The initiative, which is set to begin this year with Global Experiences’ 2020 internship programs, will see the company purchase carbon credits to offset travel for participants and staff.
“It’s a big challenge and the path is not perfectly laid out for us”
Global Experiences said that the carbon credits will be bought in a variety of alternative energy, reforestation, and biodiversity projects in critical regions of the world. The company will also look at ways to reduce its carbon footprint.
“Global Experiences was founded to make the world a better place, and we can no longer deliver on this vision without a serious commitment to protecting the environment and our children’s future,” said Global Experiences founder and CEO, Emily Merson.
“We are thrilled to be moving towards a carbon-neutral organisation and sharing this commitment with our participants.”
An international round trip flight is one of the biggest producers of carbon dioxide that a student may generate in one year, Global Experiences maintained.
Of roughly 1000 Global Experiences students going abroad each year, around 90% fly, the company added.
Merson spoke with The PIE about how her organisation is planning on achieving their goal of being carbon neutral by 2025.
“It’s a big challenge and the path is not perfectly laid out for us. It requires work over the next five years, which is why we have given ourselves the time.
“But there are many ways of auditing our organisation both in terms of our administration and also our program elements to essentially quantify the carbon load and then to offset it by buying carbon credits, which is a way to neutralise the impact.”
Merson said that while carbon credits were “the easy way out”, they offered the best solution for parts of Global Experiences’ business.
“For the components you cannot reduce, you can offset and that’s where investing in initiatives that help to produce oxygen and offset carbon production in different areas in the world is the solution that we have available to us,” she said.
Global Experiences is set to take further action and will encourage participants to reduce their carbon footprint when they are traveling and living abroad.
The organisation will also bring efforts to its global stakeholders including university partners, global host employers, and housing partners.
“The better option is to actually reduce the carbon footprint that you have, and so that is going to be one of the initiatives that we have in 2020,” said Merson.
“Moving forward we will audit our own carbon footprint as an organisation, and really look at both the programming side and the organisational side, to start to be more accountable for the goal.
“Ultimately the pressure will be on other organisations to follow suit”
“We hope to find better ways to be efficient and to reduce our carbon footprint not by just offsetting it.”
According to Goal 13 on Climate Action from the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, “global net CO2 emissions must drop by 45% between 2010 and 2030 in order to limit global warming”.
Merson said that there will be much discussion of the environmental question in the international education industry because it has a “larger footprint” than other areas.
“But we are also an educationally focused sector and so we know we have a fundamental impact on the lives of the next generation,” she said.
Merson said that Global Experiences’ decision to commit to the 2025 target has been driven by a moral imperative as opposed to any commercial pressure, although she said that other companies may come under pressure in the future.
“At the moment it isn’t a commercial pressure, it is a decision we have made because we think it is the right one,” she said.
“I think ultimately the pressure will be on other organisations to follow suit and maybe the impact of this initiative will be to create a climate where they are more responsible for the travel component of the experiences that students are having.”