Travel is a decentralised, globalised ‘industry’, and when you start a travel company, there’s no instruction manual, and there’s also no rule book. Each country has its own regulations, and since travel straddles national borders, the end result can be quite Wild West. Companies can, and do, make their own rules.
Trying to be a good actor is anything but straightforward. When no one can agree what harm looks like, “do no harm” is harder than it sounds. So, since the day we started out in 2004, Trufflepig has been trying to understand our positive and negative impacts in the world.
Our shorthand term for these impacts is our Hoofprint.
Our Hoofprint Project is, and always will be, a work in progress.
Our Hoofprint project forces us to examine the difficult questions. Are the people serving us being fairly employed? Are we degrading the very places we claim to love? Where does the money you spend on your trip actually end up? How great are the CO2 emissions from travelling compared to staying at home? The reality is that there are few industries that are as messy and unregulated as travel, and it’s our responsibility to examine our role in it.
This section of the site lays out our baseline ‘mission’, a discussion of the issues in international travel as we see them; a declaration regarding the Climate Emergency; a presentation of the plan we have in place and the foundations we support; coming soon will be a Resource section for those who wish to dig in deeper. Difficult questions need discipline, which is why we are also assembling an external ‘Hoofprint Council’ to hold our trotters to the fire and advise us.
Our answers to these questions will continue to evolve, but one promise we will make up-front: Trufflepig aims to be frank, honest and transparent. We actively encourage you to engage in these difficult questions with us, and get involved when planning your trip. There’s nothing pretty about a greenwashed pig, so if any of this smells funky to you, call us out on it or email us with your ideas and questions.
Mission of the pig
Mission of the pig
Trufflepig exists to deliver transformative and joyful travel for our clients, in a way that’s respectful, protective of and beneficial towards the ecosystems and cultures wherein we operate, and which provides meaningful, sustainable and fair employment to the Trufflepig community.
What does this mean?
We want our trips to change/enhance/open/blow our clients’ minds.
We want to have a positive, protective impact on the ecosystems wherein we operate, and on the communities we visit.
We want our operations to provide rewarding, sustainable, interesting work to our employees, and to the partners with whom we work.
Supporting this top level mission is a series of Guiding Principles which help us actually put in practise the fine sentiments above, themselves backed up by numerous points of process to connect the big picture with the every-day detail.
Trufflepig’s articles of incorporation put ‘the creation of a positive impact on society and the environment’ on a par with the business’s own interests, in keeping with B-Corporation requirements, for which our application is currently awaiting certification (April 2021).
We travel for fun, of course, but not only that. The trips that really stay with you and make you who you are, are those with a more complex cocktail of emotions than just the golly gosh. Tension, discovery, relaxation, humility, anticipation, sweat… Such trips change people’s minds. We come home more humble, more helpful, more happy. If this sounds high-minded, we make no excuses. We are stubbornly signed up to the notion that travel can have a transformative impact on the traveller. That’s part of our creed.
But there are two sides to the travel coin. Gauging the impact that our trips have not just on us, but on the places we visit, is an elemental part of how we think about travel. If it’s important to choose carefully where and when to run trips, it’s even more important to know whom we’re working with. What we ask and expect of our partners, how they operate, and what sorts of jobs are created by the business we are sending, all have lasting impact on the places we visit (for better or worse).
Gauging the impact that our trips have not just on us, but on the places we visit, is an elemental part of how we think about travel.
That’s where we believe our biggest opportunity lies. Trufflepig is no Amazon, but we do sprinkle upwards of $15 million of our clients’ money around the globe every year – and where those travel dollars end up can make a big difference. The aim is to understand and optimise the long-term impacts that money, and our trips, have on the places we visit.
This part of our Hoofprint is very much the grey zone. Who’s to say if a community is positively supported by tourism, or over-reliant on it? Who’s to say if a bad job provided by tourism is worse than no job at all? We don’t claim to have a bible or perfect vision on these questions. But we try to bolster our good intentions with some real spade work, and to turn these considerations into real criteria in the purchasing we do on your, our clients’, behalfs.
You can read about how we operationalise these questions in our Hoofprint Plan below.
The Climate Emergency
The Climate Emergency
Of all the challenges modern societies face, the most existential is that of climate change due to greenhouse gas emissions. The problems created by a rapidly-heating world are not separate from the other issues we read about in the papers every day; but man-made climate change exacerbates, accelerates and amplifies them all. As a travel company, we have no choice but to address these questions.
But the good news is that climate change is also an issue with very little grey zone. It’s an environmental issue with a known cause, exact measurements, and (in many cases) available solutions. Addressing such problems as pollution and ecosystem conservation without addressing CO2 emissions would seem a lot like picking the easy battles for a company that professes to take its Hoofprint seriously, especially one that relies on airplane travel.
So, Trufflepig is a signatory of Tourism Declares A Climate Emergency, an affiliation of businesses and organizations in the travel industry who:
- “acknowledge the science stating we have to act now to address this crisis over the next decade”
- “accept our responsibility to tell the truth, work together, and help build a new, regenerative tourism industry.”
This declaration publicly commits us to:
- Developing and publishing a detailed Climate Emergency Plan containing concrete targets and actions whereby we can collectively reduce global carbon emissions to 55% of 2017 levels by 2030 (as a minimum), according to IPCC advice;
- Sharing our progress against the concrete targets laid out in that plan every year;
- Working with our industry partners and suppliers, sharing best practices, encouraging others to participate in the Tourism Declares community;
- Engaging with our clients;
- Advocating across the industry and beyond it to accelerate the change towards zero carbon air travel.
You can listen to a podcast conversation between Jeremy Smith, founder of Tourism Declares, and Jack Dancy, one of Trufflepig’s owners, here. And you can read about our approach to Carbon Management in our Hoofprint Plan, below.
Our Hoofprint Plan
Trufflepig has a relatively light, direct operational carbon footprint. Meanwhile, the carbon emissions on our trips are complex, hard to measure, and increase with every extra trip we run. With the former, we have high levels of direct control over a small amount of activity. With the latter, we have indirect and quite different types of control over a very large amount of activity, in the form of purchasing power, market pressure, and advocacy. From the outset we decided to view this as both a challenge and an opportunity.
Our Carbon Management plan accepts these differences, by addressing our direct emissions clinically and effectively, and our supply chain emissions with the complexity they warrant. One milestone in our plan will be to be able to say we are offering ‘carbon neutral’ trips, but the larger goals are to continually reduce the emissions that result from our trips, help our employees make reductions at home, and act with maximum advocacy within the market place to make carbon emissions a primary purchasing factor (thereby incentivising suppliers to address and reduce their own direct emissions).
You can dig deep into the full details on our approach here, but the top level is as follows:
- We have three separate programmes: office/operations, home-offices, trips. This is because the degrees of magnitude and control are different in each.
- Office/Operations: We are developing formal measurement and emissions reductions targets in our offices and operations for Scopes 1, 2 & 3; in 2021 we will be purchasing Gold Standard certified carbon credits for 150% of carbon emissions from offices and operations.
- Home Offices: Based on the practical impossibility of separating out Trufflepig use from personal use of home office space, we offer everyone working from home offices the support and resources required to measure their entire household emissions, along with best practises for achieving significant reductions, and help doing year-on-year comparison. In exchange, Trufflepig finances carbon-credit offsetting of the full amount of the unavoidable emissions.
- Trips – measurement, reduction, offsetting: we have developed measuring methodology for accommodation, transport & activity emissions using the best data-sets and assumptions we can find; we are using these measurements to develop reduction targets for per-person-per-day on-trip emissions. You can read about the methodology here. We are upgrading our trip-planning software to give our planners ‘live’ visibility on emissions data for each and every trip as the trip is being planned (launch Sept. 2021), with the aim of putting emissions on a a level pegging with other planning considerations right from the get-go. In 2021 we will purchase Gold Standard carbon credits for 150% of our measured on-trip emissions, and make public the totals.
- Trips – advocacy: as part of our supply chain audit, we request emissions data from all our suppliers, for two reasons. Firstly it allows us to replace blunt data from regional data sets with more accurate supplier-specific data, giving us better overall emissions measurements for our trips, and enabling us to compare emissions on a supplier-by-supplier basis. Secondly, it begins an emissions conversation up and down our supply chain, making clear that it’s a real purchasing consideration for us and our clients, incentivising suppliers to act, or bolstering the reduction work they’ve already done. With a supply chain numbering in the many thousands of suppliers in over 30 countries, this substantial challenge is also a substantial opportunity in terms of its potential impact.
One milestone in our plan will be to be able to say we are offering ‘carbon neutral’ trips, but the larger goals are to continually reduce our own emissions, help our employees make reductions at home, and act with maximum advocacy within the market place
Trufflepig sets aside 1% of pre-tax profits for philanthropic organisations, with a revolving roster of 4 projects, researched, presented and voted on by our planning team, with 1 project up for vote each year. We thereby are able to commit to a minimum of 4 years per project.
Aside from this initiative and the projects supported by our carbon offset purchases, for every trip we run we donate $100 to WWF Canada, accompanied by a workplace-giving scheme set up with WWF whereby we match donations from our staff.
POSITIVE TRAVEL BY DESIGN
It’s easy to lose track of the enormously positive benefits tourism can have on communities and eco-systems. We think the biggest opportunity for Trufflepig to increase our positive impact and reduce our negative hoofprint lies not in offsetting and afterthoughts, but in focusing on how our trips are fundamentally put together. To design trips with our Travel Impact front of mind, we have worked hard to weave considerations of positive impact into every layer of the organisation.
This begins with training, and fostering an in-house understanding of the issues we need to be aware of. You can see our internal Positive Travel By Design pieces here, which support an ongoing conversation around travel impact within our planning team, for which we also have a dedicated online discussion space. It continues with the in-depth work on our Supply Chain already mentioned above, selecting and working with suppliers who are woven into their local communities in positive ways; taking into account the problems of over-tourism and over-reliance on tourism; ultimately putting social and environmental considerations on equal footing with other planning decisions.
We have internal guidelines and engagement practises to frame these conversations with suppliers, to guide our choices, and to drive our planning decisions. Many but not all of these guidelines are governed by the B-Corps Impact Assessement work which we completed in early 2021.
We have learnt a great deal from the generosity of other companies with more experience than us in these areas.
All of the activities above require us to engage with our stakeholders – our clients, suppliers, partners and even – gasp – our competitors. We have learnt a great deal from the generosity of other companies with more experience than us in these areas, and in turn we try to repay that generosity by sharing it with others. We’ve identified, encouraged and joined a number of carefully selected groups and affiliations within the travel industry, and we advocate vociferously within them to bring the fundamentals of carbon management and positive travel design to those colleagues. We encourage our clients to think about travel in the same ways we do, both through the writing on this website, and in our conversations and trip designs. We encourage our suppliers to bolster and communicate their environmental and social activities, to help us communicate them to our clients, and to make them part of our purchasing decisions. Advocacy – conversation – awareness – holds all the other bricks of our Hoofprint plan together.