Ecological sustainability in our offices

Air travel

Air travel

Being an international network organisation, traveling by air has always been necessary for our operations. We are aware that this considerably increases our ecological footprint, and always try to use Teams or Zoom as much as possible, as well as combining as many assignments as possible in one trip.

In 2017, our International Management Team agreed upon the following key travel principles:

  • Flying is the last resort. Rikolto staff should always look first for alternatives to travelling by plane.

  • When considering the options, look at distance, but also time. Sometimes travelling by car or public transport takes too long and can be exhausting. Travel time for staff should also be taken into account, as it might significantly reduce the time available for programme activities.

  • If you fly, you compensate. We always carbon offset the trips made by our staff. Non-staff are invited to do the same. Compensation will be invested into a specific Rikolto project aimed at climate change mitigation. Rikolto’s sustainability working group (one staff member from each office) decides on how the money is allocated.

And then, COVID came along. In 2020, our air travels were, not surprisingly, significantly lower than in 2019 and 2018.

Our aim is to reduce travel by air to the absolute minimum. All staff are encouraged to combine activities in order to minimise the frequency of travel and maximise the time used for programme activities, and to use public transport when available and safe. The line managers monitor the implementation of this policy in assessing and approving travel requests.

Dewi Catur Utami Programme Manager in Indonesia

As in 2019, the number of flights is highest for Indonesia, due to the country’s geography limiting other travel possibilities, and in the DRC, due to programmes in new areas and safety issues.

As of 2019, the carbon offsetting money is directly invested into Rikolto’s Innovation Fund. Because of this new structure in our accountancy, the project funded with the 2019 carbon offsetting money was selected after the publication of the annual report.

The 2019 carbon offsetting money was invested in a project in Peru, aimed at piloting sustainable agroforestry systems with 50 coffee producers (among who 20 women and 20 youth) in Peru, to move to carbon neutral coffee plantations. It builds on a study performed by the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP) with 30 producers of the Coffee Cooperative “La Prosperidad de Chirinos”, which used the Life Cycle Assessment Methodology to assess the environmental impact associated with organic coffee production.

For 2020, the total amount of 146,584 kg of CO2 equals a carbon compensation of €4,276. The decision has been made to pool this amount together with the carbon offsetting funds of 2021 (as we also expect less flights in 2021), to be able to make a more meaningful investment.

COVID-19 has pushed investments in ICT infrastructure, and ICT literacy among colleagues (and partners) has improved. It remains true that face-to-face meetings are often more effective and enriching than virtual calls, yet we have grown our skills in organising effective virtual workshops and meetings. The slow internet connections in some regions (especially in Africa) remain the biggest obstacle to effective communications through videoconferences, but we gradually see connections improving.