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  • Published on June 9, 2023

Juan Marambio is the Director of Sustainability at Latin American adventure travel company Explora. He spoke about how the company is taking responsibility for its emissions.

You can watch the conversation here.


The case study has been provided by Explora in support of Climate Action in the Tourism Sector – An overview of methodologies and tools to measure greenhouse gas emissions demonstrating the value of taking action to measure emissions and accelerate climate action.

Like many forward thinking tourism companies, the team at Explora has become increasingly aware of how its own business success relies on the sustainability of the destinations where it operates. If the glaciers melt, or the forest burns down, then the very reason for its hotels’ locations, and the reasons its visitors come, ceases to exist.

And like many such companies, Explora has responded by working to embed sustainability at the heart of its business. The company created Marambio’s position of Director of Sustainability in 2019. It invited the Chilean UNFCCC high level Climate Champion Gonzalo Munoz to come and speak to the team, helping it develop a new climate-focused strategy. And Explora sent its CEO to COP26 in Glasgow, where the company became a launch signatory of the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism.


As Marambio sees it, Explora knew it had to step up, since many other businesses in Latin America looked to the company for inspiration and guidance on how to act. “If they are going to look at us, we need to be a good example and show commitment to conserve the destinations where we are,” says Marambio. “Because we can’t conserve Patagonia on our own. We need everyone to be in the same boat and traveling the same direction.”


Once Explora started studying its own impact on climate change, the challenge was how best to measure and reduce its emissions. Most of its properties are off grid, and powered by generators. And it uses off road vehicles to access these hotels and take guests on trips.


In terms of its Scope 1 emissions, therefore, the company decided the easiest way to measure was simply to keep track of the amount of fuel purchased, since it all ended up being consumed, and it was simpler to track a limited number of purchases than measure the multiple ways and times it was used. Scope 2 was relatively simple too, involving measuring the amount of grid electricity consumed in its hotels and offices and getting the detail on the conversion rates from the electricity providers.  “It was important just to start even with imperfect numbers and track our progress over time, explains Marambio. “This helps us become more efficient and accurate in our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.”


Like the majority of tour operators, however, measuring and accounting for Scope 3 presented the biggest challenge. So, the company hired a consultant who advised the team to focus on the aspects most material to its operations - which following an in depth materiality analysis was determined to be waste and corporate travel.




Setting bold targets

Building on these measurements, the company has set itself a series of three ambitious commitments: one: achieve carbon neutrality every year; two: decarbonize in line with science-based targets; and three: offset its historic carbon footprint and become historically climate neutral by 2030. “We realised that climate change didn't just start in 2019,” explains Marambio. “Ever since we started our business in 1993, we have been contributing to the problem.” 


“We have a unique opportunity to engage with our travelers and other tourism stakeholders.”


Achieving these targets means dramatically reducing the amount of fuel consumed in its hotels and vehicles. Together they currently account for 95% of the company's energy consumption, and the hotels’ remote locations and lack of access to the grid make the challenge of decarbonising considerable. Meanwhile, for the 10% of Explora's carbon footprint that comes from its transportation fleet it is currently impossible, since the vehicles the company needs are not yet available in electric versions - Marambio reckons this may not happen until 2027 or 2028.


For its buildings, Explora is partnering with energy providers to invest in clean energy production and signing long-term contracts to purchase the energy generated. One of the projects that Explora is working on is a solar panel energy generation system on Easter Island, which will be the first private solar system on the island. The company is also working on a solar project in Atacama.


In addition to investing in clean energy, the company is also working on designing new hotels with clean energy or grid connections, and focusing on increasing efficiency in its heating and water systems. It is also providing training and capacity building to its staff on climate change and the role they can play in reducing emissions.


Restoring its surroundings

While it addresses the challenge of decarbonising, the company is also working on various regeneration projects, and recently launched a new scheme called the Conservation Reserves Program, created to address the challenge of funding for conservation and regeneration efforts in the region.


It has partnered with The Nature Conservancy to launch its first conservation reserve, which covers an area of 6000 hectares. It is also working with a government organization responsible for the conservation of national parks to reforest an area that has been affected by two fires in the last 15 years. The goal is to reach a million hectares of conservation within the next 10 years, focusing on private parks with public access. “We believe that it is important for people to be able to connect with and explore nature in order to foster a love for it and a desire to protect it,” explains Marambio.


Reflecting on their progress in recent years, Marambio is clear of the importance of education and advocacy, learning about the issues and how they affect your own business as a first step, and then sharing that knowledge with others around you in a similar situation. “We don't need to be perfect to talk about climate change, but it's important to talk about it urgently,” he says. “We have a unique opportunity to engage with our travelers and other tourism stakeholders.  Tourism relies on the beauty of our planet, and that beauty is being destroyed by climate change. We need to take a position on this issue and be active and vocal about it.”

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