Q2 2019

US BUSINESS NEWS / Q2 2019 23 , Committed To Carbon Neutral Travel Travel authority and activist, Rick Steves launches annual million-dollar commitment to carbon neutral travel. As an author of over 50 guidebooks on European travel and host of a popular travel series on public television, Rick Steves has introduced Europe and its myriad fascinations to travelers across America. As a traveler, he has seen the effects of climate change around the world, and he is passionate about doing what he can to slow those changes down. Steves is deeply concerned about this issue, so he is taking direct and decisive action to repay the toll that travelers have on the environment—backed by a million-dollar annual investment. Steves’ tour company, Rick Steves’ Europe, is proud to announce its Climate Smart Commitment: an innovative, forward- thinking, and pragmatic program to offset the carbon emitted by its tour members. Starting in spring 2019, Steves’ company will donate $1 million annually to fund climate-smart agriculture, agroforestry, and conservation projects in underdeveloped countries. A portion of this money will also support advocacy organizations in the US whose work is crucial to sustaining climate-smart efforts around the world. Typically, private businesses that adopt an environmentally friendly policy purchase “carbon offset credits.” These credits are managed by brokers to help fund clean energy projects, such as solar and wind technologies, often based in North America and Europe. Rejecting this conventional approach and the administrative fees attached, Rick Steves’ Europe has chosen to work with organizations that directly address the problem in developing countries— emphasizing projects that empower women to take leadership roles, protect their environment, and strengthen their communities. Based on figures from scientists and development experts, it takes roughly $30 of careful investment in environmental initiatives in the developing world to mitigate the carbon emissions created by a single traveler on a Rick Steves tour. Each year, Rick Steves’ Europe takes about 30,000 travelers on its tours. Doing the math and then rounding it up, Steves estimates that $1 million annually is what his company “owes” to the environment. Drawn from the tour company’s profits—not passed along to the customer via higher prices—Steves’ investment in the environment is strongly linked to the company’s core value of demonstrating good global citizenship. “We don’t see this program as particularly heroic,” says Steves. “It’s simply ethical. We believe every business should bear the cost to the environment of their activities. That’s just honest accounting. We hope this program will inspire everyone who buys or sells tours to practice the same environmental ethic. This way, long after we are gone, our children will be able to enjoy the same happy travels we have.” For 2019, Rick Steves’ Europe has announced the first three recipients of the grant funding: • Project Concern International Works in developing countries to empower women and promote climate-smart agriculture. • Bread for the World Lobbies the government to adopt climate-smart policies. • ELCA World Hunger Works in developing countries to help small family farms be climate smart. Additional partners will be announced later in the year. “Many of our projects will have nuanced goals,” says Craig Davidson, Chief Operating Officer of Rick Steves’ Europe. “We like to think of it as creating a diversified mutual fund of climate-smart projects where the primary investment is in people and the future.” To sustain the long-term impact of this initiative, the company will revisit its portfolio every year to ensure that the most effective organizations are getting the support they need to make a difference. That means its 30,000 annual tour members can be proud to travel with a company committed to positive change.