcome from the Mossy Earth team, you’ll receive regular updates on how your membership is making a difference, you’ll see photos and receive GPS tags of every tree planted in your name and monthly video updates of work to preserve endangered species or habitats. You will get to vote on how your membership fees are used by Mossy Earth. It really is the most fantastic way to become engaged with rewilding, reforestation and de-carbonising.

Duarte, Matt and the team at Mossy Earth are doing something fantastic and absolutely vital and we are very happy to be involved in helping with this effort.

You can watch a short video from TED X talks by George Monbiot where he describes the rewilding effect, here.

Your Safety in Our Hands

We don’t take any risks when it comes to your safety on one of our adventures.

Our company directors attend regular medical training courses and when a trip is led by one of our directors, we travel with an extensive remote medical kit in any areas that require it.

We complete proper risk assessments for all of our adventures. These are based on a military-designed series of protocols and are in line with BS 8848, the British Standard for quality management of adventure holidays and expeditions outside the UK. Wherever necessary we commission professional, third party country assessments prior to travelling. This gives us a current snapshot of the situation in any given country.

We also work towards the ISO standards 21101 for Safety Management Systems in Adventure Travel, and ISO 21103 which covers the information to be given to those travelling with us. It is work in progress but we are aware of the standards and voluntarily working towards them.

We carry a satellite phone for emergencies in any location where cellular signal is at all doubtful.

We subscribe to Talk to a Doctor, meaning we have a UK doctor at the other end of the line 24/7 in the case of an emergency.

Not all companies take this comprehensive approach, preferring instead to hope nothing bad happens.

Sadly sometimes unfortunate things do occur, and we’d rather have developed a set of plans and procedures that we never have to use, than to have a problem and no plan.

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