How to use data to improve your sustainability performance

You can use data to improve your sustainability with a return on investment. Achieve this by making decisions that benefit people, planet and profit.
How to use data to improve your sustainability performance

Achieve sustainability with a return on investment

Travel can be hugely beneficial to the planet. There are numerous studies highlighting the positive impact it can have on mental wellbeing and nature. It breaks down prejudices and is an efficient redistributor of wealth. However, travel also comes with its own set of negative implications including carbon emissions, plastic waste and over-tourism.

Plastic waste

In a year when travel has almost ground to a halt, we have an amazing opportunity to not only increase the positive impact we bring, but also reduce the negative. By using your own data in a simple, practical and repeatable way everyone can achieve sustainable tourism with a return on investment!

How can you use data to increase your purpose?

What gets measured, gets managed. It is simple but it is true, too many tour operators struggle to answer: “How sustainable are your trips?”. If you answer stating you have stopped using a certain amount of plastic straws, among other small changes, you have an amazing opportunity to make sustainability work better for you.

Data encourages well-informed decision making and will likely be used in other areas of your business, especially in marketing. Most modern travel companies will know their online conversion rates and website traffic, so why would they not know what is happening on their tours?

Carbon emission

From reducing carbon emissions, reducing plastic waste to improving your supply chain efficiency, smart sustainable goals will make sure you get more bang for your buck. We want you to get a higher return from fewer resources. The process works as follows:


Use your operational data to turn your social mission into a key performance indicator (KPI) that is measurable.


Use your CRM system combined with spreadsheets and questionnaires to keep track, collect and analyse all of your data needed to make a measurable positive impact.


Now that you know your current performance, you know where to improve your product and service. For people, planet and profit.

What is the ROI of using data?

A huge part of any well-run business is transparency. We should be proud of the sustainable actions we are taking as a business and have a wider responsibility to be open and accountable. We are in a global crisis and successes and improvements need to be shared. Data can help you share your performance!

By using data to improve your business and to increase its purpose, you can achieve a higher ROI. For example:

  • Improved supply chains
  • Increased efficiency
  • Lower costs
  • Improved brand image
  • Happier customers
  • Increased partnership opportunities
  • Improved staff retention
  • Smaller environmental impact

6 steps to start improving sustainability

No two businesses are the same. However, we wanted to share our most popular framework for creating positive change with a focus on the triple bottom line. Sustainability is such a large and varied area that the first step can often be the most daunting. The key is to start simple and grow from there.

1. Set a sustainable goal

Think big and use the UN Sustainable Development Goals for inspiration. Begin by picking one or two you want your business to be known for. Then challenge yourself and your team by setting a target goal for three years’ time.

2. Choose a sustainable KPI

Think about what positive impact you want to create for your business, customers and the planet. Relevant KPI’s to select are:

  • Carbon footprint per customer
  • Kilograms of single-use plastic per customer
  • Supply-chain efficiency
  • Kilograms of food waste per customer
  • % of costs that stay within local communities

3. Practise what you preach

It’s likely your office and operations will be a fraction of your overall carbon emissions or negative outcomes. However, analysing this data is an important step in getting the wider team behind your mission. It’s really easy too. Set the right example and gain insight in your emissions.

4. Start asking questions

Talk to your supply chain about their data, performance and goals. Use the latest technology, so that collecting responses is quick, easy and automated. Don’t let perfection or cynicism put you off. People really do want to change for the better. And we have seen amazing results from all around the world.

5. Calculate the responses into a KPI

Depending on the direction you chose on step 2, you now need to turn the replies from suppliers into a meaningful result. For example, you chose to measure reducing plastic. Your suppliers tell you that customers use on average 25 single-use water bottles over their 2-week holiday to Thailand. You then combine this number with all your other trips to calculate your average use per customer (or trip) across all your products.

You will find that as you make progress, the accuracy and detail of your reporting will get smarter and more impactful. Carbon emission calculating requires a bit more work but is still possible to do yourself with a bit of research.

6. Change what is easy

You’re not expected to transform overnight. But we should all be making significant changes to operations that positively impact business and the planet. These are win-win changes that will make your business stand out.

“The good news is, that businesses don’t have to make a choice between profitability and having a bigger purpose.” – James Thornton, CEO Intrepid

Now is the time

Follow these six straightforward steps and you’ll see year-on-year improvements. Forget long boring checklists and not to mention hours and hours of administration. Start innovating what you offer, and you’ll really begin to build back better. There has never been a better time to make small, but powerful changes to what we do. Your actions will deliver positive results. What is your legacy going to be?


Roadmap to sustainable travel success (free Ebook)

Discover 6 proven paths to best-selling sustainable travel experiences.

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Good Tourism Institute: sustainable today, travel tomorrow

Roadmap to sustainable travel success (free Ebook)

Discover 6 proven paths to best-selling sustainable travel experiences.