90 Seconds with James Thornton NOW talks to the admirable CEO of Intrepid Group



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James Thornton is the CEO of Intrepid Group, the largest travel company to achieve B Corp certification and one that’s hugely committed to sustainable travel initiatives. Read more here.

One word that describes you?


In your own words, what do you do?

I lead the development and implementation of Intrepid Group’s short and long term strategy for the benefit of all stakeholders including our staff, customers, partners, environment, communities and shareholders.

Which is your favourite part of your job?

Seeing the business grow while also making a positive difference to the world. One should not have to come at the expense of the other.

Which is the part that you enjoy the least?

In a fast growing company like ours, there are times that people cannot continue on that growth journey – making those decisions can be very challenging, especially where long term relationships exist.

Who are your greatest influences?

Intrepid’s co-founders Darrell Wade and Geoff Manchester. Back in 1988, they modified an ex-council truck, filled it with friends and a case or two or beer and set off travelling round Africa – that’s how Intrepid was born. Their original vision of wanting to change the way that people see the world and use business as a force for good to do this has never been more appropriate.

Best advice you’ve been given?

Find something you are passionate about, work extremely hard, and chances are you’ll be a success. It worked for me.

What was your Plan B?

Not sure I ever had one – if travel hadn’t worked out, I guess I’d have returned to the world of investment management. Thank goodness travel did work out!

Your personal indulgence?

Tottenham Hotspur and England football teams. It doesn’t matter where I am in the world or what time it is – I almost always tune in to watch the games.

How do you like to travel?

Staying in small, well-located, locally-owned hotels, and then exploring a city on foot, trying as much of the local food, coffee and wine as possible.

Favourite place to stay trying hard to be sustainable?

Saffire in Tasmania, a luxury lodge I visited with my wife for our anniversary. I was impressed with their reforestation programme and work to save the Tasmanian Devil, which is now listed as an endangered species. Read more here.

What steps do you take to make your life more sustainable?

I try and walk as much as possible. Not only does it help me think, it keeps me healthy, and reduces my carbon usage.

How is Intrepid committed to sustainability?

Like NOW, we are a B Corp, required to not only make the business a success for shareholders, but also to have a duty to ensure that the business has a ‘positive impact on society and the environment’.

What does Intrepid do about carbon?

We measure and offset the main sources of carbon emissions created on our trips from transport, accommodation and waste generated by travellers and leaders and from electricity, gas, waste, paper usage and business travel from our offices around the world. To offset we invest in renewable energy projects such as wind power projects in India, Mexico Turkey and the USA, a solar farm in Mauritius, reforestation programmes in Kenya and Australia, and water filter initiatives in Cambodia.

What must happen now to help make our planet more sustainable?

It must be now that we take climate change seriously. It’s real and we must act immediately. If governments won’t lead, then business needs to.

If you could have one hour with a world leader, who would it be and what would you say?

Barack Obama. What are we going to do about the new guy?

Any regrets so far?

Absolutely, but most of them have been lessons that I needed to learn which in turn have helped me improve for the better.

Do you care about sustainability? Please leave a reply here.