Being friendly to Planet Earth is a big part of how Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris does business. So much so that a recent sustainability audit found the company needed to start talking that up.
Now the company dedicates a page on its website to explaining its sustainability efforts, like giving guests souvenir aluminum water bottles and serving them near-zero-waste lunches (see box).
Outgoing emails contain the company’s environmental credo. And during training, guides are hearing more about sustainability and how to tastefully work that message into their trips.
“We are trying to position the business to have an impact,” said CEO Jason Williams, who started the tour company in 2007. “We are making sure that in our materials we are starting to shout out a little louder the things we’d doing to have a minimal impact on the environment. We’re also educating people why.”
Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris was recently certified as BEST, short for Business Emerald Sustainability Tier, a program offered by the Riverwind Foundation to Teton County Integrated Solid Waste and Recycling’s Reduce Reuse Recycle Business Leaders.
The Jackson nonprofit takes applicants through a checklist of best practices, then connects them to people and other resources that can help them fill gaps.
Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris, whose offerings include trips into Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, is the first BEST tour operator. Three lodging companies, Jackson Hole Airport and the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce have been certified.
It’s good to see a wildlife tour company on the list, said Tim O’Donoghue, the Riverwind Foundation’s executive director.
“Tour operators, more so than most businesses, have the ability to educate and influence their clients,” O’Donoghue said. “The clients are with them for a half day or a full day or maybe overnight.”
Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris would like to be a positive influence on other businesses, including those in its own line of work.
“We are part of an industry that has a ton of companies,” said Jenny Fitzgerald, sustainability director. “We hope that we can raise the bar and have them follow. We can’t expect that unless we’re putting that out there.”
Trip guides will be key influencers.
“If there’s any single thing that will get this message out is that our guides are aware of why we’re doing these things,” Williams said.
The company isn’t trying to brag, nor is it wagging finger at anybody. Williams said he’s always been leery of “greenwashing,” which is when a company puffs itself up as eco-friendly in ads and marketing when it’s really not.
BEST, he said, is a “meaningful, real certification. There’s a third-party evaluator that goes through the business from top to bottom. ... You’re definitely shining a light in dark corners of the business trying to figure out places for improvements.”
Though Riverwind charges a $300 fee for BEST certification, Fitzgerald and Williams said that doesn’t make the certification any less credible. That’s a bargain, they said, considering how many hours of consulting they got.
“It’s an organization,” Fitzgerald said. “They have staff and overhead. You’re getting that expertise to help you as a business find ways to improve your operations.”
As a result of BEST, Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris has taken steps like arranging for composting and creating procedures to measure its progress and improvements
“We were doing 95% of the actual best practices,” Williams said. “The biggest thing was that we weren’t really communicating out those core elements of sustainability.”
The idea is to organically amplify the message.
“You’re not mandating,” Williams said. With recycling, for example, ”other organizations see this is what’s expected by their clients and suddenly everybody is recycling.”
One message Jackson Hole Wildlife Safaris has for other companies is that sustainability is good for the bottom line: for hiring and retaining solid employees, for reducing waste, for trimming costs and for pleasing customers.
“You’re going to save money through better operating practices,” Williams said.