We have a duty to give our world a chance to truly thrive, not just as an industry, but as a mindful, considered species with the privilege of calling this planet our home. Here at Steppes Travel, we have designed a framework for putting positive-impact travel into action and creating exploration that better serves our natural spaces and wildlife, local communities and cultures.


Aside from creating a better planet and recasting travel as a force for positive change, PIT needs to:

  • Be a client-focussed solution that speaks their language
  • Be story-led first, supported by stats
  • Offer brand bragging rights
  • Give credence to the belief that the positive benefits of travel far outweigh the negative impacts

Shows that: ‘’The impact of a Steppes holiday goes beyond the sum of its carbon’’

The ultimate goal is to be ‘net positive’ through incremental goals achieved using the framework of:

  • Measurement – a basis for improvement
  • Signposting – the long game

Influence – sharing our just cause

A Just Cause is what gives our work (or that of an organization) meaning. It is the world we hope to build and what inspires us to keep playing the infinite game. A Just Cause must be:

  • For something – affirmative and optimistic
  • Inclusive – open for all to contribute
  • Service-oriented – for the primary benefit of others
  • Resilient – able to endure change
  • Idealistic – big, bold and ultimately unachievable

A Just Cause is not our Why. Why is our origin story, who we are, our values and beliefs. A Just Cause is our vision of the future.

Travel as a net positive

  • Looking at positive impact ignores the cost of travel completely, so it lacks context or balance
  • Conversely, focussing solely on emissions ignores the significant but varied benefits of travel
  • Both are disingenuous and short-sighted when viewed in isolation
  • Instead, we should examine the net impact of travel and encourage this where it is shown to be a net positive

Measure and improve

If you can’t measure it then you can’t improve it.

  • Carbon footprint of our office/local operation
  • Carbon footprint of our property or the properties you use
  • Carbon footprint of our group tours/set departures
  • Carbon footprint of our most popular itineraries
  • Carbon footprint of our flights – both yours and your clients
  • Supply chain audit

Look for baselines and benchmarks to measure your success in.

Hotel Carbon Calculator

We are working with https://ecollectivetravel.com/ to Measure – Manage – Improve

  • Per room per night footprint based on energy use, fuel use, water consumption and food
  • Takes occupancy rates into consideration
  • Takes activities such as diesel use for safaris into consideration
  • Doesn’t factor in socio-economic benefits or contribution towards conservation of wildlife and land

The net impact of travel

  • Identify mitigating factors – social, economic and environmental
  • Apply a score to these factors which can be added to the negative carbon figure, with the aim being to make the figure net positive.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

  • A validated, universally recognised framework​
  • Give context and credibility to our own sustainability strategy and message
  • To be done in conjunction with our own positive impact projects

Positive Impacts

  • Philanthropic projects and support of local community
  • Local employment and ownership
  • Female empowerment – % of women employed, maternity leave paid, women in management positions
  • Amount of land protected for wildlife conservation or preservation of heritage
  • Zero single-use plastic policy
  • Food waste

To become net positive the property can either reduce its carbon footprint or look to increase the positive impact it makes.

The challenge: to find a consistent and objective method of scoring the mitigating positive impacts.

Assessing ‘Net positive’ properties

The Model (work in progress)

  1. Emissions score: – amount kg CO2e per person per night
  2. Local employment: + local employees per guest (multiplied by five)
  3. Local ownership: +10 if locally owned
  4. Stewardship: + land under exclusive protection in hectares/100  

(OR +10 if bordering or within non-exclusive protected area)

  1. Rewilding: double (d) if on former farmland or similar
  2. Conservation impact: + number endangered or critically endangered species within the immediate area (~50km)
  3. Philanthropy: + % of turnover committed to philanthropy (multiplied by 5)
  4. Female empowerment: +10 paid maternity leave, +10 female general manager, +5 more than one female guide

Our own positive impact goals

As a relatively small company, how can we affect the greatest change (towards climate change/positive future)?

Three charities/projects working on key areas that we can contribute to specifically:


Signposting – how do we bring clients with us and affect change

  1. Website – Display UN goals/our goals on website properties and holiday ideas through a tabbed PIT box. Net positive label – later develop a colour graded system-dependent level of the positive score.
  2. Itineraries – PIT itinerary page that shows how the holiday has achieved a net positive score in the context of 3 x UN goals (by travel expert), as well as our own three goals (set in Dhruv) using existing £100pp to donate to the three aspects/goals). Also, talk about properties used as well as the overall impact of holiday (by travel expert)
  3. App – replicates from itinerary as above – can use links to show more info on projects/link to supporting content on the website to explain etc

Nutritional Label

  • Our aim is to show transparency and that client’s money is going to the right pockets, done in a way that connects with clients
  • We propose that can use the ‘’label’’ as part of our brand ‘Why Steppes’/ ‘Why book with us’ proposition across the website/quotes for clients, not for individual HIs
  • Why? We want to use to showcase ultimately the value of a clients holiday with Steppes – key things to focus on are the properties/guiding/experiences as well as our expertise – key areas of spend for the holiday. 
  • People / Planet / Profit – a healthy business is one that can do all three – can we showcase the positive impact of our company at scale? i.e what percentage of total profits is donated towards environment, conservation, people etc

Short-term goals

  1. Three projects: Choose three projects that achieve our three goals – biodiversity / female education / green energy. [June 2021]
  2. Measuring: develop a method to measure positive impact and begin scoring hotels used in 5 each of our top selling 20 destinations. Integrate flight carbon calculator into Dhruv [Sept 2021] 
  3. Website: Comms piece/web page outlining plan/what we’ve done so far and why, introduce the concept of net positive, UN goals icons to the website as a banner and tabbed set up (Charles dev) to destination highlight HIs. [launch: Sept 2021] 
  4. Group Tours to have displayed: carbon score & which project each tour contributes to that satisfies UN goals/our three goals. Articulate measures that have been taken to reduce carbon footprint and/or mitigate carbon footprint [Sept 2021]
  5. The company: Internal learning to help our sales team sell the functional, emotional and social benefits of PIT – treat PIT as a unique value proposition  [September 2021]

Long-term goals

Have 50% of flights voluntarily offset by clients by end of 2021

Why? Flights are the largest contributor to client emissions and also the easiest element to assess. Reducing this significant cost can only help make more travel net positive.

Ensure 50% of properties booked are “net positive” by end of 2021

Why? As a tailormade operator, properties are where we have the greatest influence. By ensuring that properties make a net positive contribution to the impact of the holiday, we are ensuring that everything we do rests upon a foundation of travel as a force for good.

Achieve carbon neutrality on our internal operations by end of 2021

Why? We need to practice what we preach.

Thanks for reading

Justin Wateridge

Author: Justin Wateridge