This week, Vaibhav Syal, Head of Marketing at Active Internationals Travel Network, explains how the company integrated Corporate Social Responsibility strategies and provides for organisations looking to do the same.

One does not need a separate CSR policy – Weave it in your day-to-day activities

At Active Internationals we began promoting volunteer travel long back in 2004. It was the time when CSR was also picking up pace in the global business world, with numerous corporate incidences being questioned for their inhuman nature and the sole aim of profit making.

With the global ethics taking a drift towards CSR from corporate philanthropy, we were by default one-up. We realised that in a service industry like tourism, where there is no tangible product to sell, incorporating responsible practices in everyday activities will come out as a value added to the services our clients get. Incorporating small yet significant changes, we took some inspiration from the wider concepts of responsible travel, eco-tourism and sustainable tourism.

It has been a very useful decision since we were able to not only make our guests feel good about their travel and have a feeling of being responsible travellers, but also allowed us to manage our programmes and CSR under one account and not two different sections. It also gave us the inspiration of extending our support to those organisations that could not have afforded to have a separate CSR department.

The story is simple and easy to understand. We considered certain points that were to be omnipresent in all our programmes and work as a responsibility DNA for the itinerary designers. Incorporating volunteering and community projects, local craft promotion and fair-trade shop visits, walking tours and teaming up with local families were certain elements that are always present in any programme offering of ours. This initiative allowed us to achieve the goal of CSR that we had set for ourselves.

By volunteering we were always close and active with the grass-root organisations and knew what they needed rather than imposing our wishes on them. Organising local craft workshops with non-commercial artisans and promoting fair-trade purchases not only provided the artisans with a good audience but gave our guests an unadulterated experience. Walking tours are a welcome break for our participants and it gives the opportunity for the inner street dwellers to reap benefits of visiting guests. Besides that it made the local government realise the importance of these streets and implementation of a restoration plan. Finally, all our experiential activities comprised of participation of local families that gave them the chance to earn from new resources, allowed their kids to mingle with people from other countries and made them aware of the potential of their indigenous ways. For our guests, these activities were something that gave them the glimpse of India that they could not have seen in movies or read in books and none of their friends who would have visited India before would have experienced.

Active Internationals believes in the old Indian saying that literally translates into – ‘a good deed done by one hand should not be known to the other’. Meaning, a good deed has to subtly seep into the society without any propaganda of a defined, planned and organized CSR agenda.

Corporate Social Responsibility within the study travel industry is the cover story of the October 2014 issue of Study Travel Magazine.

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