The first-of-its-kind report to assess the ethical practices of travel booking sites named luxury camping company Canopy & Stars and Fairbnb, a nonprofit that donates half of its 15% commission to projects local community, as the most ethical options for vacationers.
Produced by Ethical Consumer, the UK’s leading alternative consumer organisation, the report focused on 29 companies that people use to book their own transport and accommodation, rather than holiday operators.
Ruth Strange, lead researcher on the project, said: “Companies talk about sustainability, but it’s hard for people who don’t know how to analyze it to know how much action is being taken.
The purpose of the report, Strange added, was to provide reliable information to consumers and to encourage people to reconsider the way they travel, “to avoid flying and to think of alternatives”.
She stressed that while big business and governments were to tackle the problem, it was also vital for holidaymakers to ‘think differently’ and ‘influence friends and family to make changes’ when it comes to was to book holidays abroad, to reduce the effect that air travel has on the planet.
Each company received a starting score of 14, with points deducted for failing to meet ethical standards in different categories such as setting clear goals to reduce environmental impact and participating in tax avoidance schemes. Points were added for positive practices such as being a nonprofit, a B Corps, or a charity.
It ranked industry leaders Expedia, Tripadvisor and Airbnb in the bottom 10. Airbnb was rated worst for excessive pay with a compensation package for its CEO of $120 million in 2020 (although almost all of that is in the form of stock awards).
YHA, the charity that provides hostel accommodation, and Independent Hostels UK, which brings together independent hostels across the UK in one online guide, were recommended alongside Canopy & Stars and Fairbnb as sites with which consumers should book for ethical practices. Canopy & Stars’ B Corp status and commitment to carbon management and reporting were praised.
Strange said she was “shocked to find that very few of the brands we covered took their responsibility to the planet seriously”, noting that “only three companies we reviewed were found to be reasonably tackling their carbon impact”.
Tui placed last in the list. The report highlighted that the company had lost half a point for its history of providing deportation flights to keep migrants away from the UK. He also alleged that the site continued to sell tickets to parks keeping orcas in captivity, despite years of campaigning for animal rights.