10 Mar 23
What is B-Corp about anyway?
You may have seen the logo on our homepage or other companies and wondered ‘what is that?’ Well, the ‘B’ in B-Corp stands for ‘Benefit Corporation’, under which companies are assessed with a new type of rigorous certification, and beyond that it is becoming a movement of aligned people and businesses whose aim is to balance profit and purpose, with the goal of using business as a force for good.
I would argue that the awareness around B-Corp still remains fairly low in Australia, but people would recognise many household names who are now B-Corps: these include outdoor retailers like ‘Patagonia’ and ‘Kathmandu’, Financial companies like ‘Australian Ethical Superannuation’ and ‘ Beyond Bank’ , Brewers Like ‘Stone and Wood, ‘Heaps Normal’ and travel company ‘Intrepid Travel’. There are now 625 B-Corp certified businesses in Australia and this growing movement of companies are committed to creating positive social and environmental impact while still being financially successful.
B-Corp in action at RAW Travel
So what does B-Corp look like in action for us? We first look at the five pillars of B-Corp involvement (our staff, our customers, our local community, the environment, and our governance) and combine that with the United Nations sustainable development goals to work out which areas we can make an impact with our trip and business operations.
We should mention that RAW has been a B-Corp since November 2019 and so unfortunately the first 3 years of our B-Corp membership coincided directly with the Covid years when we were almost completely hamstrung in our ability to run our usual trips and disastrously impacted with our finances! Nonetheless we did persevere and push ahead with whatever we could still do to keep our B-Corp commitments alive in that time; supporting our local suppliers, community groups with supporting their events, tree planting and donating what we could and improving our business operations to reduce our environmental / carbon footprint.
A practical and immediate application of the B-Corp philosophy was directing our money and support to small local businesses during Covid. We cut down on the number of meals we’d make ourselves and instead made sure we bought from local cafes, restaurants and other businesses in all the areas we run trips. Rather than buying trip supplies in Melbourne we’d shop locally in towns like Portland, Apollo Bay, and Port Campbell to name a few so that the benefits from the walks in those areas flow to local businesses and people.
Wherever possible we work with small grassroots businesses, often run by families, rather than big multi-national hotels and destination management companies. We like to keep it small scale, local and authentic and we think our travellers benefit from that philosophy. We pay fair prices for the services we engage and look after those suppliers we work with, building long term relationships rather than prioritising profits and short term gain.
When we started our RAW Tucker hiking food business during Covid we made sure the food we used was sourced from local farms and suppliers on the Mornington Peninsula where it was produced. This meant freshness and less transport miles involved as well!
Reducing our impacts
This of course is topical for many businesses now, whether B-Corp or not, we all recognise that we have to find ways to have less impact on the Earth and its finite resources for the good of future generations. Given that our core activity of walking is a low impact form of recreation it was more about looking at our business operations to see how we can reduce our accompanying impacts. We don’t run large fleets of vehicles, and where we do use transfer buses, electric is not yet an option for commercial passenger vehicles in Australia. So no easy solutions there!
So we looked at the things we do directly control and initiated a project to replace the documents packs and considerable amount of printed materials we were producing for all our customers. Not only did we post out printed notes for our self-guided clients (long ones for a 42 day Camino trip!) but we were posting out many other items in those packs and using a neoprene document case to help contain them all.
Our innovation was an in-house app which we developed over the Covid period, which has eliminated the need for printed notes and most guidebooks (with a couple of exceptions) as we can contain the information our clients need for on trail navigation and finding their accommodation, transfer contacts etc in the app. The end result has been a much better experience for our clients who no longer need to carry notes and guidebooks in their packs and can have real time navigation without using wifi data (and therefore less instances of people getting lost as a side benefit!)
We also overhauled all our office and field operations to eliminate any unnecessary single-use plastics, providing compostable garbage bags and reusable cups. Green energy in the offices and far less waste to landfill from our offices. All these are small actions but the total impact does add up and means our trips have an ever reducing carbon footprint.
Pre-Covid we had looked at the flights we were selling as well and committed to fully carbon offsetting those as well, as that really was the biggest impact of our trips when people were flying the other side of the world to take an overseas walk! After Covid we no longer can afford to have a flights department but we have invented a whole new range of local Australian trips meaning we can instead offer great trip experiences here in Australia without people having to take long haul flights if they choose to.
With our office operations we no longer have people working in our office full time but instead working from home most days, keeping up online meetings wherever it’s practical and thereby reducing the amount of daily commuting undertaken and giving our staff more hours in their day. Another benefit is that this reduces our company’s carbon footprint overall.
The work of assessing and reducing our carbon footprint goes on, we have further to go but we are proud of what we have managed to achieve despite the severe impacts from Covid in the last few years.
Local community and the environment
RAW has had a long history, since our inception in fact, of working with charities and running fundraising trips that raised many millions of dollars for these organisations. In the past few years we have focused more locally with community groups on the Mornington Peninsula such as ‘The Women’s Spirit Project’ and ‘Fusion’ to help support their yearly fundraising events or helped with ‘plastic free’ initiatives with local businesses and cleans ups on our local beaches.
We continue with tree planting each year on the Mornington Peninsula with Landcare, providing volunteer hours to our staff for this activity. And we have engaged with Reforest Now to extend that tree planting activity to other parts of Australia and ensure we fulfil our commitment to plant a native tree for every person who travels with us each year. We figure that the tree planting exercise is a very tangible and simple way to contribute to local efforts to improve the environment and offset our human impacts.
There are many other areas (a total of around 300 in fact) that our company is assessed under the B-Corp criteria but these are just a few of the more visible ones that people can either see or hopefully relate to when they travel with us. We are committed to being a progressive and inclusive business that provides good employment opportunities for people here and abroad, and benefits that are shared with many hundreds of small suppliers worldwide so they in turn can be successful.
We hope that this philosophy and movement grows so that we do build an economy that is based less on a business-as-usual ‘dog eat dog’ mentality and one that is built instead on trust and shared, lasting benefits for more people and our Planet. We not only think that’s possible but it’s the only way we can make our industry and the wider economy truly sustainable and more inclusive for the future.