Responsible Travel founder takes new role as joint managing directors appointed

A change in leadership at Responsible Travel has seen founder and chief executive Justin Francis become executive chair.

Operations director Richard Skinner and customer director Tim Williamson become joint managing directors and will oversee the daily running of the company.

The top level restructure coincides with a period of growth at the company, as it recruits to meet rising customer demand and expands its member partnerships team.

Francis will remain heavily involved in the business, while also being able to dedicate more time to his activism, speaking and advisory work as well as other roles including biodiversity lead for the UK’s Council for Sustain able Business and board director for Responsible Travel partner, Saruni Basecamp in Kenya.

He said: “Responsible Travel has passed a milestone of 200,000 customers and 2023 was, by a very long way, our best ever year.

“As a business, and as travellers, we’ve followed [American poet] Robert Frost who said, ‘two roads diverged in a wood – I took the one less travelled by, and that has made all the difference’.

“The road ahead for Responsible Travel and our industry will face many more forks, and I’ll be spending more time externally celebrating our achievements and advocating for better tourism.”

The new structured leadership’s first collective act was to sever ties to Barclays Bank, following concerns over its fossil fuel investments. The company has become the first travel client at Unity Trust Bank – an independent commercial bank with a responsible investment strategy.

Williamson, a former customer director at Tui UK, said: “Tourism can and does do so much good, but it also contributes heavily to climate heating.

“We need to work to address that in every way we can across our industry and within our businesses. Every business should look at what its cash is being used to fund and ensure investments aren’t fuelling the climate crisis.

“Divesting from banks and energy suppliers that invest in fossil fuels are two impactful ways we can help cut carbon and support nature. It’s a powerfully positive but often simple act to support renewables, not fossil fuels.”

He added: “We’re a values-led company. It’s more pressing than ever to ensure those values are baked into every area of our business – and this is one of them.

“Barclays supported us through the pandemic when we needed that, but they also invested over $16 billion into fossil fuels in 2022 alone.

“Investing with them made us part of that problem. The world of ethical banking is small, though growing, and it took time to find the right alternative – but the investment values at Unity Trust Bank are a great match for us.”

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