Withlocals is a travel marketplace connecting people all over the world through food and experiences. Based in the Netherlands, the company is setting its sights on being a world-leader at integrating sustainability practices in travel brands.
We chat with @Peigi-Rodan, Sustainability Manager at Withlocals, to learn more about their mission and goals on sustainability, and their B-Corp certification.
Sustainability is all about meeting our needs without compromising future generations' needs. However, we are currently risking future generations' livelihoods regarding climate change and global inequalities. Tourism is one of the best-known industries for facilitating wealth distribution to reduce inequalities and protect local biospheres, which are a destination's natural capital and what attracts travelers. Tourism can be a force for good when done well.
A sustainability manager is responsible for integrating sustainability into a company's overall strategy and mission. As a sustainability manager, you need to ensure that the company puts sustainability (meaning people, purpose, and planet) at the forefront of everything. In short, a sustainability manager's job is to render their job futile, as every member, project, and company process would be inherently sustainable.
Sustainability has always been weaved through Withlocals. Our mission revolves around authentic, unique, and local experiences and extends through the company culture. And my job is to solidify this culture and work towards transparency by creating policies, training the whole team, and aligning with key stakeholders to ensure we are all working, prioritizing, and looking in the same direction regarding sustainability.
Withlocals has identified 8 key SDGs on which we can have the biggest impacts. Those are: 1. No Poverty, 2. Zero Hunger, 4. Quality Education, 8. Decent Work & Economic Growth, 11. Sustainable Cities, 12. Responsible Consumption & Production, 15. Life on Land, 16. Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions.
We worked with an external sustainable tourism consultancy to help us identify the pinpoints around sustainability and tourism. We then surveyed over 100 hosts about how they positively (and negatively) contribute to the SDGs on specific tour categories. From there, we created a points system to understand where we are making the biggest impacts per tour category around the SDGs.
We have basic sustainability training that all new onboards must go through to start leading tours which covers things like minimizing plastic, protecting biodiversity & respecting the local culture and community. We have just launched our much more extensive sustainability training around our selected focus SDGs, which consists of video training. To complete the training, our hosts have to pass a test.
B-Corp is the largest certification body that awards companies working for a force for good and purpose-driven. Companies need to reach a high social and environmental performance standard to receive the certificate. Withlocals decided to take on the B-Corp application to learn from the experts when creating our sustainability roadmap, ensuring that we are moving in the right direction and working to validate our sustainability efforts.
Going local is (of course) our #1 advice. Stay in local accommodations owned by locals, visit locally-owned restaurants, take local (public) transport, and of course, if you want to do a tour, do it with a local. Not only does this give guests the most authentic and culturally insightful experience, but it also works to ensure that travelers' money stays in the local economy so the community can truly benefit.
Withlocals is a travel platform where you can find unique travel experiences with real locals. Withlocals is made up of an ambitious bunch of travel-loving professionals from over 20 different countries. Are you interested in being part of the next chapter in our story? Join us on our journey at www.linkedin.com/company/withlocals/jobs/
Hey all! Feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn:
Would love to connect with others passionate about sustainability and travel. Also feel free to send me some questions.
Hi Peigi, this is great, thanks so much for sharing! Will connect with you on LI. I'm also passionate about sustainability + travel :)
I'm a huge supporter of local businesses, and only use local guides. I'm guessing I don't need to tell anyone here why it's better to keep the money within a community, including the tax money.
I don't think I would consider a buisness to be "local" if they're based in the Netherlands and -- I assume, correct me if I'm wrong -- taking a cut from all of the tours booked at other towns around the world in order to pay salaries to their own full-time staff.
Back in the days when it would have been locals in the Netherlands walking into a travel agency on main street to find out about all of the amazing tour companies around the world, I get that. But today, all of us have access to the internet to find these places on our own (or to at least find companies that are based in that country performing these services, not a company based in the Netherlands). Booking directly with local businesses keeps all of the money within that community (including taxes, both for the staff and the guides). This is especially important because many people working as tour guides do not receive salaries, but are paid on contract or freelance basis, whereas people working in the booking agencies are salaried.
I think it's amazing when a business can be an example of how something can be done to promote businesses in their own country/city, to then inspire someone in another country to do the same thing. But the Silicon Valley/Start Up model is to "scale" everything and open locations around the world in order to make it more profitable. Perhaps I'm totally missing something here, but I just don't think that this model qualifies as "local".
Thanks for your thoughtful and valid input. I think there is definitely a discussion to be had there and some very fair points. I do agree that it's best to keep things local as much as possible. However, what we found is that many locals don't have the opportunity/ access or resources to be a successful guides in their area with enough earnings.
That's where we want to help, we give those who are interested in hosting experiences an opportunity to have a touch point with global travelers and create experiences their way. We do not charge or take any money from the locals, all their earnings are for themselves and local tax. The commission we have is put on top of any payouts for the local hosts and paid fully by the travelers.
We also work hard to involve as much local businesses as possible onto the experiences, to ensure not only the local host benefits but the local community at large.