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March 29, 2018

The Pillars of Corporate Social Responsibility

John Sutherland

We recently sat down with John Sutherland, Collette's Manager of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), to discuss our very first formal CSR Platform. Even though we have always been a company dedicated to giving back, this is our first official programme that maps out the ways in which Collette will connect our philanthropic activity to responsible business practices.

Why is Collette dedicated to giving back in communities?

Collette is so dedicated to giving back because everyone in the company cares. It starts right at the top with our owners, the Sullivan family, and continues with every member of our team. People here sometimes say it's "in our DNA." I think what they mean is that our drive to give back comes from within. Social Responsibility is one of our corporate values, and since we are so connected to the communities where we work and travel, it makes sense that we direct our efforts towards having a positive impact on those places.

What are the key pillars that the team focuses on?

Our CSR pillars are people, community, product and environment. 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. Right now, there's a lot of excitement around the Product and Environment pillars in particular because they are being formally focused on for the first time in this way.

How has the CSR programme evolved over the last ten years?

Collette has always been very involved with the communities surrounding our offices, and community-based volunteering and grant-making remains a priority. Ten years ago, we had just started connecting with partner organisations in some of our international destinations to give grants to help local children with nutrition and education. That continues, but now we are taking a holistic approach to being a responsible company in addition to volunteering and giving grants. The goal is to make a positive impact in every aspect of the business. For us, this move is the natural next step, as it really is who we are. But it's also new so it's exciting to begin this work.

Why is CSR important and how does it influence the company brand?

Collette is working on its CSR platform primarily to make a positive impact because it is the right thing to do. We also hope that by being a good corporate citizen, we will have a positive influence on our guests and partners all over the world and inspire them to make a difference in a way that is meaningful to them. There is strong evidence that many people make deeper connections with companies whose values align with their own. We work tirelessly to create worldwide travel programmes that meet the diversified needs of our travellers and as we work to further instill this important value into our programmes, we are happy in knowing that our travellers can feel good about travelling with a company that believes in doing good and being responsible.

What are some of the ways that employees participate in CSR?

Everyone at Collette is engaged in our corporate responsibility programme. These initiatives are employee-driven: we have over 80 people (over 10% of our workforce) volunteering for teams working on specific projects or initiatives in 2018. The teams help set priorities and strategies, find partners, decide on grant recipients, and execute our programmes. The vast majority of people at Collette will volunteer over the course of the year, especially during Founders Day and the holiday season. We volunteer during Tour Manager and Sales symposiums, as these employees work away from our offices. Everyday decisions take on greater meaning - did I pick the more responsible vendor, did I recycle or carpool, did I mentor? For us, it's all hands on deck and it always has been. It's driven our programme this far, led to great results and it will be the way forward.

Speaking of 'The Way Forward', what is the future of Collette's CSR programme?

When we established our four pillars, we created goals for ourselves under each pillar. Over the course of this year, we'll be announcing specific objectives for each pillar so people will know what we are working on. Our CSR programme will engage more employees and guests, take up a larger place in our brand identity, and help Collette create extraordinary travel experiences for our guests. In other words, stay tuned. There's a lot to come.

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