Sustainability at the Core: ATTA Launches Sustainability Policy and Fund

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As we enter our 20th year of leading and growing the Adventure Travel Trade Association (ATTA), I would love to share a memory that highlights the philosophies that have driven our success as an organization serving a global industry. In 2009, Gustavo and I were paddling side by side in sea kayaks in the world’s only tropical fjord – located in Saco do Mamanguá, Paraty, Brasil. 

“The ATTA should be a stronger voice for conservation,” Gustavo challenged me, unprompted. “How can we expand the positive impact sustainable adventure travel brings to destinations, local entrepreneurs, guides, and the whole community?” 

At the time, I admit I pushed back a bit. While we did hold these beliefs, we were still a fledgling organization emerging from the 2008 financial crisis: I was focused on our survival. That was not good enough for Gustavo. “No – you have to do both,” he said. And he was right. 

Sustainability Policy

Now in 2024, we are in a much different position. As a global organization with a responsibility to lead our community in facing social, economic, and environmental challenges together, we have now defined a Sustainability Policy with clear objectives and goals to support us in expanding our impact. This commitment is part of our recently launched Sustainability Resources Center, which we announced last month.

Our thoughts, planning, actions, and collaborations are guided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). We have specifically defined how the ATTA works to fight poverty, provide education opportunities, promote gender equality, create economic opportunities, develop sustainable communities and tourism models, protect biodiversity, and support climate action.

We reference the Brundtland report’s definition of sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Our goals are organized into three main objectives, with clear actions for each:


  1. Measure, reduce, and mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions of ATTA by focusing on the impact of our event footprints and the travel of our team and hosted delegates, with a goal of reducing 5% to 10% each year for the next five years. 


  1. Encourage our members to review their business commitments to sustainability and climate action policies and make meaningful positive changes, with a goal to have 100% of our membership formally committed to sustainability by 2026. 
  2. Encourage travelers to consider their impact on the climate and choose to travel with sustainable providers that are committed to positive change in how we travel.
  3. Encourage our host destination partners to be conscious of their sustainability actions in event operations by increasing positive and decreasing negative impacts according to each region’s capacities.
  4. Embed sustainability and climate principles into all ATTA products and services by showing how adventures can be done with a smaller footprint each year.
  5. Discover and leverage expertise within our community to help us reach our goals.
  6. Fund and support conservation and climate solutions to enact real and measurable change at the destination level.


  1. Use our resources, events, and network to communicate and share best practices and key concepts relevant to sustainability and climate action in travel.
  2. Provide our community with easy access to tools and resources that support their individual sustainability and climate journey.
  3. Report transparently on our emissions, the actions we take, and the results. It will not be an easy challenge but we aim to share the wins and failures with our community. 

See the ATTA Sustainability Policy

© ATTA / Hassen Salum – ATWS 2019 
Sustainability Fund

In order to support the ATTA Sustainability Policy and its goals, as of 2024 we are also establishing a Sustainability Fund, which will support our ongoing commitment to climate education and innovation through Tomorrow’s Air and nature-based conservation projects through the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund (ATCF). 

The main objectives of the Sustainability Fund are to enable a year-over-year reduction in ATTA per-event delegate emissions and finance nature conservation projects across the globe. The Sustainability Fund will support the implementation of reduction actions including:

  • Carbon measurement and education on ATTA activities
  • Education and training through Tomorrow’s Air
  • Removal contributions focused on sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) through Tomorrow’s Air
  • Nature-based conservation projects through the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund (ATCF)

The financing for the Sustainability Fund will come from ATTA events and projects worldwide. Each year, we will report activities and provide updates in our policy and guidelines. The funding allocation based on the main reduction actions stated above will be defined on an annual basis and publicly shared. 

Learn More About the Sustainability Fund

20 Years of Action and Learning 

That ocean kayaking trip in 2009 was part of a lifetime journey and core belief that adventure travel can be a force for good. The call to commit to sustainability stuck. Even when ATTA was still getting on its feet, sustainability was part of the DNA of the people and the community we brought together over the last 20 years. And we have found it has had a multiplying effect. By making clear our ethics and demands for responsibility, we have attracted people who have all worked together to help define adventure travel as a sustainable industry. 

Over the years, the adventure travel community has encouraged conversations and actions to put sustainability at the forefront of what we all do. At the ATTA, most of what we have done has been methodical. We began by partnering with organizations that at the time were best known for responsible tourism – I joined the early board of the Global Sustainable Travel Council, working to share the principles of GSTC with our community. Then in 2014, we collaborated with members to develop the Adventure Travel Guide Standards, which have sustainability as a core principle. 

© ATTA / Lukasz Warzecha – ATWS 2015

But some of our sustainability efforts have been a result of being forced out of our comfort zone. In 2015, we had established a goal for our events to be carbon neutral in the coming years, but we knew it would take some time to do it right. Enter our dear and departed friend Rafa Gallo, who was the emcee of the Adventure Travel World Summit in Puerto Varas, Chile that year. With no warning, as he closed the event, he proudly announced from the stage that the ATTA would offset 100% of the Summit’s carbon footprint. There was a standing ovation from the audience as we took deep breaths and realized now we were committed. I looked at Rafa who shot me a glance of, “You can, and will do this.”  And we did find a way – Rafa pushed us into immediate action. 

This continued commitment to environmental sustainability propelled us to launch the Adventure Travel Conservation Fund in 2016, with the goal of supporting conservation grassroots projects and expanding the work that ATTA and our community does on the conservation front lines. ATCF is today ATTA’s official non-profit arm, with a significant track record of conservation projects delivered across the globe making a difference in destinations, and well more than $500,000 invested on the ground in important projects.

Over the years, the ATTA has led several initiatives focused on conservation, climate action, women in leadership, and eliminating single-use plastics. These efforts were made possible by bringing together destinations, experts, and companies to showcase their work around sustainability at our events and throughout our education programs across the globe.

In a dynamic mode we have evolved with our community, learning and adapting along the way. We launched Neutral Together in an effort to support collective carbon offsets; we now see this going in a different direction, as carbon offsetting becomes more and more controversial. As a result, we pivoted and launched Tomorrow´s Air, our flagship climate action initiative combining education and storytelling, with the power of our community to accelerate clean-up solutions focused on climate removal technologies. Christina Beckmann, the head of Tomorrow’s Air, was recently named one of 2024’s Most Influential Women in Travel.

We’ve learned a lot along the way. We haven’t always gotten it right, but we remain committed. Sustainability has been at the core of our actions over the last 20 years and we understand that this is still something that requires us to stay vigilant and continue evolving.

© ATTA / Cameron Martindell – AW Chile 2013
Looking Ahead

Sustainability is a complex and overwhelming topic that demands a pragmatic approach. We will continue to lead by example, inspire by doing, vigorously learn, iterate on those learnings, and showcase what our community does in all aspects of sustainability. By collaborating with partners and experts, we will continue to design, gather, and provide solutions for the adventure travel community. The ATTA is committed to leading how the adventure travel sector is seen, and being a force for good in the travel industry. 

Last year we were proudly able to join the 1% for the Planet community, in large part as a result of our efforts with ATCF. Soon, you will hear more about how our community can get involved with 1% for the Planet. And there is still more to come. In the coming weeks, we will have more exciting news to share about how we want to co-create a path for all ATTA members to have a formal commitment to sustainability. 

Adventure travel has always been an innovative sector leading the charge for better practices, and we know that by working together we’ll always be more impactful than alone.

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