‘Carbon Offsetting Company’. It’s all in the name.
Throughout the pandemic, an exciting new startup entering the travel space traded possible names for this new company via a team WhatsApp group.
They settled on COCO+.
We’ve established what COCO means, but what about the ‘+’? This is a reference to their pledge to offset ‘just that little bit more’.
For COCO+, carbon neutrality isn’t good enough. They pledge to ‘always go the extra mile, offsetting an additional 1% of your total carbon footprint, so your carbon emissions aren’t just offset— they’re Offset+.’
We sat down with Travel Operations Director, Aisha Battersby, and COO and Co-Founder, Phil Brown, to talk about the ideas behind COCO+ and the company’s inception. We also discuss the reaction to their ‘moves’ in the travel space and why they place such a value on ‘doing good’ in the world.
For our sixth edition of Travelogix Presents, we welcome COCO+.
They’re green at their core.
Starting in hospitality, COO and Co-Founder, Phil Brown – along with CEO and Founder Neil Fincham-Dukes – frequently discussed their ambitions to improve Travel. Both the commercial complexities in and around Online Travel Agents (OTAs) and Hotels and tackling the important issues surrounding travel and climate change.
Phil said: “We asked ourselves, ‘what would we need to do to move consumers away from their current booking provider and towards something that could really shake things up”
“We wanted to give consumers a simple reason for switching. This is where the environmental and climate rationale came into play. Being able to provide a simple, inexpensive way to manage their travel emissions while providing a seamless user experience at the same time, we spotted a gap in the market.”
Launching into the B2B space first, COCO+ led with their fuel card programme. A simple, but uniquely powerful proposition – especially during the pandemic.
Cars were still on the roads and companies still needed to get from A to B – this fuel card was effectively the drivers ‘carbon footprint, in the palm of their hand’ which ‘automatically offsets all fuel purchased.’
This was the beginning for COCO+, and they didn’t stop there.
Phil said, “the mechanism for everything we have done so far is the same. We take a defined data source, Governmental data for example, and then provide the ‘output’ (emissions) to the customer.
“We’re then able to take the CO2 amount and offset this on behalf of the company/customer”
This is all done with their Carbon Offsetting partner, ClimateCare – who ‘help organisations take responsibility for their climate impact by financing, developing and managing carbon reduction projects around the world’
Phil says, “we purchase our carbon credits through our partners, ClimateCare. They’re a world-renowned agency that works with huge PLCs, down to smaller companies like us.
“They’re UN certified who are the gold standard within the climate space. They’re also a Certified B-Corporation which leans into the true ‘green’ credentials we value so much at COCO+”
Tackling the business travel space posed different questions for the team at COCO+. Phil said, “we realised in building a TMC, we needed to think ‘technology first’. Who were the leaders in their field that could help us realise our true potential?”
“We investigated building the segments ourselves, but if we went down that road we wouldn’t be sitting here now. We decided to work with industry leaders in their discipline to create a compelling technology stack.
“So, we have Vibe on the front end, ProCon sitting in the middle and then Travelogix sitting at the back – with our data – it has been the perfect blend.”
New kids on the block.
I guess you never really know how you’ll be received in the market you’re trying to penetrate. What will prospective clients think of the solution? What will the uptake be? Is there scalability and will clients buy into the proposition?
Market research and consumer/customer engagement will play a huge role in sounding this out, but there is a ‘leap of faith’ needed at some point.
The companies that took this ‘leap of faith’ in, or around, the pandemic should be respected and applauded.
The pandemic has increased the profile of sustainability within travel, and rightly so. It has never been so high on the agenda.
“COCO+ are talking about business issues in a very different way”, says Aisha Battersby. “As a result, the reception we have received from prospective customers has been overwhelmingly positive”
She continues, “we are offering more than a business travel solution. Many companies now have targets around social and environmental objectives – COCO+ answers a lot of these questions in one place”
I guess most companies understand their travel category these days, perhaps more so than this new crop of objectives around CSR and ESG. “The conversation is rarely just about travel – we spend time on topics around sustainability and the social responsibility that companies have more broadly, essentially – how can we run your travel programme in a more sustainable way?”, Aisha says.
Does sustainability get the airtime that it deserves?
Yes, the profile for sustainability has increased. But has it really? And with enough impact?
Aisha said, “where we are today, from around three years ago – is quite remarkable. The engagement is far better.
“Conversations with senior procurement directors have been illuminating as to where objectives are for some corporates.
“We’ve had meetings in which we’ve been told health and safety of the workforce is the number one objective, and sustainability – and how processes are made more sustainable – is a close run second.”
For companies to realise these new objectives, data will be key. We know that being data lovers ourselves.
Accuracy will be king and understanding the baseline in which your business operates will be crucial to understanding your offsetting possibilities.
Leaning more about your output is not only crucial for businesses but also important for the consumer/employee to be well-equipped and well-informed.
Phil said, “there need to be a defined criteria around data, what does accuracy look like etc. Only then can legislation come in to mandate certain metrics.”
He continues, “for example, for hotel data, we are presented with country averages rather than granular details around how a property is managed – this cannot provide the level of accuracy needed. The legislation would change this immediately”
Are we collectively doing enough to support sustainability?
Legislation. There’s a powerful word.
But when talking about sustainability, does legislation have a bigger role to play than we once thought.
We know that the 2001 Environment Act allows the UK to ‘enshrine better environmental protection into law. It provides the Government with powers to set new binding targets, including for air quality, water, biodiversity, and waste reduction.’ – Client Earth Communication, December 2020
But what of travel?
Enacting laws to force our hands when it comes to sustainability seems to be coming down the track. Although Phil states, “we were surprised how little legislation came out of last year’s COP26. There were many rumours pre-event that we would have something of note. This wasn’t the case.”
Outside of the ‘commitments’ around decreasing air pollution, our planet-wide deforestation problem and widespread coal consumption – it perhaps fell short of what could have been a breakthrough two weeks in Glasgow.
On a more positive note, however, reforestation, which plays a significant role in carbon offsetting, came away with significant promise.
Leaders representing over 85% of the world’s forests will commit to halt and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030 and £8.75 billion ($12bn) of public funds will be committed to protect and restore forests, alongside £5.3 billion ($7.2 billion) of private investment.
Aisha said, “I feel legislation will arrive down to the large enterprise/blue-chip companies, the consumer will continue to demand change as they are becoming more aware of the environmental situation – at some point, these two worlds will meet in the middle.
“People want to understand carbon emissions, data, sustainability more broadly, and want to do better, they know it is a problem, but it is not easy – we want to change that. We want to educate consumers which in turn, will enable them to make more informed decisions when buying travel.”
What does the future hold for COCO+?
They’re not done. COCO+ want to make sustainability tangible for the end-user.
Phil said, “We have aspirations as to where we want to take COCO+ as a business. All the ideas we have will be centered around sustainability and technology.”
Aisha added, “I believe we can ultimately become a revered TMC in the travel space. Providing solutions that can operate in any country as there is a global need for the problems we solve.
“I see COCO+ as a business services provider, and Travel is just a component of that tool kit.
“When I look back, from the moment I joined the company, I realised that this is a business that wants to do ‘good things’ in the world, and B-Corp status is the rubber stamp to showcase this.
“My thinking is if we are going to ‘do business’, can we conduct it in a way that ultimately has a positive impact, can we create a community in travel who are more informed and better educated on sustainability and global impact?
“Once growth is achieved, are we then able to start to influence the sustainability agenda across the travel space? This would be hugely exciting.”
COCO+ are green at their core. They want to make the offsetting process a standard offering for all travellers. They want to ‘create a world where everyone is empowered to offset their carbon footprint at no extra cost, with no extra effort’.
They’re more than a TMC. They’re a TMC who care deeply about our planet, and about the sort of planet we want to leave for generations to come.
They don’t ‘bolt on’ the sustainability piece as an additional ‘nice to have’, it’s wrapped up in their service offering to clients.
Placing value on technology, and the role that technology plays in our industry hugely falls in line with our own core belief here at Travelogix. COCO+ have embraced technology and they’re willing to work with well-respected category leaders to offer up the very best, and most sustainable solution, possible.
In the words of COCO+ – ‘let’s give a s**t, together!