General Sustainability Policies

1. Foreword

The following policies seek to encourage all the actors involved in the provision of tourism services to minimize negative environmental, socio-cultural, and economic impacts and to preserve the positive impacts generated within the agency, which tend to comply with the different applicable legal requirements, contributing to the achievement of benefits for the community and the satisfaction of our customers. We declare our rejection to the exploitation and sexual trade of minors and all practices that lead to sexual tourism of any kind. In addition to our complete rejection of child labor exploitation.

2. Our Mission

Our Mission is to create and offer Responsible Tourism products for a respectful type of tourist, which seeks to live unique experiences integrating with the communities they visit and at the same time to enjoy the unique landscapes that Ecuador has to offer; for which we focus on providing the highest standards of Quality and Safety, Punctuality and Responsibility in our service.

3. Sustainable Destinations

It is Responsible Travel’s policy to consider the sustainability aspects of destinations in the selection of new destinations and in the product development process. We aim to provide social and environmental benefits to the communities we visit. We understand the importance of visitor dispersion and not exceeding the carrying capacity of destinations; therefore, we encourage the promotion of lesser-known areas (with the approval of the local community), to prevent over-tourism and its negative impacts.

3.1. Accessible Destinations

Disabilities can be seen and hidden, and not all people may be forthcoming about their disabilities. Therefore, it is both a social and business responsibility to consider accessibility when selecting new destinations. This is why Responsible Travel:

  • Commits to maintain a database with information on inclusive and accessible suppliers.
  • Collaborate, where necessary and possible, with other businesses in areas where there are gaps in accessibility, knowledge, experience, and services.
  • Consideration will be given to conducting meaningful research with travelers with disabilities, whenever possible, to avoid making assumptions.
  • Travel products, services and facilities are offered without or with the least accessibility barriers for people with physical, cognitive, and intellectual disabilities or sensory needs, where possible, depending on the availability of tourism offer in Ecuador.
  • We seek to meet the accessibility needs of passengers throughout the trip and collaborate with strategic suppliers to achieve reliability throughout the trip. Where products, services and facilities cannot meet certain accessibility standards, provide travelers with accurate and reliable information on barriers and/or partial accessibility to manage expectations and enable travelers to make decisions for themselves.
  • We train our staff on serving people with disabilities, considering a wide range of topics, including an overview of types of disabilities, etiquette and terminology, education on appropriate and inappropriate terms, general awareness of barriers and accessibility features, tips for assisting customers with disabilities, and specific knowledge of accessibility features and how to use them. Unconscious biases, including stereotypes and assumptions, and actively counteracting them will also be included in the training.

4. Human Resources Policy

In compliance with Human Rights and ensuring the equality of all staff, Responsible Travel is committed to:

  • Both permanent and temporary personnel receive remuneration for their work that is equal to or higher than the minimum established by law.
  • Prohibit any use of language or conduct that may be intimidating, discriminatory or offensive in any way. We do not accept any type of harassment or conditioning of personnel, nor do we accept favoritism or bribes.
  • Prohibit managers from using the threat of any penalty to force someone to work.
  • Prohibit the retention of employee identification documents.
  • Ensure the safety and health of workers by enrolling them in the appropriate health insurance and keeping health and safety policies and procedures up to date.
  • Not to dismiss personnel who are pregnant or breastfeeding, for differences of creed, religion, sexual, philosophical, or political orientation.
  • Respect among its personnel, differences of religion, gender, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation, philosophical and political beliefs.
  • Give each new employee the respective induction.
  • Ensure that each department keeps its functions and procedures manual up to date.
  • Ensure that the personnel are kept informed of any changes in labor matters.
  • Review, update and disseminate the company’s internal policies among its employees.
  • Review, update and disseminate the company´s code of ethics among its employees.
  • Conduct a semi-annual performance evaluation of all employees.
  • Keep the company’s emergency plan updated.
  • Annually, train the personnel in sustainability, respect for the environment, culture, idiosyncrasy and corporate social responsibility.

 

In addition, in compliance with Conventions 87 and 98 signed by Ecuador with the ILO, it is established that:

  • Not impede, prohibit, or interfere with the exercise of employees’ right to unionize; nor should they make direct or indirect threats, create an atmosphere of intimidation or fear, or take retaliatory action in connection therewith. Respect the right of all employees to form and join a trade union of their choice without fear of intimidation or reprisal, in accordance with national laws and regulations. Do not interfere with an employee’s decision to join.
  • Implement non-discriminatory policies and procedures with respect to union organization and membership. Ensure that company policies, procedures and practices do not discriminate against individuals based on their views on unions or union activities.
  • Provide workers’ representatives with adequate facilities to assist in the development of effective collective bargaining agreements. Not interfere with the activities of workers’ representatives while carrying out their duties in a manner that does not disrupt the regular operations of the company.
  • Provide workers’ representatives with adequate facilities to assist in the development of effective collective bargaining agreements. Not interfere with the activities of workers’ representatives while carrying out their duties in a manner that does not disrupt the regular operations of the company.

5. Anti-Harassment and Non-Discrimination Policy

5.1. Non-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity.

As an equal opportunity employer and in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic, which in Article 11, referring to the principles of application of rights, establishes that “No one may be discriminated against for reasons of ethnicity, place of birth, age, sex, gender identity, cultural identity, marital status, language, religion, ideology, political affiliation, judicial background, socio-economic status, immigration status, sexual orientation, health status, HIV status, disability or physical difference, or for any other personal or collective, temporary or permanent distinction that has the purpose or result of undermining or diminishing the rights of others; nor by any other personal or collective distinction, temporary or permanent, which has the purpose or result of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment or exercise of rights. ” Both the Law and Ecuador Galapagos Travel will sanction, as appropriate, all forms of discrimination.

This policy applies to all areas of the company, including recruiting, testing, selection, hiring, training, upgrades, transfers, promotions, rehiring, rates of pay, internships, demotions, terminations, disciplinary sanctions, layoffs, compensation, benefits and other privileges, terms, and conditions of employment. This policy and the Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador prohibit and sanction discrimination in the employment of any employee or applicant based on any condition.

5.2. Anti-harassment

Responsible Travel provides a work environment free from harassment, discrimination, and retaliation of any kind. Responsible Travel categorically prohibits harassment of employees in the workplace on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (including all situations related to pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding), sexual stereotyping (including assumptions about a person’s appearance or behavior, gender expression or gender identity), country of origin, age, any physical or mental disability, ancestry, disease, marital status, citizenship, sexual orientation, genetic information, or any other classification protected by Ecuadorian law. For all the above, Responsible Travel will provide a harassment-free environment and will not tolerate any form of harassment that violates this policy.

The Organic Reformatory Law to the Organic Law of Public Service and the Labor Code to Prevent Workplace Harassment and the Responsible Travel Anti-Harassment Policy prohibit any employee, supervisor, director, client, customer, vendor, supplier or any third party who has business dealings with an employee or the company from harassing, discriminating or retaliating against any employee, applicant, contractor, intern or volunteer of the company, by virtue of any status or activity protected by Ecuadorian law.

The Anti-Harassment Policy also prohibits offensive conduct, sexual harassment or harassment of any kind, understood as:

a) Verbal expressions: such as epithets, derogatory or offensive jokes, negative stereotypes, slurs, insinuations or comments about age, race, disability, country of origin, religious beliefs or practices, insults, or unwanted sexual advances.

b) Sexual conduct or display: such as leering, derogatory or sexually oriented posters, photographs, cartoons, drawings, calendars, graffiti, e-mails, gestures, or any visual expression that may be generated.

c) Physical conduct: such as intimidating acts, assaults, unwanted or offensive touching, intentional hindrance of normal movement or interference with work because of sex, race or another protected characteristic.

d) Threats, demands or expectations: submitting to sexual requests as a condition of employment or preferential treatment.

e) Retaliation: such as complaints or threats for reporting harassment or discrimination.

Sexual harassment based on gender or of any kind is also prohibited under this policy, regardless of whether the harasser and the harassed are of the same or different genders or whether it rises to the level of a legal violation. Examples of gender-based harassment prohibited by this policy include: offensive sexual jokes, teasing or verbal jokes of a sexual nature; repeated unwanted sexual flirtations, advances or propositions; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; explicit or demeaning comments about an individual’s sexual appearance or activity; offensive visual conduct, including leering, sexual gestures, display of sexually suggestive and offensive objects or images, cartoons or posters; unwelcome pressure to engage in sexual activities; offensive or obscene letters, notes or invitations; offensive physical contact such as patting, pinching or rubbing against another person’s body; sexual favoritism or any act that the company and the harassed person interpret as harassment.

No employee, nor any person of higher rank in the company, is exempt from complying with and implementing this policy. Any act of alleged discrimination, harassment, retaliation, or other behavior contrary to this policy must be reported immediately by employees or above to the Human Resources Department for follow-up and investigation.

6. Environmental Policy

For the care, recovery, and conservation of the environment, being one of the main points of our mission and one of the biggest challenges as a tour operator, Responsible Travel is committed to:

– Follow any law or regulation that regulates the environmental impact of the organization’s activity.

– Identify and measure the environmental impacts generated by our economic activity. Establish measures to compensate for them.

– Conduct environmental awareness campaigns for stakeholders.

Based on SDGs 12 and 13, which seek responsible production and climate action, Responsible Travel is committed to:

6.1. Water Management

– Ensure that both employees and customers use water rationally.

– Encourage customers to support rational water consumption programs.

– Maintain a monthly water consumption monitoring and control plan in the offices, as well as goals and corrective actions.

– Develop a preventive maintenance program.

6.2. Electric Energy Resource

Responsible Travel is committed to:

– Reduce and constantly maintain control of energy consumption.

– Encourage customers to support rational electricity consumption programs.

– Use devices for the reduction of energy consumption, as well as energy efficient equipment.

– Maintain a monthly consumption monitoring and control plan at management level.

– Take advantage of natural lighting in the facilities as much as possible.

– Develop a preventive maintenance program for facilities and electrical appliances.

– Ensure that the employees make rational use of energy.

6.3. Waste Management

Responsible Travel is committed to:

– Strengthen, among its collaborators and clients, the efficient management of waste generated.

– Use products whose packaging is biodegradable or easily degradable.

– Maintain a manual with good practices for the reduction and good use of paper and plastics or disposable goods.

– Use only legal and environmentally safe collection services.

– Separate waste according to material classification and ensure proper collection.

– Properly manage hazardous waste such as printing inks, batteries, electronic equipment, etc.

6.4. Carbon Offset Policy

Responsible Travel is committed to:

– Annually calculate the approximate CO2 emitted by its economic activity.

– Transform this impact into a monetary value to offset the footprint.

– Seek out and support environmental and social initiatives as part of the offset

– Make an annual report of its offsetting actions

6.5. Environmental Education

Responsible Travel is committed to:

– Reinforce responsible and sustainable behavior, in environmental matters, of its clients. Through preventive education.

– Conduct visits to the protected areas of our country.

– Inform tourists about the regulations that exist in the different protected areas.

7. Transparency Policy

Our company ensures that no document, statement or other marketing and advertising publication contains misleading information, excessive advertising, and under-delivery. We ensure that all our staff are aware and ensure that what is offered can be delivered to our customers with peace of mind, in order to maintain a complaint rate below 2%.

Any written and published announcements and/or communications will clearly state when relevant:

– Exact itinerary (with distances and times).

– Exact price with validity dates

– Services included

– Insurance details

– Exclusions (and surcharges if applicable)

– Detailed destination information

– Indication of sustainable options

– Dress code/ethical instructions where necessary

– Accurate photos and visual materials.

– Personal data protection

– GDPR consent if applicable

– Complaint instructions

– Company contacts, including emergency contacts.

8. Purchasing Policy

Responsible Travel as a tour operator, being in a privileged position to ensure sustainability, maintains a policy of ensuring that all staff follow the following guidelines when selecting a supplier:

– We do not allow the purchase of souvenirs containing endangered species of flora and fauna, illegally obtained historical/archaeological artifacts, drugs, or illegal substances, and comply with applicable local and international laws to prevent this.

– Prioritize those suppliers that demonstrate their integrity and degree of compliance in all aspects, especially in the price/quality ratio, labor, human rights, environmental protection and protection of children and adolescents against commercial sexual exploitation.

– To contract duly legalized companies (Verification of data of each company through its RUC).

– Commits, whenever possible, to prefer those suppliers that have any certification or environmental verification or that apply good practices in their operations.

– Procure and encourage the purchase and consumption of local or nationally produced products.

– Purchase biodegradable cleaning products.

– Purchase office supplies from “green” suppliers.

– Prioritize the purchase of products in returnable, recycled, or reusable packaging.

– Ensure that our suppliers have sustainable environmental policies and good social, cultural and legal practices.

9. Policies by Service Category

9.1. Lodging

In Ecuador, there are almost no lodging providers internationally certified as sustainable, however, there are those recognized for their good environmental and social practices. This is why as an organization we seek to work with the most sustainable options possible, for which we consider the following criteria:

– All our hosting providers must be legally constituted organizations.

– To be able to select the supplier, an evaluation carried out under any of these methodologies is necessary:

o On-site inspection by designated staff.

o Guidance observation

– We will only work with suppliers that ensure good working conditions for their employees, both in terms of wages, non-exploitation of labor, local and international.

– Suppliers must have policies of good environmental practices such as reduction in the use of plastics, good waste management, and efficient use of resources such as energy, water, and paper.

– The facility must ensure that the rights of minors are respected and safeguarded, completely rejecting illegal child labor.

– Preference will be given to accommodations that support the local economy by making their purchases and acquisitions with national suppliers and under fair trade and sustainability principles.

– We will work with lodges that limit their impact on the environment and biodiversity by not offering products within their facilities that come from the illegal trade of flora and fauna.

– Preference will be given to lodges that incorporate elements of local art, architectural and cultural heritage, or that support the local community in any way they see fit and respect their intellectual property.

– In case of clear evidence that contracted accommodations jeopardize the provision or integrity of basic services such as food, water, energy, medical care, or land for neighboring communities, this may be grounds for terminating cooperation with the accommodation.

– If it is revealed that an accommodation provider acts with unsustainable practices, our company will issue a warning. If that supplier does not change its practice, our company will terminate any form of collaboration (informal and contractual) and blacklist it from any further partnerships.

9.2. Transportation

In compliance with our commitment to the environment, we seek to make the transportation used within our tour packages as sustainable as possible, keeping in mind that the quality of our services is a paramount part of our operations, for which we recommend tourists to take the most efficient routes (e.g., preference for direct flights and avoiding stopovers) for both time and carbon efficiency:

– We recommend tourists to take the most efficient routes (e.g., preference for direct flights and avoidance of stopovers) for both time and carbon efficiency.

– We advise our passengers to use bus for short-haul travel.

– We offer our customers the option of transferring to the airport or to their destination by public or private transport, in both cases they are informed of the most sustainable option, so that they can choose the most convenient one, also considering price, comfort and safety criteria.

– We ensure that an appropriate vehicle is used for the size of the group, i.e., using transportation with the capacity corresponding to the group.

– We contract suppliers that ensure the use of the newest and most efficient motor vehicles, guaranteeing the greatest possible sustainability also in terms of model, performance and fuel used.

– We offer the option to offset remaining carbon emissions.

– We are committed to transitioning to sustainable and cleaner-fueled modes of transportation, to the extent that the destinations where we operate have greater supply.

– If it is revealed that a transportation supplier is engaging in unsustainable practices, our company will issue a warning. If that supplier does not change its practice, our company will terminate any form of collaboration (informal or contractual) and blacklist it from any other partnership.

Regarding the transportation used by our staff and partners:

– We are committed to encourage the use of transportation in an environmentally friendly way, motivating them to use public transportation, bicycles, organize carpooling lines, among other more sustainable options.

9.3. Excursions and activities

Due to the nature of our economic activity, we are fully aware of the negative impacts that the activities or excursions offered by our company may have on the environment, local cultures, and societies and on heritage in general. Therefore, we are committed to:

– Ensure that tour providers do not offer products or services that harm humans, animals, plants, natural resources (e.g. water/energy) or products that are socially/culturally unacceptable.

– Not offer activities where wildlife is held in captivity, except for activities duly regulated in accordance with local, national, and international laws. Excursions, which include interactions with wildlife, comply with relevant codes of conduct. Minimize any disturbance of natural ecosystems.

– Prohibit the use of wildlife for entertainment, food, handicraft production or any other activity that undermines animal welfare.

– Reject any type of animal mistreatment, cruelty, or abuse. Wildlife observation shall be carried out in conditions that do not disturb ecosystems or the behavior of the species.

– The company’s policy requires that the visits involve, whenever possible, the local population, both in lodging, transportation, guides, food, entertainment and sale of handicrafts and local products.

– Work with the most qualified tour guides in the areas in which they operate. Preference is given, whenever possible, to local and certified guides; especially in environmentally or culturally sensitive areas.

– If it is revealed that an activity or tour provider is acting with unsustainable practices, our company will issue a warning. If that supplier does not change its practice, our company will terminate any form of collaboration (informal or contractual) and blacklist it from any other association.

9.3.1. Natural, Protected and Conservation Areas

In compliance with SDG 15 which highlights the need to address the threats facing wild species and ecosystems, Responsible Travel is committed to:
– Support the conservation of protected areas, through the Ministry of Environment.
– Get involved in conservation programs in protected areas.
– Motivate clients to visit protected areas.
– Abide by national legislation on protected areas.
– Take responsible and sustainable advantage of the attractions of protected areas.
– Induce clients on the norms and rules that should be followed when visiting natural areas.
– Ensure that no waste of any kind is left behind.
– Do not allow any activity that endangers native, threatened, or endangered species.
– To avoid and denounce the illegal extraction and captivity of wild animals and plants by employees and tourists in general.
– To ensure that tourism operations do not affect the habitats or behavior of wild species.
– To discourage and avoid artificial feeding, directly or indirectly, to wild animals.
– To avoid all commercialization of species or products of flora and fauna prohibited by law.

9.3.2. Socio-cultural policy

The communities that are also heavily involved in tourism also require responsible action on the part of tour operators. Therefore, in compliance with SDG 11, which seeks to develop cities and communities in a sustainable manner, Responsible Travel is committed to:

– Supporting local projects.

– Respect and safeguard the popular traditions of our indigenous peoples.

– Ensure that all the activities we offer to our clients have a high cultural value.

– Use rural or local suppliers whenever possible.

– Denounce any action or act that violates the good customs of the locals.

– Strengthen, as much as possible, through the promotion of Ecuadorian culture and idiosyncrasy.

– To reject any activity or practice that attempts against the cultural and social integrity of our community.

– Not to allow trafficking, illicit exhibition or illegal exploitation of cultural property of our country.

9.4. Guides, Tour Leaders, and Local Representatives

To maintain a sense of economic and social sustainability, Responsible Travel, with respect to its collaboration with Guides, Tour Leaders and Local Representatives maintains the following principles:

– Give preference to local guides, representatives, and tour leaders.

– The company hires only trained personnel, whose education and experience are duly accredited, having records and certifications as appropriate.

– Subcontracted personnel are informed about their remuneration, working conditions and the company’s Sustainability Policy from the initial contact.

– Hired or subcontracted guides have the relevant qualifications for the type of tour and the appropriate level of experience as required by local regulations.

– The company recruits licensed guides and maintains current copies of their credentials.

– Hired guides meet the minimum legal age for employment and have clear documentation of employment contracts.

– Guides are briefed on appropriate behaviors toward clients (the company will investigate any complaints or suspicions of inappropriate behavior and implement a disciplinary procedure when necessary);

– Guides receive regular training and are provided with the necessary skills (including first aid, sustainability, destination, customer service, etc.).

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