A road map for curbing supply chain emissions

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Darrell Wade is the chairman and co-founder of Intrepid Travel.

The global travel industry accounts for up to 11% of the world's carbon emissions.

That number is a significant contribution toward the existential threat of climate change and one that requires urgent action if we are to protect the industry that we all love.

While consumer pressures, news media and extreme weather events have rightfully accelerated sustainability discussions in many boardrooms, identifying the problem has seemingly become much easier than identifying solutions. Fortunately, the solution for your travel company is a lot closer than you think. In fact, for many organizations, the answer is actually sitting right under them ... inside their global supply chain.

When Intrepid became a certified B Corp in 2018, hired a full-time climate scientist in 2019 and signed up for the U.N. Science-Based Target Initiative in 2020, one thing became abundantly clear: The scope, scale and size of our environmental impact extends well beyond the walls of Intrepid. Through rigorous reporting and accountability, we found out that nearly 80% of our emissions are Scope 3, which are indirect emissions created from our supply chains.

This has since become a core focus in our pursuit to decarbonize the Intrepid business and build toward a 1.5-degree future. But this pursuit can only take us so far in isolation. The need to decarbonize our global supply chain is not a problem unique to Intrepid; it is an industrywide imperative and significant opportunity toward a greener future.

If you are looking for a road map, I would like you to consider a few ways to engage your supply chain in your fight against climate change.

Measure. In the last full prepandemic calendar year, Intrepid emitted 36,545 tCO2e, or tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent. This number sits at the heart of our entire decarbonization program and provides critical visibility into how our supply chain contributes to our global emissions. Companies need to audit their supply chain for their emissions. 

Strategize. Addressing the climate crisis needs to be part of your corporate culture and exist at the highest level of your overall strategy. Allocating funds, resources and time will ultimately separate genuine climate action from "handshake activism."

Focus. Your climate journey is about progress, not perfection. Trying to solve the entirety of the problem can be your biggest barrier. Instead, focus on where you can create the most impact. Start with your biggest culprits and consult with them about how to address climate priorities.

Manage. Decarbonization will be central. This will look different in every organization and ultimately be the sum of smaller work like switching to electric vehicle airport transfers to wider system changes like dropping global hotel contracts over climate inaction. 

While this may seem like an overly simplified road map, I can tell you firsthand that it is no walk in the park. Supply chain accountability and decarbonization at any scale is challenging and arduous and requires significant investment at every level.

If you are wondering whether you can afford to go down this path, I would challenge you to shift your thinking and consider whether you can afford not to.

When all is said and done, we all have a choice on which side of history we would like to be on. We need more people pushing for change -- before climate change becomes our new normal. 

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