International Volunteer HQ is the first global volunteer abroad organization to declare a climate emergency. Here’s why.
At IVHQ, we’ve always believed that volunteering abroad needs to go beyond sustainable tourism by using travel to regenerate and rebuild the world we live in. This means leaving every place better than we found it. For the last fourteen years, IVHQ has been bringing volunteers together to protect the environment, regenerate threatened ecosystems, and fight climate change. But there is much more that needs to be done. That’s why we’re declaring a climate emergency.
IVHQ was born with the mission of making volunteering abroad more affordable, accessible and inclusive. Fourteen years later, we’ve grown into the world’s largest international volunteering abroad organization – and we’ve learned that our scale enables us to make a real difference across the 42 countries we operate in.
When we launched our volunteer abroad programs in 2007, climate change was already emerging as an area of real concern, inspired by Al Gore’s revolutionary documentary, An Inconvenient Truth. As a result, IVHQ’s business model has always had environmental sustainability and regeneration at its core.
But there’s more we can, and must, do.
As we reach key climate tipping points and the world continues down a path of destruction as a consequence of political inaction, we’re taking a stand. We are in the midst of a climate crisis that requires immediate and radical action by our governments, our industry and our organization. We are making a commitment to play our part in helping limit global warming and work towards the net-zero carbon economy of the future.
Together with a group of other travel organizations, we are declaring a Climate Emergency, as part of the Tourism Declares initiative.
We’ve created a Climate Emergency Plan, which sets out our intentions to reduce our own environmental impact as an organization. We are also encouraging our suppliers and partners to make the same declaration, sharing best practice among our peers and advocating for change.
IVHQ’s Climate Emergency Plan
1. We commit to becoming a climate neutral organization by 2025
Becoming climate neutral means we’re decarbonizing our business by reducing emissions from our volunteers’ trips and our own global operations, as well as offsetting other greenhouse gas emissions beyond carbon.
As part of our ongoing commitment as a certified B Corporation, we have already taken action internally to reduce our carbon footprint and managed to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 15% in one year. We will continue to seek new ways to reduce the emissions we generate, so that by 2025 we can achieve net zero anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, making us a climate neutral company.
2. We’ll measure our greenhouse gas emissions
In order to become climate neutral, we need to know where our emissions are coming from so we can understand how to limit them. We will measure greenhouse gas emissions from volunteer flights and internal operations, so that we know the exact contributions needed to offset these and minimize their negative impact on the environment.
3. Our goal is to offset 100% of our volunteers’ flights by the end of 2025
We already offset carbon emissions for all international staff flights and we are aiming to offset 20% of the carbon impact of our volunteers’ flights by the end of 2022. Our target is to offset 100% of our volunteers’ flights by the end of 2025.
4. We will continue using 100% renewable energy in our head office
We have already installed solar panels to power IVHQ’s head office and contracted with a certified 100% renewable energy supplier for any excess power needed.
We also recycle all office waste (where possible), such as old tech equipment, food waste, electronics and materials from events. IVHQ employees are encouraged to walk or cycle to work and we have bike storage in our offices.
5. We commit to opening 10 more Climate Action volunteer projects by the end of 2022
We currently have more than forty Environmental, Marine and Wildlife Conservation volunteer projects worldwide that aim to protect endangered species and address the devastating effects of climate change. All of these volunteer projects have been designed to work towards one or more of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Over the last 12 months, we have launched additional programs that enable volunteers to take action to counter the effects of climate change, such as:
- Forest Conservation in Portugal and Spain
- Environmental Sustainability in San Diego, Philadelphia and Chicago
- Rainforest & Coastal Conservation and Turtle Conservation in Zanzibar
- Wildlife Conservation in South Africa
We are committing to opening an additional 10 volunteer projects by the end of 2022 that align with the Sustainable Development Goal #13: Climate Action.
6. We will continue to partner only with small, local organizations in the delivery of our volunteering services
From the start, we’ve partnered with local people to run our volunteering programs across Africa, Latin America, Europe, Asia and the Pacific. This reduces the need for staff travel, supports long-term employment within the local community, and ensures that our volunteer projects make a real difference.
7. Our target is to get 11,000 volunteers to contribute to our Environmental, Marine and Wildlife programs over the next three years
We are committed to recruiting large numbers of volunteers for our environmental and conservation volunteer programs as that is how we can make the greatest collective impact.
Here are just a few examples of how IVHQ volunteers have made an impact on these projects over the course of a year:
- Helped plant 200,000 native trees in New Zealand
- Spent 6,300+ hours conserving and reforesting the Amazon Rainforest in Peru
- Measured, tagged and protected more than 2,900 sea turtles in Costa Rica
- Spent 9,000 hours supporting ecosystem and wildlife conservation efforts in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
- Established a no-take marine protection area of 350m in Madagascar and created an artificial reef to enable endangered species to flourish
- Conducted multiple large-scale forest clearing exercises and fire patrols to support the protection of Iberian Wolves in Portugal
- Contributed more than 2,500 hours to important conservation and environmental protection projects surrounding Naples, Italy
- Established a tree nursery in Thailand to support reforestation efforts and supply local communities with plants to prevent soil erosion
- Enabled the Turtle Conservation project in Bali to significantly expand its impact and reach through more than 17,000 hours of volunteer time
We will prioritize climate-focused programs in our marketing and communications, so that IVHQ volunteers can continue to support these impactful initiatives across the globe.
8. IVHQ staff will support a local New Zealand climate action organization in the next year
We believe that every organization has an active role to play in supporting the community in which they operate. To date, IVHQ has invested more than $200,000 into locally-run clubs, organizations and social enterprises that address important social or environmental needs. This year, we are committing to supporting a climate action organization in New Zealand.
Here are just a few of the awesome ways the IVHQ team has supported the local community in New Zealand so far:
- Sponsored the environmental education program, Enviroschools, which is focused on supporting children and young people in New Zealand to understand and implement sustainability practices within their communities
- Planted hundreds of trees within the local community in collaboration with the New Plymouth District Council
- Took part in and supported beach clean-ups across Auckland in collaboration with Sustainable Coastlines
- Introduced a Social Innovation Award as part of the New Zealand Young Enterprise Scheme to encourage aspiring young business leaders in our community to actively consider how they can develop businesses concepts to deliver sustainable positive impact
We are publishing this Climate Emergency Plan to hold ourselves accountable in delivering against these commitments. We encourage our volunteers, partners and peer organizations in the travel industry to join us in making a pledge for a better future. It’s our responsibility to help preserve this remarkable planet for the wonderful communities and creatures that call it home.
Chief Executive Officer
International Volunteer HQ