Sustainability: A Wild Future
We remain committed to delivering extended youth development experiences in wild and remote locations.
We know from 90 years of experience that working in these environments delivers long-term, transformative benefits for young people. As we continue to enable young people to experience wild and remote locations, we acknowledge that we have a critical responsibility to do so sustainably.
Our 10-year strategy – A Wild Future – was published in 2021. It guides our operational plans, decision-making, and measurement of progress.
In A Wild Future, it was agreed that all critical decisions will be subject to a ‘sustainability filter’. We will ask ourselves whether ‘we have passed the test in our commitment to carbon management and to the standards, benchmarks and policies and commitment to progress we have set ourselves.’
We said that there would be reporting on:
- our carbon footprint
- our carbon legacy
- on our progress in reducing our carbon output
- on our commitment to being carbon neutral.
What does our commitment in A Wild Future mean in practice?
- We started measuring our carbon footprint in 2019.
- Externally accredited assessment of our Scope 1, 2 and 3 carbon and equivalent outputs by Carbon Managers established that 99% of our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are from flights.
- We approved an Environmental Policy in 2021.
- Following the resumption of full programmes post-COVID In November 2022, the trustees of British Exploring Society made a commitment to the reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions from flights by 50%, by 2032.
- While we work to reduce our emissions, we will also support the best offset options we can find. The criteria for selecting offset partners are largely defined by the standards set by our Environmental Policy. You can read it here.
- We produced a sample schedule of expedition programmes with their individual GHG emissions up to 2032 to demonstrate how we will deliver on this target, whilst retaining our commitment to long immersion in genuine wilderness as the core of our youth development model. The schedule uses the most up to date DEFRA guidelines on emission Factors/Kg CO2 e / Passenger to calculate the greenhouse gas impact of travel to and from each proposed wilderness destination.
- In all our decision making we must balance a range of factors, of which carbon impact is one:
Frequently asked questions
What is your current carbon footprint in tonnes?
We are reporting on our emissions and offset activity in our Annual Reports and Impact Reports, which you can find here. Our emissions for 2021 were 60.5t CO2e. The figure will be higher for 2022 – we returned to the delivery of overseas programmes post-COVID – but should start to decrease in subsequent years.
Why are you focusing on greenhouse gas emissions? It isn’t in your mission?
Genuine wilderness is estimated to have reduced across the globe by around 60% since we were founded in 1932. We need wilderness to deliver our purpose. We are not an environmental charity, but education in the value of wilderness has always been core to our work – and as a community we love wild places. Many of our Explorers have gone on to careers and to make life choices directly influenced by their experiences of wilderness with us. We have a desire and an obligation to learn, and to change our practices to do more to avoid the further loss of wildernesses everywhere.
We are committed to inclusion, and there are obvious links between sustainability and inclusivity. Access to the outdoors is not fair. The more people who feel welcomed and included in experiencing the wilderness, the larger and more representative the positive body of support for nature there will be.
Will you be looking at your carbon footprint in other areas or only flights?
We want to improve our performance in many areas across Scope 1 and 2 emissions, and we report across Scope 1, 2 and 3 each year – but 99% of our emissions are from flights, so it makes sense to focus our critical efforts on reductions in this area.
How do you collect data?
Our annual Scope 1, 2 and 3 data is calculated for us using criteria stipulated by an external partner – Carbon Managers. Our Senior Finance Coordinator manages the process of data collection for Carbon Managers.
We provide IEEM certified Carbon Management training to staff and key volunteers to enable us to collect better data, make better decisions and behave responsibly, and to better understand critical data associated with good carbon management.
Will there be any major changes in your programmes?
There are likely to be differences in the places we go, our itineraries and our journeys. We will ensure that our programmes remain rewarding, challenging, and transformative.
We are investing in the design and delivery of more integrated learning activities to embed wider environmental awareness at all stages of our programmes, in the UK and overseas, before, during, and after delivery of every programme.
We will continue to support the development of good decision-making skills for all our people and participants in relation to thoughtful, purposeful journeys.
We are developing a new young leadership programme to embed best practice in the wilderness and decision-making skills based on strong environmental awareness.
Why not just run programmes in the UK?
Young people should not be denied the opportunity to develop a profound understanding about their world through direct, responsible engagement with wilderness. They should not be made to feel guilty about taking up this opportunity.
Whilst the UK provides access to very exciting wild places – particularly the Highlands of Scotland where we work every year – we struggle to find locations where we can sustain remote working for more than two weeks. Our evidence tells us that three weeks or more is more effective and is necessary for long term transformation in behaviours.
If you worked with more people in host countries – Leaders for example – wouldn’t that help reduce your emissions?
It could do, yes. We are required – and wish – to meet or exceed British standards in child protection and technical qualifications, and to ensure all our Leaders participate in sufficient training to be able to integrate into a Leadership team and operate safely in the field together. This is very challenging with an international team, with some based remotely. It is certainly worth exploring but isn’t without very significant challenges.
Are you going to offset historical emissions, too?
We have worked with Carbon Managers, and team members including our Archivist to calculate historical flight emissions back to 1958 when charter flights became a key part of our expedition logistics. We know the size of our greenhouse gas legacy – about 10,500 CO2e – but don’t have a way to off-set or compensate for those emissions, yet. At current rates, if we were to invest in Pending Insurance Units in UK mixed woodland, it would cost us c.£262k to offset this legacy. Our first priority has to be our core purpose – delivering programmes for young people.
I went on expedition with you some time ago. Can I find out about emissions from the year of my expedition and what it would take to offset them?
It depends when you travelled with us – but the answer is probably yes. In the first instance, please contact our Membership Officer via email using email@example.com.
Who is giving us professional advice to support our decision-making?
Carbon Managers audit our footprint each year. They were set up in 2007 and are staffed with an international team of carbon accountants, advisors and sustainability consultants.
We have been advised and challenged by David Simonson, FRGS, strategic consultant, and founder of Strategy-B. Strategy B provides ESG benchmarking, strategies, and engagement programmes. Strategy B gives advice on Carbon offset and NetZero programmes, sustainability strategies and every aspect of reporting and auditing of carbon. David has a Masters in Ecology and is a sustainability management graduate from the University of Cambridge.
Will focusing on reducing our greenhouse gas emissions have an impact on how many young people we work with?
There is a direct relationship between numbers of Young Explorers and emissions. We won’t be reducing numbers. But the number of people we can work with whilst meeting our carbon reduction target is directly linked to the places we go with them. We will be balancing this each year to try to reach the maximum possible number of beneficiaries, and to secure them the highest quality outcomes. If the aviation industry becomes significantly more efficient, we will be able to increase our numbers and still honour our greenhouse gas emission target.
How many young people are you working with now?
We report our beneficiary numbers in our Annual Reports and Impact Reports. These can be found on our About Us page, on the charity commission website and at Companies House.
What is the financial impact of this decision to be more carbon-friendly?
The money we spend on programmes is not ours. It is donated by a wide range of individuals, trusts and other organisations committed to our work. The obligation to make careful spending decisions guides all our work. We want as much resource as possible to be available to directly benefit young people.
The cost of staff training, and for collecting carbon equivalent data is not significant. For carbon reduction – decision-making in relation to (for example) train versus flight travel will always be a balance of quality of experience, difficulty, time taken, safety, cost and emissions. Financial impact is unlikely to be significant.
For carbon offset, we will need to work closely with partners and funders to agree to manage our annual obligations.
Working with Forest Carbon, our offsets for 2020 and 2021 cost us £1537. We were working exclusively in the UK in those years. The costs will be significantly more in 2022 when we resumed overseas programmes – probably around £6,000 for 2022 and £6,850 in 2023 – at current market rates.
We have not yet tackled our historic emissions, as it would severely limit our ability to deliver programmes for young people now.
Still want to know more?
Is there a question you’d like to ask us about our approach to tackling our emissions?
Would you like to help us achieve our environmental and carbon reduction goals?
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to get back to you within two weeks.
If you are a Member and would like to get in touch please email email@example.com.