What does it mean to be a B Corp?

Tanya Dohoney has been working on sustainability initiatives for decades. A retired lawyer from Texas now living in Paris, she even started the recycling program at her workplace. When it comes to travel, she also values ​​environmentally and socially responsible companies, which led her to choose Intrepid journeycertified B Corp company, for a tour in Morocco in 2019.

The sheer number of sustainability certifications for the travel and tourism industry is almost overwhelming and certainly confusing. Certified B Corp companies must meet standards set by Laboratory Ba Pennsylvania-based nonprofit organization founded in 2006 that rewards for for-profit businesses with certifications for social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability. It can take years – and thousands of dollars – to obtain this accreditation. Globally, there are only 62 certified B Corps in the travel industry and 76 in the accommodation and hospitality industry.

“When you see the B Corp logo, I know it’s been at least half-verified,” Ms. Dohoney, 64, said. “I worry about greenwashing, but you have to start somewhere.”

Other travelers, increasingly concerned about the environmental and social impact of their planes, trains, food waste and more, feel the same way, and a growing number of travel operators are undergoing the certification process B Corp, joining multi-million dollar brands like Patagonia and Athleta. , to differentiate itself from its competitors.

Aurora Expeditionsa small ship tour operator focused on polar travel, achieved certification in 2024, joining other travel agencies like the accommodation company The saw dayand tour operators Selective Asia And Road. But Hayley Peacock-Gower, Aurora's marketing director, said the company had focused on sustainable travel since its inception.

“We were already doing a lot of this work, but now we have committed to more responsibility and reached a legal agreement on sustainable development,” she said, adding that Aurora also amended the constitution of the company and formalized internal policies as part of the B Corp process. .

Companies are rated on five criteria – governance, workers' rights, community impact, environmental impact and “handling their customers” – and must achieve an assessment score of 80 or higher to pass the company's “impact assessment”. BLab. Once approved, a business must pay a annual subscription based on gross annual income and location. For U.S.-based companies, this ranges from $2,000 for companies with gross annual revenue of less than $500,000, to $50,000 for companies with gross annual revenue of $750 000 dollars and 1 billion dollars. (Some organizations, such as those owned by women or veterans, may also reduced fees.)

“B Corp certification gives tourists confidence that they are visiting and using responsible providers,” said Jorge Fontanez, B Lab general manager for the United States and Canada.

With more than 2,909 employees, Intrepid Travel is the travel industry's largest B Corp, having achieved certification in 2018.

“When there's so much green fatigue and so many certifications, it's really hard to discern what's best,” said Mikey Sadowski, Intrepid's vice president of global communications. “We felt that B Corp really had this disproportionate advantage and level of trust.”

To meet B Corp standards, Intrepid, which offers trips to 120 countries across seven continents, focuses on initiatives such as hiring local guides, sourcing local ingredients and materials, and reducing carbon emissions by planning train routes – instead of using air travel – where possible.

The Australia-based company recently completed its B Corp recertification, which in 2024 includes an annual fee of A$51,750 ($33,625) and an additional A$900 ($585) for submission fees, Mr Sadowski said . For its initial certification in 2018, the company also paid a one-time verification fee of A$14,500 ($9,573).

While this certification can provide insight into a company's environmental and social initiatives — and perhaps maximize profits by winning business from like-minded travelers — these tours and accommodations are often aimed at clients with deep pockets.

For budget travelers or those with less economic means, it can be difficult to find affordable B Corp certified travel agencies.

“The reality is that B Corps generally focus on the luxury side of the market. And the idea of ​​having B Corp hostels, for example, is very rare,” said Nick Pinto, a 31-year-old marketing executive based in Colorado who spends several months a year working and traveling abroad .

Mr. Pinto describes himself as a “budget-conscious traveler” and found that he was priced out of B Corp accommodation.

“It’s tricky because you want programs like B Corp to be inclusive to create a broader movement,” he said. Mr. Pinto recently spent several weeks in Mexico, but found that there were only two B Corp-certified hotels in the county.

A third company, BF Hotelshas since been certified.

Lots of them, with guidelines, checks and “ecostars”. The last, a certification issued by the for-profit association Ecostars, evaluates the environmental impact of hotels per visitor stay. This certification, free to receive and request, is a completely digital process that takes an average of two days to obtain. Other certifications assess sustainability efforts for short-term lodging, tour groups and other subsectors of the travel industry.

To receive certification from 1% for the Planet nonprofit, co-founded by Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and Craig Mathews, Blue ribbon flies, a fly fishing outfitter, member companies must commit to donating 1 percent of their gross profits to environmental organizations. Annual membership fees start at $500.

THE World Sustainable Tourism Council non-profit, whose members include government tourism offices, travel agencies, tour operators and NGOs, verifies sustainability certificates.

Organizations also rely on guidelines and resolutions issued by the United Nations within the framework of the entity's mandate sustainable development program. The guidelines call for initiatives on biodiversity and climate action, as well as energy efficiency and the use of renewable energy in accommodation. The courses and webinars, which are free to register and view, charge a per-course fee of 49 euros ($53) if a user wants to complete the assignments and receive a certificate of completion.

Many tour operators and travel agencies have further announced efforts to achieve net carbon neutrality, but carbon offsets have been shown to rarely capture or reduce actual emissions, or reduce future emissions. The tour operator Run the Alps used to offset flight emissions for travelers coming to its tours, but the company is reevaluating this practice.

“Offsetting is not the panacea we hoped for,” said Hillary Gerardi, director of sustainability at Run the Alps. “We're trying to move from good to good, which means that beyond reducing our footprint, we're trying to leave a positive impact in our community. »

The tour operator is a member of 1% for the Planet and works with the local research center and the citizen science facilitator, CREA Mont Blanc.

But even when a travel company is committed to sustainability, B Corp certification can be in high demand for small businesses.

“We are fully aligned with B Corp status, but until this year we were a very small company. The certification and process would have been too expensive,” said Doug Mayer, the company’s founder.

But with the company growing, Mayer is considering taking the plunge.

“I can see it coming for us,” he said.

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