Wilderness Scotland has assessed every aspect of their business to benchmark its carbon footprint and give a baseline to work.
The three essential contributors to their footprint are travel (our vehicles shuttling our guests around the country), the hotels where our guests stay, and the food our guests eat.
These three items account for over 80% of our carbon footprint as a business. Paul and Stevie want to do more but encounter these barriers to change.
The upfront cost of buying an EV is significant. Costing 50-100% more than an equivalent petrol vehicle. However, public funding is potentially available, its insufficient to allow them to speed up the process of decarbonising the fleet of vehicles, with a limited choice of electric minivans coupled with “range anxiety” (a 7-day tours needs military-level planning to ensure there is enough power to get from A-B) as well as the unavailability and unreliability (a recent study found that 25% of them could be out of order at any point in time and many popular spots have queues), making them more sustainable vehicle choice a considerable risk at present.
Wilderness Scotland prefer to team up with accommodation working to sustainable principles, but there are limited choices available in the Highlands. Public sector support for investment in hotels to improve their sustainability (E.g. more sustainable energy sources) would have a positive knock-on effect for the whole sector.
Wilderness Scotland tours seek to reduce food miles, focusing on restaurants and suppliers that source food locally, which has clear economic and environmental benefits. They also request that the hotels offer a wider selection of vegetarian dishes, reducing the reliance on meat production.
For those emissions they cannot eliminate by 2030, they undertake to permanently remove the carbon equivalent from the atmosphere by investing in reforestation and afforestation projects.
Paul states, “Through this approach, our goal is to achieve “True” Net Zero status by 2030. Our work over the past two decades has already taken us a long way to this net zero goal, but there remains a lot of work to do, which will arguably be the hardest work of all. The recent design and development of our net zero HQ, powered by renewable energy on a brownfield site in the Cairngorms National Park is a sign of our commitment. Over the coming years, we’ll continue to push harder and respond faster to make further reductions to both our direct and indirect carbon emissions drawing upon the most extensive measurement and benchmarking exercise we have ever done, this will see a Carbon labelling scheme which not only measures the carbon impact of the entire business but of each and every trip. This work has been and will continue to be essential for monitoring our progress and identifying ways to continue reducing their impact year on year”.
The concept of community tourism does apply in Scotland - and is a key part of the business involving spending money in locally-owned businesses rather than working with larger hotel chains and suppliers. Encouraging out-of-season travel helps many local businesses have little income over winter and respect the local communities by, for example, travelling in small groups only (typically around eight guests), so as not to overwhelm local shops / cafes when they arrive, educating their guests about any local issues.