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Meet Andrew Karanja, a Travelife Approved Auditor
Each month we feature an interview with a Travelife Approved Auditor. We have around 60 independently contracted auditors based around the world that must undergo an intensive training programme before they can audit with us. To continue carrying out audits for Travelife they must complete annual refresher training and a yearly performance review. Click here to find out more about our requirements for auditors.
Location: Nairobi, Kenya
Languages: English and Swahili
Total auditing experience: 10 years
Travelife auditing experience: 8 years
Specialisations: Sustainability, environmental management, Environmental and Social Safeguards (ESS), health and safety, risk assessments, fire safety, food safety and Ra-Cert (the certification division of Rainforest Alliance)
Auditing fields: Agriculture, tour operators, infrastructure (roads, railway), commercial and industrial developments, oil and gas sector
Andrew’s auditing journey began in high school where he was so keen to ensure that there was no litter in the grounds and that everything was properly maintained, he was elected to be in charge of weekly inspections at the boarding hostel. That was his first experience of audits and environmental management, developing a passion that led him to pursue a bachelors degree in environmental studies, then a Masters of Science in environmental management with his next goal being to pursue a PhD in the field. He believes that keeping his knowledge current is an essential part of the role so he continues to complete various courses covering topics, such as climate change, gender mainstreaming, health and safety, risk assessment and environmental impact assessments.
Andrew is passionate about exploring new places and loves to travel, something he has to do often for his work. He says his favourite part of sustainability auditing is helping to create awareness of environmental best practices and learning about what businesses are doing to improve their impacts, with the best innovations he has found being in hotels. One his favourite examples is from Baobab Beach Resort and Spa in Diani, Kenya. Andrew said that despite being one of the bigger resorts in the region, they knew that investment in improving their impacts was important and as a result they saw significant environmental and business benefits.
“Baobab Beach Resort reviewed their entire purchasing policy to see where they could reduce, reuse and recycle, resulting in significant reductions in single-use plastics.”
He says the property went even further by building a nature trail that would encourage and protect biodiversity. This now provides a natural habitat for birds, butterflies, baboons, colobus and vervet monkeys, something that their guests enjoy and that their staff are really proud of.
He thinks the lesson for other businesses is that these kinds of improvements do not have to be expensive. He says it is important to look at the whole picture of sustainability when assessing the cost and time involved. They should see this as an investment in their future and a way to create staff and guest loyalty, as well as better community relations.
When we asked what advice he would give to businesses, he said that everyone should have at least a basic environmental management plan that outlines their key impacts on water, energy, waste and general pollution. That should be used to formulate some realistic targets to start with, such as reducing energy use by 5%, something that can be low-cost and straightforward to achieve. For example, replacing all light bulbs with LEDs and installing sensors in hallways. Once the first goal is achieved, set a new one, thus breaking improvements down into manageable pieces of work that still ensure a business is continually reducing their footprint.
If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it!
Andrew says that appointing a staff member who is given time and resources to monitor progress is essential. This would involve them recording daily measurements of things like water and energy use. This allows the business to see how well they are doing, making adjustments as needed. And when achievements are made, the business should be letting everyone know about them through social media, their website and so on. He believes the latter is essential not only for marketing the business, but also creates awareness of sustainability.
“Always prepare for an audit by carrying out an internal self-assessment first so that you can ‘put your house in order’ before the auditor arrives.”
Andrew has some final advice for businesses that are due to be audited. He says that he often has to fail businesses on simple things that could have been easily dealt with before he arrived, such as fixing a leak, putting up signs to remind staff to save water and so on. He also suggests that businesses make the most of the auditor’s expertise by asking them for tips to improve sustainability.
Top tips from Andrew for sustainable living
Support the reduction of waste by simply separating all your waste according to how it is managed by your local authority.
Always look at things through a ‘sustainability lens’. This helps you remember to do things like not unnecessarily printing an email or opting to buy items that use less plastic packaging.
Our future depends on our sustainability choices, go plant a tree!