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Meet Nikos Bakaris, 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: Rhodes, Greece
Languages: Greek and English plus basic Italian and Spanish
Total auditing experience: 10 years
Travelife auditing experience: 4 years
Specialisations: Sustainability, food safety, animal welfare, health and safety, labour practices, social compliance, agricultural sustainability
Auditing fields: Accommodation, food industry, agriculture, animal husbandry systems, mining, textiles, aquaculture, tobacco processing, fur breeding industry
Nikos took an interesting path to becoming a Travelife auditor that began by studying veterinary medicine. He continued his postgraduate education with applied animal welfare and behaviour, something that is now relevant to his work at Travelife due to our requirements in this area that are designed to help improve the well-being of animals involved in tourism.
He first started auditing in food safety and animal welfare, collaborating on a number of multinational projects as a second and third party auditor that involved responsible supply chain management in the food sector. He branched into tourism sustainability because of the extent of the impacts it has on his home country, and because the sector involves a vast supply chain that touches almost every other industry, in every country.
“An auditor and an auditee share a common cause which is the success of the audit. If the two parties view the whole process as a learning experience that should result in their mutual improvement, there are many wins to take home.”
The past five years have seen Nikos travel beyond Greece many times, working on auditor and stakeholder consultations that so far include 35 countries spanning 3 continents. He says that the best part of auditing for Travelife is knowing that the purpose is to reshape the tourism industry towards a more efficient and responsible way of doing things. He also mentions that the part of the role that sees him travelling to different places and meeting new people is pretty good too!
Innovation and inspiration from the road
Nikos tells us that the best innovation he has seen in accommodation sustainability came from a hotel in Madeira. Software in each room provided guests with personalised data about the energy, water and waste impacts of their stay. Guests were given an actual score based on their environmental performance compared with other rooms. If the score was ‘green’ the client was rewarded with a badge.
But perhaps the most inspiring came from an audit at a five-room bed and breakfast in Taiwan. During a follow-up audit it was found that the owners now only had four guestrooms, having turned one into staff accommodation so they could support trainee students by saving them travel and accommodation costs. This helped students achieve the work experience required to complete their qualifications.
Sustainability should be the new operational norm
When we asked Nikos what advice he would give to a business that wants to become more sustainable, he was keen to emphasise the importance of really grasping the reasons behind sustainability actions, and that businesses need to understand that sustainability is more of a necessity than a trend. A sustainable way of getting things done that actually solves problems should be the new norm if we want to ensure the success and longevity of businesses, and preserve the tourism industry for years to come.
“…businesses need to understand that sustainability is more of a necessity than a trend.”
Nikos believes that a business should start by identifying key stakeholders within the three core areas of staff, environment and community, then honestly assess its impact upon each one. This ensures that they can establish clear baselines that make it easier to develop a strategy that is realistic and relevant to the company, and where the most effective changes can be made. This process should ideally include consultation with the stakeholders the business influences the most.
He explains that the business should now have highlighted the most significant negative impacts of its operation and can begin working on a mitigation strategy based on SMART goals and targets. Ideally this process will identify the things they already do well that will present opportunities that can also be turned into goals.
Finally, a simple sustainability management system can be implemented that the business can use to stay on track, and to ensure that improvements are continuous. That involves taking regular measurements to assess progress, finding root causes for lack of progress and using this information to adjust course where necessary.
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