Staycation with EQ’s Victoria Hasler: Hiking in Scotland and leaving no trace

EQ Investors' head of research says hiking is only sustainable if done responsibly

In this special summer series, members of the responsible investment industry share their staycations and sustainable holiday activities with ESG Clarity readers.

Following our popular Working from Home with… and A Sustainable Xmas with… series on the back of the Covid-19 pandemic, we wanted to find out how holiday plans have changed – and become more environmentally and socially friendly – in a year where travel abroad is looking challenging.

Here, Victoria Hasler, head of research at EQ Investors, shares her experience hiking in Scotland.

Where are you holidaying this year and with whom? How will you travel there?

Given the uncertainties over foreign travel, I took the opportunity to go to Scotland to walk the West Highland Way with a friend. After much debate we drove up there. Under normal circumstances I would have preferred to take the train, but in the current climate driving seemed like the safest option.

How does this differ from your ‘usual’ holidays?

I love walking holidays, so in that regard this holiday was very similar to my ‘usual’ getaways. However, in previous years I have tended to opt for slightly more exotic destinations such as Nepal, China, India or Costa Rica. This was the first time I had been on a walking holiday in the UK.

It has been a very tough year. How will this holiday help you reset and refresh?

I love being outside and exercise, so for me a holiday where I get to combine these two things is ideal. Being out in the countryside, surrounded by green spaces is calming and revitalising.

How will you ensure your holiday is environmentally friendly?

I’m very careful when I’m out hiking to ‘leave no trace’. This means taking rubbish home with me (as well as picking up what others might have left behind…..), but also sticking to paths to avoid erosion of vulnerable areas etc. I also try to be mindful of livestock and the local community, and to support local communities where I can. 

Share some (sustainable) activities you have planned for your staycation?

Hiking! I think that, as an activity, it is sustainable if done responsibly.

What’s your holiday reading?

The West Highland Way Trailblazer Guide. I’m a bit geeky and love to read up each night on the places I’m going to be walking through the next day. Plus, after a full day hiking I’m usually too tired to read anything else at the end of the day.

What’s the verdict? Do you think you will be staycationing more in the future? Or are you looking forward to travelling abroad?

I’ll definitely be staycationing more. I have missed going to hot and exotic places, but being forced to stay in the UK has made me appreciate what a wonderful country we have and I’m definitely keen to hike more of the National Trails. I might try to split my holidays half and half between the UK and other places in the future.

How do you think the Covid-19 pandemic will impact business travel long term?

I think it has to reduce the amount we all travel. We have seen how much we can do online using video conferencing and messaging tools and I don’t think we will ever go back to where we were before. That said, a virtual meeting is not the same as actually sitting across the table from someone and seeing the whites of their eyes. I hope that we will settle somewhere in the middle and be much more mindful of how and why we travel in the future.

What’s on your radar for the ESG investment industry for the rest of the year?

We have a mix of things on the agenda this year. There are a lot of new funds coming to the market which are pushing boundaries and improving ESG processes. This is exciting and we are keen to look at as many of these as possible to see which are best for our clients. We will also be engaging with all our managers whose ESG processes are falling short of our standards.

As the industry evolves, so does the minimum level that we expect our managers to meet, so this is a continual process. Overall, however, I think we have been encouraged at the improvements the industry has made over the last year and are excited to see what the next 12 months brings. There is still a lot of work to be done, but the level of enthusiasm for a more sustainable way of investing is undeniable.

You can view the full Staycation series by clicking here.

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Natalie Kenway

Natalie is global head of ESG insight for ESG Clarity and has been an investment journalist for 16 years. She won Editor of the Year at the Aviva Investors Sustainability Media Awards 2021, and was Winner...