There is much talk nowadays in business about the “triple bottom line”.
For those of you who haven’t heard of it before, this is the belief that, for any organisation (business, charity or otherwise) to be truly sustainable, it has to take care of its financial, social and environmental impact. Financial is pretty self-explanatory, make sure you can pay the bills but don’t get too greedy. The social and environmental impacts however are much more complicated, and can’t be solved by simply giving staff comfy chairs and making sure they recycle their paper. This is particularly the case with volunteer organisations such as Quest Overseas, where we are working in very sensitive areas such as developing nation communities and threatened forests.
As such, Quest Overseas takes its social and environmental responsibilities very seriously, and we do our best to make sure every aspect of our operation is sustainable, ethical and responsible:
- Quest are amongst the founding members of the Fair Trade Volunteering Movement. You can see their application final report here.
- Quest Overseas and Rainforest Alliance have established an alliance to support Best Management Practices in Sustainable Tourism.
- We are an active member of Tourism Concern and a big supporter of Ethical Volunteering.
- We are also actively supporting the development of a UK recognised “International Volunteer Code of Practice”, where organisations will be assessed as to the quality and suitability of their volunteer placements, and volunteers will be encouraged to follow its Volunteer Charter. In the meantime, we are ensuring that our projects follow the already established Code of Good Practice and Volunteer Charter, both developed by Volunteering Options Programme, which was set up by Comhlámh – the Association for Returned Development Workers in Ireland.
- We do not go out and search for specific projects. All our project partnerships have grown over time, whenever we have found a project where there is scope for mutual benefit, by which we mean that all our projects have been developed with the benefit for the community AND the experience for our volunteers equally in mind.
- Our projects have been developed in partnership with established local initiatives or ongoing international support networks. This is to help ensure that the work our teams do can and will be maintained throughout the year.
- Project plans are developed with our local partners with a long term vision in mind. We aim to support a project for the long term, anything from 5 years to indefinitely. We also ensure that the work teams will be doing is realistic and appropriate (ie. that it is within the ability of our teams, but at the same time is not taking away work from locals).
- Our students’ project donations help to ensure that funds are available throughout the year to maintain the work done by teams. These funds are either channelled through our very own charity Quest4Change, or our partner charities.
- Quest4Change is actively fundraising alongside our expeditions to increase the level of support for our projects. So far we have raised over £1.5 million since 1996, every penny of which has gone directly to our projects overseas.
- Other project partners and supporters include Rainforest Concern, Excellent Development, Joshua Orphan Care, Jane Goodall Institute, CREES, Inti Wara Yassi, Ubaka U Rwanda.
- We take advantage of our preparation days, held here in the UK before teams go overseas, not only to help ensure the safety and security of our teams, but also to create an awareness of social and cultural differences, environmental issues and current affairs. Students are given the Volunteer Charter to read and sign, and are encouraged to join the internationally supported environmental action group Roots and Shoots, set up by Jane Goodall.
- Quest Overseas expeditions work with local operators at all times (drivers, guides, porters etc.), and pay more than a fair fee for their work. We do not haggle down to the bottom dollar.
- Group sizes are kept to acceptable levels, to minimize our impact on trekking routes and project sites.
- We encourage all our participants to offset the carbon on their flights, and ALL staff flights are carbon-offsetted.
- We also keep our UK base impact to a minimum – simple office space, recycling almost everything, energy conscious, paper free when possible, recycled paper when not, we’ve even started growing our own veg!
We are conscious that there is always more we can do, and are open to suggestions and recommendations.