In line with their group wide sustainability strategy, Aitken Spence Travels Ltd (ASTL), Sri Lanka’s largest inbound tourism operator, was awarded the ‘Carbon Neutral’ Certificate at a formal ceremony held at the Central Environmental Authority last week. Nalin Jayasundara, Managing Director of Aitken Spence Travels was presented with the certificates issued by the Ministry of Environment and Renewable Energy by B.M.U.D. Basnayake, Secretary of the Ministry.
The process of being carbon neutral was done by tracking the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by ASTL’s activities in Sri Lanka. For this purpose the amount of Carbon Dioxide emitted by their fleet of vehicles, staff traveling for official purposes for both locally and abroad; staff travel to and from office, and consumption of electricity in the ASTL offices were estimated. In 2012, the carbon footprint of Aitken Spence Travels stood at 1336 metric tonnes prompting the company to take measures to mitigate the impact it made on the environment. The whole process was audited by the Sri Lanka Carbon Fund.
In order to compensate for emissions, Aitken Spence Travels (bought “Carbon Credits” from Lalan Rubbers (Pvt) Ltd., a rubber glove manufacturing company that has replaced furnace oil with biomass for their production process, thus mitigating carbon dioxide that would have been emitted had they used furnace oil.
Addressing the event, Dr. Suren Batagoda, Managing Director of the Sri Lanka Carbon Fund said if Sri Lanka can reduce 10 percent of its petroleum consumption, the country can save up to 600 million US Dollars annually. He made this remark based on the calculation that Sri Lanka’s oil import bill stands at 6 billion US Dollars while the total export income amounted to 10 billion US Dollars.
Commending the initiative made by Aitken Spence Travels, he said the country needs more support from the private sector towards achieving goals in terms of reducing energy consumption. He added that plans were afoot to introduce a carbon certification programme for home appliances and other equipment as well.
“We already have plans to record the carbon emission of every appliance and equipment. Then the public will know the impact they make on the environment. Those who want to protect our environment for the future generation, will buy products that has a minimal carbon emission.” he said, Mr. B.M. U. D. Basnayake, Secretary or the Ministry of Environment, who also addressed the gathering, said that the private sector has a bigger role to play in protecting the environment and reducing environmental pollution. While appreciating the responsible approach shown by Aitken Spence Travels towards the environment, he added that the ministry intended to engage more with the private sector in this regard.
Speaking on behalf of Aitken Spence Travels, Assistant Vice President Dr. Prashantha Perera, said that they were in a process of minimizing their carbon emission gradually.
“By the end of 2013, we have a plan to reduce our carbon emissions by 10 percent. We understand that the need of the hour is to minimize emissions. Therefore, we educate the people involved in our operations on saving energy. We build awareness right down to the grassroots levels of our operations. We educate our transporters and transport agencies. This, we firmly hope, will take us towards our reduction goals by the end of this year, ” he said.
Nalin Jayasundera, Managing Director of Aitken Spence Travels affirmed that their tour operator partners across the world always preferred to work with institutions that were conscious about their environment.
“Therefore, being carbon neutral is a plus. Aitken Spence Travels is a promoter of sustainable tourism and this is an extension of our philosophy, Looking at it on a larger canvas Sri Lanka as a destination should take green tourism more seriously as this will be the differentiator when competing in the global market “he said.
Aitken Spence Travels, the leading Destination Management Company in Sri Lanka through the purchase of carbon credits from Lalan Rubers (Pvt) Ltd., became the first Sri Lankan company to buy carbon credits from a local company. By buying carbon credits from the rubber glove manufacturing company, Aitken Spence Travels has technically neutralized the impact it made upon the environment through Carbon dioxide emissions. The transaction is an affirmation of Aitken Spence Travels commitment towards environmental protection and promoting eco-friendly business and production practices.
The purchasing or carbon credits is facilitated by The Sri Lanka Carbon Fund (Private) Limited, a private-public partnership established under the companies Act. No. 7 of 2007 to promoite carbon trading CDM projects in Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Carbon Fund (Private) Ltd., which has the backing of Environment Ministry and the Central Environmental Authority, provides technical and finance resources to develop, finance, market CDM carbon credit projects in any sector.
Carbon credits can be traded among groups and businesses, both locally and internationally. Those who emit greenhouse gases buy carbon credits from those who do not emit greenhouse gases in their operations, contributing towards promoting environment-friendly business practices. On the other hand, it gives an opportunity for companies who emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide an inevitable part or their operations to assist eco-friendly production processes and contribute towards the betterment of our environment.