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We work within the community
|Suntours||Kummit||Baltic Sea Action Group|
|All hotels used by Suntours, a travel agency included in our Group, are subjected to a 35-point sustainability survey, the results of which are used to award an environmental classification.||Kummit, or the Association of Friends of the University Children’s Hospitals, is a charity that helps children with serious illnesses in Finland. All Finnair Plus customers have the opportunity to donate their bonus points to benefit the patients of the University Children's Hospitals. Almost five million points have already been donated. This will pay for hundreds of round trips for patients and their families.||All Finnair Plus customers have the opportunity to donate their bonus points to support the Baltic Sea Action Group. So far, almost 400,000 points have been donated. The funds will be used to obtain surface oil dispersal booms to protect the Baltic Sea.|
Points benefit little patients
We have cooperated with the Association of Friends for the University Children's Hospitals since 1995. Now our Finnair Plus members can donate their points for the good of the patients.
Anne Knaster, Executive Director at The Association of Friends for the University Children's Hospitals, says that children are flown to the cities where the University Children's Hospitals are located with donated Finnair Plus points. Nearly five million points had been donated by the end of 2010, which means approximately 1,000 domestic return flights.
There are five University Children’s Hospitals in Finland: in Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Kuopio and Oulu. The most seriously ill children in Finland are treated at these hospitals.
“The concert trip is an experience for children leading rather isolated lives in the hospital. This may be the first time the child gets to travel on an aeroplane, which can be a huge experience in itself,” says Ekroth.
With the donated points, the little patients are also flown to the benefit concert “Elämä Lapselle”, organised every autumn in Helsinki. 15–20 guests are sent to the concert from each hospital.
“The Association of Friends’ celebrity sponsors offer strength, faith and dreams.” People often cannot even imagine how great the significance of idols and role models is for the children living in these difficult situations, explains Ekroth.
The celebrity sponsors are flown to visit the hospitals with donated points. “The hospitals tell us that when NHL star Teemu Selänne visits, the need for pain medication is reduced for two to three days.”
Madagascar – Project Manondroala
Finnair is taking part in a development co-operation project in Madagascar launched by the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation.
The main purpose of Project Manondroala is to support the reforestation of the area and develop a satellite-based forest monitoring system to provide real-time information on forest loss and the success of reforestation.
The environment in Madagascar is astonishingly diverse, even though, over the past few millennia, a large part of the forests have been cut down. A great number of different species have been found and the majority of them are unique to the island. Unfortunately, the ongoing logging of the forests and the poverty of the region have a serious effect on the biodiversity, and many species have already disappeared. The goal of the reforestation project is to further protect the unique species of plants and animals, and to restore the area’s diverse ecosystem.
“Even though the problems caused by poverty tend to rule the every day life of the Malagasy people, in the project village they are strongly dedicated to restoring the forests for future generations.”
Project Manondroala aims to establish a seed bank and a tree nursery of local species, and to plant 10,000 trees around the forest fragments. In the coming years the plan is to continue reforestation and soil restoration, and to provide educational opportunities for locals. We aim to help generate income for the local communities by promoting, for example, the sales of local handicrafts and teaching beekeeping.
The aim is also to encourage a shift to the farming of alternative crops, which together with the reforestation and soil restoration will improve food security and access to clean water. With Project Manondroala we want to create a comprehensive model for conservation that can also be adapted to suit other projects and locations.
If you’d like to support our work in Madagascar, you can donate your Finnair Plus points to the cause.
The responsible leisure traveller respects the destination
With a few simple choices, travellers can help to preserve the vitality of the environment and culture in their destination. Before the trip you could, for instance, take a good look at the contents of your suitcase and remove all unnecessary items. Or, once at your destination, you could sort your waste appropriately and use water sparingly.
You obviously need certain equipment for a holiday, but unnecessary items and complicated packaging, such as cardboard boxes for cosmetics, are best left home.
“There is no need to bring things that will end up as waste in any case, as the waste management and recycling systems at the destination may not work as well as in Finland. Also, each additional kilogram of weight in an aircraft also increases the use of fuel,” says Tuomo Meretniemi, Commercial Director at Oy Aurinkomatkat - Suntours Ltd Ab, which is a part of the Finnair Group.
Before the journey it is also recommended to read up on the destination, as information about the environment and culture of the destination will help you to be a considerate traveller. Suntours always sends an information package about the destination along with the tickets.
“The environment, people, flora and fauna, history and culture of each destination is unique,” Meretniemi says.
You should also avoid souvenirs made from endangered species, such as coral, sea turtles, ivory and fur. You should also steer clear of any dubious religious or antique artefacts, as these are often sold illegally.
“It is always a good idea to favour locally produced goods as souvenirs,” Meretniemi recommends.
When roaming in the wild, it is best to keep to the marked trails. You can of course enjoy nature and hiking, but you should be careful not to leave any permanent marks during your visit.
“Only drive off-road vehicles on marked routes and trails, use marked paths for hiking, follow the marked slopes when skiing, and avoid using water scooters and other motor-driven water vehicles at coral reefs and other sensitive coastal areas,” he says.
In many places clean water may be in short supply, which means that travellers should not use it to excess. For instance many hotels save water by asking their guests to leave their used towels hanging on the hook if they don’t need washing.
“After the trip, you can tell the travel agent about your experiences by filling out a feedback form. This way we will know what you think about our holiday packages, arrangements and the state of the environment in the destination,” Meretniemi says.
Select a responsible hotel
Environmentally conscious travellers can make a difference with their choices. By choosing a responsible hotel, you can reduce the ecological footprint of your trip, support local environmental efforts and give work to local residents.
To make these choices easier, we have classified the hotels used by Suntours, a part of the Finnair Group, according to their level of sustainable development.
We have scored the hotels with a 35-point checklist where the results determine a hotel’s ‘water drop’ classification. In this classification system, the maximum score is 100 points. 30 points is the minimum a hotel must score to be deemed acceptable. 40 points will award a hotel one drop of water, 60 points is good for two drops, and the best class of three drops of water can be achieved with 80 points.
The hotels with three drops of water represent the very best of sustainable development in the tourism and travel sector. In the hotels awarded two water drops, environmental issues have been well-considered, and in the hotels with one drop, at least the basic environmental issues have been taken care of.
“We consider issues related to ecological, economic and cultural sustainability,” says Tuomo Meretniemi, Chief Executive Director at Suntours. “The main focus is on the environment, but we also assess ownership structures and the position of the hotel in the local community.”
Waste water management and composting systems are particularly important to preserving the environment of the location. If these are well taken care of, it will show in the water drop classification of the hotel. Hotels also gain points for other actions that reduce their ecological footprint, for example for monitoring water consumption, energy and water conservation and by using environmentally friendly products.
As for the location’s environmental impact, waste water management is especially important. To reflect this, it is taken into particular consideration in the water drop classification – as are waste sorting and composting systems. Monitoring water consumption and any energy and water conserving activities will also earn the hotel points. The hotels can also reduce their ecological footprint and earn points by purchasing environmentally friendly products.
“Locally owned hotels benefit the economy in the region and often employ local residents. We ask the hotels about their environmental programmes, environmental certificates or awards, and about any related training organised for the personnel,” Meretniemi says.
Finally, the checklist for sustainable travelling asks the hotels about their community and corporate relations. The hotel earns points by taking part in local environmental protection activities, informing guests about regional traditions and nature, supporting environmental protection and environmental education in schools, and employing local residents.
For summer 2011, Suntours’ customers can choose between 400 hotels, 361 of which have already received their water drop classification. There are 137 one-drop hotels, 195 two-drop hotels, and 29 three-drop hotels.
Our special flight brought relief to Haiti
On Thursday night, 21 January 2010, a special flight by Finnair, the Finnish Red Cross and the German Red Cross, left Helsinki for Haiti. It transported medical professionals and emergency relief cargo for the victims of the earthquake. Despite the various and sudden changes in conditions, the aircraft managed to land at the Port-au-Prince airport.
According to captain Rabbe-Holger Wrede, organisation of the special flight started with a phone call from the Finnish Red Cross regarding the need for a relief flight to Haiti.
“The flight department started to prepare for the relief flight straight away and by that afternoon we already had a plan and made tentative preparations for carrying out the flight,” Wrede says.
Flying to a crisis area is always something out of the ordinary. When planning the relief operation, you have to take several factors into account, such as limited fuel supply at the destination.
Wrede says that the constantly changing puzzle pieces of preparation, flight and ground operations finally clicked and the objectives were successfully reached.
“It was great to participate in the relief operations as part of a committed team that operated as a small unit in the Red Cross relief operations in Haiti,” he concludes.