Friends of the Earth: How the TreadRight Foundation Gets Sustainable Travel Right ©TreadRight
This year’s Earth Day marks the 50th Anniversary of environmentalist, Dennis Hayes’, founding of the movement’s first event in 1970 to drive positive action for our planet. I admire him for starting this movement at the formative age of 25 years old. He had seen firsthand the clear-cutting of forests when he was growing up in the Pacific Northwest. My family and I live and appreciate the stunning beauty of California where we witnessed the devastating forest fires in 2019, destroying over 160,000 acres.
For the past 12 years, our not-for-profit foundation, TreadRight, has been committed to shining a light on the impact that the travel industry has on the world. We created TreadRight as a joint initiative between The Travel Corporation’s (TTC) 42 award-winning travel brands. TreadRight’s mission is to #MakeTravelMatter by creating a positive impact on the people and communities we visit, to protect wildlife and marine life, and to care for the planet for generations to come. To date, our foundation has supported over 55+ sustainable tourism projects in 280+ communities worldwide. TreadRight is committed to contributing to the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through our projects and initiatives. These goals were created in 2015 by the UN General Assembly to offer a “blueprint to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” including to help eradicate extreme poverty, fight injustice and to work together to address climate change. The UN’s target is to achieve these goals by 2030. The SDGs we focus on help to ensure tourism is a positive driver for change by providing sustainable solutions, since tourism provides 1 out of 10 jobs in the world.
Earth Day 2020’s theme is “climate action.” While COVID-19 requires us to socially distance for the time being, our teams and our projects remain united and digitally connected. TreadRight has evolved to become our company’s social responsibility team and is currently focused on a climate change strategy that first, draws down our emissions and employs offsets to address what we cannot reduce. TreadRight has led our brands through several initiatives including the removal of single-use plastics across our 42 travel brands and offices worldwide which was initiated in 2018 with our “Multi-Year Plastics Elimination Strategy.” We officially instituted an immediate ban of more than 60 types of single-use plastic items such as straws, stir sticks, water bottles, plastic bags, and cutlery from our 40 global offices. The phasing out of single-use plastics was also implemented on our Uniworld Boutique River Cruises and U River Cruises ships, all of our Red Carnation Hotels and all travel experiences. We welcome 1.9 million travellers annually across our brands and it is estimated that our efforts have the potential to help eliminate the use of millions of plastic water bottles annually.
Another initiative to help mitigate climate change and rewild our planet is planting trees. In the past 50 years, deforestation has increased dramatically and according to the United Nations, approximately 7.3 million hectares are lost every year. Since 2017, we have partnered with One Tree Planted, a leading not-for-profit organization focused on global reforestation. For every one of our valued TTC guests who chooses to opt for e-documents rather than printed travel materials, we will plant a tree in their name in a destination needing our support including California, Vietnam and Tanzania. In response to the devastating Australian bushfires, all tree-planting efforts as part of this initiative will be focused in Australia for 2020 to aid in its reforestation.
The year 2020 marks another significant milestone as The Travel Corporation celebrates its first 100 years of “driven by service.” For the past century, we are grateful for the strong sense of trust we have developed among our travellers and guests, by being driven by service and delivering truly immersive experiences along with extraordinary holidays. The world is looking at the positive global impact of travel. During World Tourism Day 2019, we announced our Make Travel Matter Pledge which was inspired by Palau’s First Lady, Debbie Remengesau, who introduced the Palau Pledge and by leading destinations across the globe. The pledge serves as the next step in a long-standing commitment to sustainable tourism and conscious travel.
Our pledge stands for people, for wildlife, and for our planet and we have personally committed to #MakeTravelMatter.
The tourism industry will recover, though we can’t be sure of precisely when, but it will. What this time at home has done is shine a light on the health and well-being of destinations who rely so heavily on travel and tourism. Our efforts at TreadRight, both through the support of our projects and through our strategic efforts to operate as responsibly as we can, will be proven as no longer “nice to haves,” but rather “need to haves.” When we return to travel, we must be better, stronger and more aware of the world and the planet we call home.
Please join us, learn about our pledge, and sign it with us at: https://www.treadright.org/
—Brett Tollman, Founder of The TreadRight Foundation
and Chief Executive of The Travel Corporation