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Follow the Camino: a travel company's quest for environmental integrity

In a world increasingly attuned to the urgency of addressing carbon emissions and becoming more sustainable, businesses across all sectors are taking action to address their environmental impact. Among these, Follow the Camino stands out not only for its innovative approach to travel but also for its commitment to environmental stewardship. This case study delves into how Follow the Camino, a renowned travel company known for guiding travellers along the historic Camino de Santiago, has embarked on a significant journey towards sustainability with DGB Group. 

Follow the Camino_ a travel companys quest for environmental integrity_Landscape view of The Camino del Norte, often called the Northern Way_visual 1Landscape view of The Camino del Norte, often called the Northern Way, is a route part of the larger Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

A key highlight of this journey is its decision to compensate for its Scope 3 emissions through DGB’s Hongera Energy Efficient Cookstoves Project in Kenya. This initiative not only reflects Follow the Camino’s commitment to compensating for its carbon footprint but also underscores its dedication to contributing positively to the communities it touches.

Follow the Camino_ a travel companys quest for environmental integrity_ Local people and DGB team members during cookstoves distribution_visual 2Local people and DGB team members during cookstove distribution. Hongera Energy Efficient Cookstoves Project, DGB.

Interview with Follow the Camino

Read below our interview with Follow the Camino’s Sustainability Advisor, María Lihué Tula:

Q: Can you tell us about Follow the Camino and why sustainability is so important to your company?

A: Follow the Camino is a travel company with a strong presence in Spain and Ireland and a successful track record dating back to 2006. Our company has established itself as a leading travel company promoting and facilitating journeys along the Camino de Santiago, Spain’s iconic pilgrimage route.

Recognising that tourism contributes to approximately 8% of global carbon emissions, we understand the pressing need for the industry to address this environmental challenge. Follow the Camino is committed to playing a vital role in this effort, acknowledging the responsibility of travel companies and pledging to reduce our carbon footprint across the value chain, striving for sustainability, and supporting global initiatives aimed at carbon emissions reduction.

Q: What sustainability targets have Follow the Camino set?

A: One of our most robust targets is our commitment to prioritise working with suppliers, including hotels and transfer services, who demonstrate a strong commitment to sustainability. Beginning in 2025, Follow the Camino will give preference to partners that have action plans aligned with the principles of the Paris Agreement or hold recognised sustainability credentials.

At Follow the Camino, we firmly believe that no company can claim to be truly sustainable if it's not aware of the environmental practices of its suppliers, and, for that reason, decisive steps should be taken to ensure transparency and accountability throughout the supply chain.

Companies are not alone in this endeavour, and the core of our measures is to work hand in hand reframing how sustainability issues should be managed. For this reason, we are developing ideas and initiatives to encourage our partners to develop sustainability plans in a collaborative way.

Q: How are you working towards achieving these sustainability targets?

A: We're taking a multifaceted approach. To help our suppliers on that transition, we will launch initiatives in collaboration with other companies this year, focusing on two key aspects of our sustainable policy: water and food. Through these partnerships, we aim to support hotels transitioning to more sustainable practices, promoting proposals aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Furthermore, we recognise the importance of engaging not only our existing customers but also potential customers in our sustainability efforts. In Ireland, we organise monthly hiking events, with proceeds donated entirely to charities. While we limit the number of participants to adhere to the 'leave no trace' principle, we are actively encouraging participants to adopt environmentally friendly practices that we hope they will continue when using our services for the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage.

Internally, our team comprises professionals from various corners of the globe. Since 2023, we've initiated a voluntary campaign to measure our carbon footprint, revealing that approximately 80% of emissions stem from our employees' personal holiday travel. In response, we've introduced a 'slow travel' policy, incentivising employees to opt for more environmentally friendly modes of transportation. Those who do so receive an additional day of holiday, acknowledging and offsetting the carbon reduction achieved through their choice.

By fostering a culture of sustainability throughout our value chain, we aim to amplify our impact far beyond our immediate operations.

Q: Why focus on compensating for Scope 3 emissions?

A: Focusing on compensating for Scope 3 emissions is crucial because it allows us to address a significant portion of our overall carbon footprint that extends beyond our direct control. While we recognise the challenges associated with managing these emissions, it's essential to our commitment to sustainability and our goal of achieving net-zero emissions. 

Through initiatives like the 'slow travel' policy and other measures that involve various stakeholders, such as potential clients, clients, hotels, restaurants, and transportation partners, we have the opportunity to inspire positive change and contribute to a more sustainable future for our planet.

Q: Can you share more about your collaboration with DGB Group and the choice of the Hongera Energy Efficient Cookstoves Project?

A: We were drawn to DGB’s compelling proposal for the Hongera Energy Efficient Cookstoves Project in Kenya, a project that resonated with our values and goals. When presented to our employees for consideration, it received resounding support, emerging as the top choice by a significant majority. Our decision to collaborate with DGB Group reflects our commitment to meaningful impact. Beyond merely compensating for carbon emissions, this partnership allows us to actively engage in a social project, making a tangible difference in the lives of individuals and communities. We are excited to be part of this initiative, contributing not only to environmental sustainability but also to positive social change.

Q: What does this commitment to sustainability mean for Follow the Camino?

A: In our pursuit of sustainability, we understand that lasting change requires steadfast dedication over time. Our commitment is not just to the present but to the future generations who will inherit the world we shape today. As we embark on this journey, we recognise the importance of investing in projects that yield tangible results, both for the environment and for our stakeholders, in the short to long term. 

While we embrace the long-term vision of sustainability, we also acknowledge the need for immediate action and visible impact. Hence, in selecting a carbon offset project, we prioritise initiatives that deliver measurable outcomes swiftly. This approach not only instils confidence within our organisation but also inspires others to join us in our quest for a greener, more sustainable world.

To learn more about our sustainability initiatives and the actions we're taking to reduce our environmental footprint, you can explore our dedicated sustainability page.

Follow the Camino_ a travel companys quest for environmental integrity_Close-up of energy efficient cookstoves, trees in the background_visual 3Close-up of energy-efficient cookstoves, trees in the background. Hongera Energy Efficient Cookstoves Project, DGB.

Follow the Camino's dedication to sustainability is a powerful reminder of the role businesses can play in addressing global environmental challenges. Through strategic planning, meaningful partnerships, and a deep commitment to impactful actions, Follow the Camino is creating a more sustainable and responsible travel industry, proving that business success and environmental stewardship can go hand in hand. 

By partnering with DGB, Follow the Camino was able to compensate for its Scope 3 emissions while making a real impact on the lives and wellbeing of local communities in Kenya. With DGB’s green solutions, we aid companies in understanding and committing to environmental improvement, assessing their environmental footprint, developing strategies for environmental solutions, and communicating their progress on sustainability transparently. 

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