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Travel with Heart: A Q&A with our Director of Corporate Social Responsibility

Lane A
by Lane Atteridge

May 17, 2021

4 minute read

With domestic travel picking up and the prospect of international travel right around the corner, we wanted to check in with our Director of Corporate Social Responsibility to see what Collette is doing to bring the positive benefits of travel to our destinations. Here’s a quick Q & A with John Sutherland, who’s been heading up our Corporate Social Responsibility team for the past few years.

What is “corporate social responsibility” and why does it matter to Collette?

Corporate Social Responsibility is a term for how a company goes above and beyond its requirements to produce positive benefits for society and for the world, beyond just what matters to the “bottom line”. Collette has a long history of being involved in our local communities where we work and our global communities where we travel, especially by supporting non-profit partners who are working to improve educational outcomes for children and reduce hunger in their communities. Social Responsibility is one of our corporate values, and for the last few years we have taken a more holistic approach to responsibility by focusing on four pillars: people, community, travel, and environment.

With COVID cases down and vaccines being rolled out, travel is expanding – why is corporate social responsibility especially relevant right now?

COVID has made a direct impact on the economy of local communities, and has halted the travel industry from supporting them. Just as we know our travellers are so excited to get out and see new things, we are eager to support our destinations by safely bringing travellers back to enjoying local cuisine, visiting museums, buying gifts from family-run shops, and staying at locally owned and staffed hotels. I am most excited to see the return of our Impact Moments that support social enterprises, non-profits and small businesses that are on a mission to lift up their own communities. Travellers are becoming savvier about sustainable travel and they are looking to us and the rest of the industry to help use travel to spur economic recovery.

What are some initiatives you are most excited about?

I just mentioned Impact Moments as a way to promote community development by sustainably visiting social enterprises and non-profits. I am really proud of the work that our product design team has done to identify these opportunities for our guests to have an engaging, unique experience while the community benefits from our visit. Before the pandemic, we announced our commitment to protecting the welfare of animals that our guests come across when travelling the world. This was something that we felt really pulled together the values of our travellers, our employees, and our industry partners. We looked at all of the experiences where guests interacted with animals on tour to make sure that vendors were following the best practices of animal care. This will be really important as travel comes back because many of these businesses have suffered throughout the pandemic. I am also excited to revive our destination non-profit grant program which supports a handful of partners, some of whom we’ve been working with for over a decade.

Where do we go from here?

We’ve made great strides but there is always more work to be done. Our long-term goal is to support our employees, to give back to the communities where we work and travel, to reduce our carbon footprint, and to encourage travel that benefits the locations we visit. Our Explorations tours are now fully carbon neutral, including airfare, and I am hopeful that we will be able to further reduce our net carbon footprint soon. Now is the perfect time to consider how tourism impacts business, natural resources, cultures and traditions and to work together with all of our partners to ensure that travel can be a thriving industry for years to come.

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