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Annual Sustainability Report

As an organization deeply committed to making a positive difference in the world, sustainability is an integral aspect of our everyday business operations and mission.

While sustainability has been a core value for Austral Group for many years now, the following is only our second – of many – annual ESG Report that we publish publicly. We’ve crafted an action plan to inspire and equip our team members and the students who travel with us with the knowledge and tools for sustainable innovation and responsible leadership.

We acknowledge we’re not perfect, but taking these initial steps in our journey and learning continuously is key as we prioritize sustainable practices in our business operations.

Our report will highlight our efforts in environment, society, governance, and education, recognizing the powerful impact we can have in educating future and current leaders – as well as our own team members and stakeholders – on sustainable and ethical business practices.

world environment day, green city on earth, globe, earth day, gr

Higher
Education

Driving Positive Change through Meaningful Connections

Travel brings people together, promotes cultural diversity, and supports environmental conservation. It offers vast job opportunities while improving the quality of lives worldwide. However, we must address the impact of carbon emissions on our planet.

While we understand we cannot entirely erase our carbon footprint, we work to ensure we are leaving a strong, positive “handprint” through the connections we forge between innovative business leaders and students.

Methodology

We use a proven methodology based on KPIs within the EFFAS framework to measure and report our progress. This helps us track our sustainability efforts and demonstrate improvement over time. Transparent reporting of ESG metrics is crucial for stakeholders to evaluate our sustainability performance and ensure accountability. This report covers the period from January 1, 2023 to December 31, 2023.

2023 Plan

Overview

Our Industry – Creating Connections and Making a Positive Impact

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”

Nelson Mandela

nelson mandela 2

Educational Impact

Speaker & Company Visits: Diversity & ESG Percentages

Nearly 40% of our speakers in 2023 identified as female, as this is an important sign of having a diversity of perspectives and voices from the business world. We do not currently measure ethnic diversity or other aspects of diversity amongst our speakers as we do not currently have a reliable way to receive this statistic from self-reporting.

FEMALE
MALE
PREFER NOT TO SAY

30.57% speakers or company visits with ESG/Sustainability focus

We are pleased to report that we achieved just over 30% of our business meetings arranged on our programs with an ESG or sustainability focus. We define this as either the speaker themselves whose job function is related to this area, e.g. Director of Sustainability, or the organization itself has a social impact or sustainability focus as the company mission. The percentage is across all business meetings arranged regardless of how many per program; that is to say that some programs may have had more than 30% – which is often the case in sustainability or social impact-focused programs – and some may have had less.

Challenges:

Oftentimes our university clients have other priorities for their visits and specific requirements that do not allow us to put this into the program; in the end we are generally bound to their preferences, though we worked to push this more in 2023 and have found a positive reception from our business school partners in incorporating more of these visits. Speaker availability is another challenge when working to include a specific focus in a program – both from a scheduling standpoint as well as how much a particular destination has to offer in this area.

Austral team member self-initiative highlight

In 2023, Austral incorporated a new employee benefit called the “Penguin Huddle” to encourage colleagues to get together in person once a month for a meal, whether lunch or dinner, paid for by the company. This was deemed as important for several reasons: both to combat the stress & isolation that can often arise from remote work, and to foster stronger connections between colleagues and across departments. While our teams across the world usually take full advantage of this benefit, in some instances they have decided to forego the monetary benefit, still getting together but instead to help others who are more in need around the holidays:

“With the Australitos of Argentina this December we decided to donate our Huddle Benefit to putting together Christmas Boxes for 5 different families from Santiago del Estero, province from the center north of Argentina. This activity is organized by Fundación Vida y Pizarrón.
This is a common practice in Argentina where different social organizations invite families and friends to assemble boxes with basic food for a Christmas dinner and also gifts for the families who will receive the boxes. We were assigned 5 families and this was our December Huddle. On December 17th the boxes will travel 1200km to Paraje Quimilioj in Santiago del Estero to be delivered to the families in time to prepare a Christmas dinner.”

We are inspired by these types of initiatives which are often entirely self-directed by employees, and plan to incorporate more of these ideas in 2024 to better support the communities where we live and run programs while also fostering connection between colleagues.

E
Environmental

ESG 1

Energy Efficiency

ESG 2

GHC Emissions

S
Social

ESG 

Staff Turnover


ESG 4

Training & Qualifications


ESG 5

Maturity of Workforce


ESG 6

Absenteeism Rate

G
GOVERNANCE

ESG 7

Litigation Risks

 

ESG 8

Corruptions

V
LONG TERM VIABILITY

ESG 9

Revenue from

New Products

Methodology:

We use a proven methodology based on KPIs within the EFFAS framework to measure and report our progress. This helps us track our sustainability efforts and demonstrate improvement over time. Transparent reporting of ESG metrics is crucial for stakeholders to evaluate our sustainability performance and ensure accountability.

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Define Scope 1, 2, 3 emissions

In order to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, we first need to understand and measure where they come from. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol of 2001 – the world’s most widely used greenhouse gas accounting standard – defined these according to three scopes, as a way to categorize the different kinds of emissions a company creates in its own operations and its wider value chain (suppliers and customers):

Scope 1: emissions from sources that an organization owns or controls directly. Example: from burning fuel in the company’s fleet of vehicles

Scope 2: emissions a company causes indirectly from the energy it purchases and uses. Example: the generation of electricity that is used in the company’s buildings

Scope 3: all emissions not covered in Scope 1 or 2, which are created by a company’s value chain. Example: when the company buys, uses and disposes of products from suppliers.

(Source)

Measuring our
GHG Emissions

Though we do not yet have a standardized and accurate method for measuring the exact percentage of our business in each Scope, we already know that most of our business operations consist of Scope 2 and 3 emissions, given that we do not produce materials ourselves that cause GHG emissions, but rather provide a service which involves working with partners who do produce emissions. The largest example are the flights that our student groups take to travel on our programs (which we will cover more below).

Our biggest challenge here is measuring in a standard way all of the Scope 2 and 3 emissions given how many partners we have around the world who would also need to measure their emissions – and many of them are not yet doing this. In 2023 we were not able to pull all of this data, but it is a key goal for the company moving forward to work together with all of our stakeholders to gather this data.

In 2022, we measured the dollar energy consumption at our office locations to gain insights into our energy usage – a statistic that represents Scope 2 emissions. For 2023, we decided to set further priorities on measuring our internal flights, because the energy consumption from the flights for our workforce is far greater than those of our two physical offices. We can have a larger impact if we prioritize measuring and reducing staff flights rather than physical office energy consumption, since we are a mostly remote work company. These flights are considered Scope 3 emissions.

In the future it will be key to measure and minimize all Scope 2 and 3 emissions rather than choosing the one that has the highest environmental impact, but this is a longer-term project which will require several years of data gathering.

Flights Carbon Offset

Air travel is the most significant contributor to our corporate and operational carbon footprint, and we are committed to minimizing this impact by reducing non-essential trips, flying economy for essential trips, and carbon offsetting. In the beginning of 2023, we set a company-wide goal of offsetting 50% of all group flights we arrange for students in our programs (applies to international and domestic flights in our dual destination programs), as well as 100% of our corporate and internal operation flights.

We expected our university partners to be more enthusiastic and willing to support our flight offsetting initiatives, but there were several issues with this idea. For many of our programs, schools allow students to arrange their own flights, and those students may prefer to offset on their own, either directly with the airline or another partner. In other cases, schools already do their own flight offsetting since they arrange the flights themselves. Finally, there were also budgetary constraints in which some of our university partners told us they could not afford the offsetting. For 2023, as we were not embedding these offsets into our flight pricing yet, we depended on the approval of the university. For 2024, we have now embedded the carbon offset cost with our partner Moss calculator into the cost for all of our group flights.

We had one massive success case in 2023 with Rice University, having offset the total emissions from all of their 2023 trips. With Rice we had a total of 427 participants travel on 12 different programs, and offset 548.44 tonnes of CO2.

Other CO2 Footprint Data: hotels

In 2023 we began to gather data from hotels which report their CO2 footprint. For hotels which were unable to provide us this number, we looked at other hotels of similar category and same region and used the data from other hotels to extrapolate and do our best estimate to measure the footprint. However, we recognize many faults in this method – on the one hand, we cannot fully confirm the accuracy of the footprint that hotels report to us, as we do not know what reporting standards or methods they are using, and on the other, our estimated calculation of those hotels which do not measure their footprint could be even more inaccurate due to using potentially already inaccurate reporting from other hotels. This is not by any means our final reporting step; 2023 was the first year we set a goal to measure this, and we are working to adopt a standard in the future. One issue we have seen is that hotels use different standards and often report in different ways. For example, some hotels use separate providers for their laundry services, rather than performing this service at the hotel itself, therefore they may not count the emissions from that laundry service in their CO2 footprint calculation.

32,019

total nights operated

740,153

kg of CO2

One Tree Planted
partnership

We officially inaugurated this partnership in September 2023, planting one tree for every person who travels on a program with us. One Tree Planted is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit on a mission to make it simple for anyone to help the environment by planting trees. Their projects span the globe and are done in partnership with local communities and environmental organizations to create an impact for nature, people, and wildlife.

Screenshot 2023-12-06 at 20.58.39
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Once we have calculated and tried to reduce our carbon footprint, we offset the remaining emissions by purchasing carbon credits from our trusted partners at Moss Earth.

For 2022, we estimated our corporate carbon footprint as 223 tons of CO2 and purchased the equivalent 223 carbon credits through our partners at Moss Earth. These carbon credits are going towards conservation projects in the Amazon rainforest. You can learn more about the projects they benefit here.

Air travel is the most significant contributor to our corporate and operational carbon footprint. However, we are committed to minimizing our impact by offsetting our corporate and internal operation flights and the group flights we arrange for students in our programs. This commitment applies to international and domestic flights in our dual destination programs.

Other Initiatives:

Recycling and composting stations in our Santiago offices
Recycling and composting stations in our Santiago offices
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Staff Turnover:

Tracking employee turnover and training rates is crucial for assessing our commitment to employee retention, engagement, and professional development. To understand employee turnover, we measure the percentage of employees leaving per year out of the total number of full-time equivalent (FTE) employees. 

Maintaining a solid team is crucial for our success and growth. Hiring the best, offering continuous training, enhancing our employee benefits, and creating perks are critical strategies for retaining our team, which is vital in preserving valuable skills, knowledge, and experience within our company.

At Austral Education Group, we understand the importance of employee retention to ensure diverse perspectives for sustained growth.

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Other Initiatives:

English course reimbursement
English course reimbursement
Sabbatical
Sabbatical

Training & Qualifications:

LMS platform

While initial work to develop it began in 2022, our corporate training platform – TalentLMS – was fully functional and involved more courses in 2023.

At Austral Group we take pride in fostering a learning culture and providing all of our employees with the opportunity to grow and develop their skills. We believe that investing in our team’s professional growth and development is crucial to providing exceptional service to our clients. Our training program covers all of our employees´ training needs, from technical skills to softs skills. Our team of subject matter trainers are dedicated to providing the necessary tools and resources for our employees to reach their full potential. We support our employees´ training needs and learning journey, and we encourage them to continue learning and developing their
Roles.

Leadership Forum

In November 2023, we gathered leaders at the company in Santiago, Chile for exercises on how to be better leaders and future strategic planning for the company….

Maturity of Workforce: Understanding our Workforce’s Age Diversity and Planning for Succession

We believe in analyzing our team’s age structure and distribution. By examining the number of employees in each age group within 10-year intervals, we gain valuable insights into the age diversity of our talent.

Additionally, we recognize the significance of planning for the future through retirement projections. By estimating the percentage of the workforce expected to retire in the next five years, we can effectively plan for succession and talent management to provide growth opportunities where possible and to secure top talent for critical roles that minimize disruptions to our ability to deliver key aspects of our programs.

By focusing on age diversity and retirement projections, we can ensure a well-rounded approach to maintaining a thriving and capable workforce for years to come.

200w-2
Maturity of workforce IMAGE
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Embracing Diversity:
Enhancing Our Global Perspective

We take pride in our commitment to diversity within our teams. By monitoring age diversity, retirement projections, and hiring the best candidates, we believe diversity is fundamental to our success. It is the key that unlocks new ways of thinking and enables us to thrive in the rich tapestry of global destinations and cultures. Our team’s diversity is reflected in age and our ethnic and cultural backgrounds as team members collaborate across the globe. We are proud to harness the power of diversity in our team to drive innovation and growth.


From Arabic to Vietnamese

While English is our common working language, our team is linguistically diverse, and we speak 11 languages collectively.

English, Spanish, and Portuguese are the top 3 native languages in our team.

Absenteeism rate (Health Rate): We measure a healthy work life balance based on the number of days non labor law related time off used.
In 2022, our awesome team members took a total of 151 days off for personal reasons, not related to their vacations like moving homes, celebrating their birthdays, getting married, and taking sabbaticals.

Standardization of vacation days: In January 2023, the Talent & Organizational Development team announced that there would be a new company-wide policy with 20 paid vacation days, rather than previously using the amount allotted in each country where staff are located. The purpose of this was to further emphasize our commitment to a healthy work-life balance, and to ensure a standard across the whole world, as some countries’ labor laws offered fewer days than others.

End of year company break: In 2023 we also inaugurated the end of year company break between Christmas and New Years Even, for everyone at the company to take a break to be with their families and friends during the holiday period.

Compensation Days: The company may sometimes require work on weekends, holidays or beyond standard office hours due to the nature of our business in the education travel industry; these are then given as Compensation Days. We encourage employees to compensate for the extra time worked as soon as possible to get the required rest and maintain as normal a working schedule as possible.

As a company we face continued challenges with encouraging employees to take their compensation days off within a certain period of time after spending the extra hours working. The purpose is that the employee does not continue working more hours during the week or over a period of several weeks than is reasonable for mental and physical health, however it is difficult during high season to manage employee burnout while maintaining high program quality. We acknowledge that we still have room for improvement here to avoid burnout during our high season from March to end of May.

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Other Initiatives:

Gympass membership
Gympass membership
Stress management trainings
Stress management trainings
Healthy foods cooked in our Santiago Office
Healthy foods cooked in our Santiago Office
4

Company decision makers
Leadership Positions & Board of Directors: Gender Diversity:
Within Leadership and Management positions at the company, we are around the 50/50 gender breakdown. At the C-level, we recognize there is room for improvement.

Executive Board members 

Litigation Risks:
Expenses and fines related to anti-competitive behavior:


We track expenses and fines incurred due to legal actions, filings, or lawsuits related to anti-competitive behavior, antitrust, and monopoly practices.
Reserves for preventive measures:
We set aside reserves to implement preventive measures against anti-competitive behavior, antitrust, and monopoly practices.
Litigation payments:
We report on payments made and reserves set aside for other legal matters.

zero

Corruption: Our objective is to keep our revenue sources clean and transparent. We closely monitor the percentage of our total revenue from countries with a corruption index below 60. Our goal is to ensure that this percentage remains below 5%. For 2022, the countries within our portfolio falling below this threshold were Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, South Africa, Poland, and Costa Rica.

Total for 2022: 1.7%

Financial Audit: We began a financial audit in the 2023 year which is still ongoing, so there are no materials ready yet to share.

5

Product Lifecycle and Margin Contributions: We analyze the portion of our revenue that comes from our different products (academic travel, experiential learning, and online education).
Our goal in 2022 was to create an online education portfolio that made more than 5% of our total travel profits. This not only ensured ongoing initiatives in case travel were to be halted, but also strengthened our relationships with global corporate partners, pairing them with student consulting teams that used experiential, real-world learning to tackle their business challenges and maximize their opportunities. 

Revenue from New Products:
Investing in products and development of travel destinations is key to ensuring our sustainable growth. We have allocated permanent resources to support this ongoing progress. In addition to working closely with business schools, we have also formed partnerships with schools of education, law, and hospitality. Furthermore, we have developed exciting travel programs for corporate partners focused on leadership development.

Reflection & Looking Forward by newly appointed ESG Lead, Sarah Taylor

Austral Group has a mission to do good in the world, and our successes and growth in the past 18 years demonstrate our potential for a greater impact. After 6 years I have witnessed this positive impact and greater potential on countless occasions; when I see my colleagues decide to donate their penguin huddle for the month of December to families in need, it truly inspires me. Our focus on ESG reporting is more than a compliance exercise; it’s a testament to our belief that businesses can be a force for good. We are actively working to integrate these values into every facet of our operations.

The ESG/Sustainability field today is rapidly evolving with new reporting standards emerging what feels like every month. This presents a big challenge ahead, but also an opportunity. To lead the industry in sustainability, we must develop a comprehensive measuring and reporting system, possibly starting with another materiality assessment to identify and prioritize significant ESG topics relevant to our operations and stakeholders.

Thus my initial task is to evaluate our current reporting system, used for the 2023 report, and compare it with other options. This is complex due to our industry’s diverse nature, spanning education, tourism, and consulting. Our extensive Scope 3 emissions are daunting but manageable with the right tools. By engaging all stakeholders—providers, suppliers, university and corporate clients, investors, and employees—we can embed sustainability into every aspect of our (and their) operations and achieve a significant impact.

This is our challenge: we are in the early stages with extensive planning, data collection, and hard decisions ahead. Initially, we must assess our current state, which is difficult due to a lack of data collection tools. Once this is achieved, we can set realistic goals for the next 1, 3, and 5 years. Is achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 feasible? Can we secure B Corp certification by 2028? Which international standards should we follow?

We have yet to define these exact goals, a task for the coming months. We are considering partnerships with corporate and university associates to collaboratively develop initiatives and objectives. Although our full plan is not finalized, we know in the meantime we will continue inspiring future student leaders, connecting them with individuals doing remarkable work for the world, and exploring ways to reduce our carbon footprint and enhance employee well-being.

In conclusion, the path to sustainability is not easy, but it’s a journey worth taking. By focusing on comprehensive ESG reporting and community-driven initiatives, Austral can lead the way in responsible business practices.