Ideas that Change Worlds

The Long Run was delighted to host the Sustainability Stage at Pure’s unconference, Matter, this year, where the travel industry convened for two days of talks and workshops. Every session was packed, the days rolled into evenings and we all left feeling inspired. Here’s a rundown of what we did and learnt:

Make it a mindset: Why sustainability needs to be more than just a project


Delphine King, The Long Run, James Currie, Wilderness and Julie Cheetham, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve


The travel industry is at a crossroads: we can embed purpose and sustainability into our business operations, or we can watch our most important assets crumble under environmental and social exploitation. This insightful talk explored how to shift operational attitudes from short-term to long-term, and from exploitative to nurturing. Compelling examples and solutions demonstrated why making sustainability a mindset is the only viable approach for travel businesses to survive. Delphine, James and Julie explained the business case for the 4Cs (conservation, community, culture and commerce) and how they underpin operations and communication at Grootbos and Wilderness.


The world is full of beautiful rooms; people increasingly want beautiful rooms that protect the views they look over and support local communities.” — Delphine King, The Long Run.


We’ve got to move away from a mindset of doing these small projects and look at a longer-term approach — what’s going to happen ten, 15 years down the line.” — James Currie, Wilderness.



Fuelling the future: How conservation and tourism drive each other


Delphine King, The Long Run, Roberto Klabin, Refugio Ecologico Caiman and Marit Miners, Misool.


According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), we are witnessing the greatest extinction crisis since dinosaurs disappeared from our planet 65-million-years ago. For iconic species like the jaguar, stingray and rhino, the threat is now so significant that their fate sometimes lies in the hands of a few private landowners. This talk introduced the audience to pioneering individuals leading the conservation charge, from Raja Ampat’s pristine coral reefs to the world’s largest wetlands in Brazil’s Pantanal. These successful examples demonstrate how to use wildlife tourism to protect vital ecosystems, prove the economic value of conservation and raise tourism revenue.


We presented to the government how much a shark was worth dead and how much it was worth alive, and they saw the dollar signs and got interested in investing in long-term sustainability.” – Marit Miners, Misool.


There’s a real appetite to travel to these beautiful places like Misool and Caiman and experience them with on the ground experts that have carried through a real vision for change and conservation.” — an audience member from Steppes Travel.

Commerce and legacy: Making a business case for the future


Louise Cottar, Cottar’s 1920s Camp and Roberto Klabin, Refugio Ecologico Caiman


One of the most pressing challenges for sustainably-minded tourism businesses is how to secure a legacy so that successors continue vital environmental and social work. Whether a privately-owned business, part of a conglomerate, or a managed asset, it is never too late to consider the long-term. Drawing on innovative examples, including Cottar’s 1920s Camp’s conservancies and Roberto Klabin’s land reforms, this talk looked at tools available to protect biodiversity in perpetuity. Solutions included intergenerational plans to engage future conservationists, financial mechanisms to support the ‘4Cs’ (conservation, community, culture and commerce), and legally-binding land easements.


There is a shift in philanthropic aid turning to for-profit models because it’s more financially sustainable and viable in the long term.”— Louise Cottar, Cottar’s 1920s Camp.


“We have to look 50 or 100-years down the line if we’re talking about real conservation.” —Roberto Klabin, Refugio Ecologico Caiman.



Our biggest asset: Creating positive partnerships with the local community


Julie Cheetham, Grootbos Foundation, Inge De Lathauwer, Sumba Hospitality Foundation, Luiz Caceres, Pacuare Lodge and Jens Kozany, Segera


Community is an increasingly compelling buzzword in the luxury travel industry, but what does good community engagement look like and how can it heighten your operational and guest experience? Inclusive growth is not about developing islands of best practice but forging a local, sustainable economy for the greater good. This is especially important in destinations where tourism is a significant GDP contributor. These three panellists took the audience on a journey of positive community relations from funding local entrepreneurs at Pacuare to a hospitality school on Sumba Island and empowering women from local tribes at Segera.


A lot of us have done supply chain analysis to see where we can support the local community with the products we already purchase. It’s all about being a bit creative and looking for opportunities.” — Julie Cheetham, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.


“Our training is as much about empowering locals to have a say and control over how tourism is developed on their island, as it is about providing first-class hospitality skills.” — Inge De Lathauwar, Sumba Hospitality Foundation.

Collaboration not competition: Why and how to work together for positive change


Holly Tuppen, The Long Run, Portia Hart, Green Apple Foundation, James Currie, Wilderness and Delphine King, The Long Run


It’s impossible to operate as an island in the world of tourism; we depend on a huge network to deliver exceptional services and improve efficiency. It’s now time to step up and work together to drive positive change, too. We will achieve much more by sharing opportunities, investing in joint innovations and putting the competition to one side for the sake of our 4C assets — community, conservation, culture and commerce. These panellists shared practical solutions, including Wilderness’ continent-wide Lionscape collaboration, Green Apple Foundation’s citywide recycling scheme in Cartagena and exchanging knowledge and ideas through The Long Run’s global membership.


“Nobody is perfect, and we’ve made plenty of mistakes, but you have to get started (on the sustainability journey) somewhere.” — Portia Hart, Green Apple Foundation.


“There’s an inclination to own your most-loved initiatives, but then you start to weigh up how much more can be achieved if competitors get involved, and you don’t look back.” — James Currie, Wilderness Safaris.

How to master: Creating sustainability stories that engage guests and staff


Holly Tuppen, The Long Run and Juliet Kinsman, Bouteco.


People no longer buy what you do, but why you do it. Gone are the days of shoehorning a few green initiatives onto the side of your comms strategy and hoping for the best. The most successful brands now (and even more so in the future) are those that live and breathe sustainability. Whether just starting on this journey or one of the world’s most respected eco-lodges, this means communicating genuine stories that engage guests and encourage staff to walk the talk. This workshop explored communicating sustainability in the digital world, what stories consumers are looking for, how to avoid greenwash and ways to engage employees, converting them into purpose ambassadors.


“It’s not about labouring the word sustainability, or setting aside a different channel of comms — it’s about embedding why you love a place and its people, and how you do everything you can to protect it.” — Holly Tuppen, The Long Run.

How to master: Getting started on your sustainability journey without feeling overwhelmed


Julie Cheetham, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve and Delphine King, The Long Run


This masterclass focused on how to make the 4Cs (conservation, community, culture and commerce) a guide for your sustainability. Actionable takeaways included five ways to reduce, resource and increase profits, and how to communicate your vision to staff and guests. The session also looked at broader concerns, from understanding your place and identifying your role and relevance, to finding the right partnerships and transferring skills.


It’s not enough to invest in short-term financial gain anymore – we have to invest in our assets in the long term – nature, landscapes, people. It’s not philanthropy; it’s about investing in what makes your business viable. That’s why we use the 4C framework.” — Delphine King, The Long Run.


For plastic and packaging reduction, tackle 20% of your suppliers that you work with 80% of the time. Put pressure on them to make a change.” – Julie Cheetham, Grootbos Private Nature Reserve.

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