Connecting SMEs for a green economy

Rabbie's: The eco-conscious small-group tour company

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Rabbie's Small Group Tours are an award winning independent tour company operating across the UK and Ireland. Rabbie's has always been conservation conscious and aim to ensure that their tours do not degrade environment of the places they visit. Over time this has evolved into a comprehensive green business model of which they are proud and see as an example for others.

When CEO Robin Worsnop founded Rabbie's in 1993, he was keen to ensure that the environments the company were touring were being protected. He came to understand that Rabbie’s future business success depended on preserving the beautiful lochs, valleys, highlands, and communities which they visited. The question was how they could best do this while keeping their customers satisfied with authentic small group trips and new experiences. As it turned out, greening was easier and better for business than expected.

The greening started small and local at first, but over time it has grown and Rabbie’s now work not just to preserve the communities they visit, but but also to protect the global environment by reducing their environmental footprint and greenhouse gas emissions. Preservation of local and regional communities is supported through the company’s self-imposed ‘carbon tax scheme’, the revenues of which are donated to environmental projects in the UK. Further environmental footprint reduction is achieved by greening the company’s office operation and reducing emissions from tour buses. As of 2014 then there are three core parts of the Rabbie’s green plan: a greener office, greener buses, and green community projects.

Greener office
Rabbie’s have been measuring their environmental footprint since 2005 and first calculated their office carbon emissions at 1.6 tCO2/employee. This figure was quite high relative to the average EU service business in 2005 (1.32 tCO2/emp), and so Rabbie’s set out to improve their performance. They realised that much of the energy waste was down to another business which they office-shared with and consequently when their co-tenants moved out in 2006, Rabbie’s estimated emissions fell by 50% to under 0.8 tCO2/emp.

Since then Rabbie’s have built on their early success and emissions have been on a downward trend to the most recent figure of 0.53 tCO2/emp. A range of policies were put in place to help achieve these reductions, including a recycling policy, an appliance switch off policy, a public transport policy, installation of energy efficient lighting, and an energy efficient heating system for their latest venture - a café which opend in April 2014. The initial upfront costs for these investments turned into long-term savings after a few years, ensuring that environmental progress was maintained as the business grew.

Greener buses
As a road-touring company, Rabbie’s accept that they will inevitably have some impact on the environment through their bus emissions. In order to minimise and offset these damages, the company puts its drivers through the ‘FuelGood Efficient Driver Training’ program (helping them use 25-35% less fuel) and regularly upgrades its bus fleet to ensure they are as fuel efficient as possible. This obviously delivers business benefits through lower fuel costs, but it also allows Rabbie’s to be proud of its green credentials and market its tours as as being a environmentally friendly as possible. In 2013, Rabbie’s fuel use per passenger per 100km was 0.86 litres and the company is pursuing a policy to reduce this figure year on year, with plans to upgrade its bus exhausts the lastest stratagy to reduce emissions even further.

Green community projects
Rabbie’s has been part of efforts to promote green tourism in its home city of Edinburgh, and attempted to put together a voluntary carbon pricing scheme for local businesses as part of the Edinburgh combined green tourism policy. This effort sadly proved unsuccessful due to difficulties in  measuring CO2 reductions, but Rabbie's would not be deterred. Since 2008, Rabbie’s has been operating its own self-imposed carbon tax scheme, donating £10/tonne of carbon produced operating tours to environmental and charitable causes.  Since 2008, this has totalled £34,215 in cash and £15,443 of in kind donations to environmental and social projects such as The National Trust and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, amongst others.

As a result of its efforts, Rabbie’s has been awarded 13 top awards for environmental and responsible tourism excellence, and is very proud to be the most successful independent small-group tour operator in the UK.

For further details of Rabbie’s environmental and social policies please read their online FAQ.


Further details

How was the green solution financed?: 
Would you characterize the green solution as: 
Low capital intensive investment (i.e. €500 - €3,000)
Emission reductions description: 
Emissions reduced to 0.53 tCO2/per employee
Operating and maintenance costs: 
Yes, low O&M costs
Material consumption savings description: 
‘FuelGood Efficient Driver Training’ programhelped reduce fuel use by 25-35%