VIBES Award: Changing Behaviour


  • Successfully decreased customer carbon footprint by 9% whilst increasing turnover by 77% since 2009.
  • Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS)-accredited accommodation is highlighted to customers on the online booking system. As a result, 20% of accommodation used by Rabbie’s customers is GTBS graded.
  • Retuning of vehicle engines, eco-driving and increased passenger loading has seen a 30% reduction in fuel usage per passenger.
  • A self-imposed carbon tax means that Rabbie’s donate £10 per tonne of carbon used to local environmental charities.
  • The carbon footprint of the office has been reduced by 32% since 2007.
  • Customer recycling has increased by 100% through a new initiative on the buses.
  • Staff bonus scheme tied in with promoting environmental values to customers.

Rabbie’s Trail Burners is a small group tour company that operates guided tours all over Scotland, northern England and Ireland in luxury, fuel-efficient, 16-seater mini-coaches.

The business was awarded the VIBES Management Award in the Small Business Category in 2009 and is continuing to reduce its impacts through implementing a range of key performance indicators which aim to make the connection between their sustainable development ethos and that of their customers and suppliers.

Their achievements have also been recognised elsewhere. In 2011, Rabbie’s were chosen as an ‘Outstanding Example’ of a Sustainable and Responsible Tour Operator at the Vision European Sustainable Tourism Awards (VESTAS). In 2010, the Prince of Wales presented them with a Big Tick for the Climate Change Award (Business in the Community) and Small Company of the Year, for which they were reaccredited in 2011. They have also won the Scottish Business in the Community Inspiration Award, the Scottish Thistle Award for Sustainable Tourism, the Gold Green Tourism Business Scheme and Keep Edinburgh Clean awards.

Rabbie’s were the winners of this VIBES Award because of their strong ethos on staff training and upholding their environmental beliefs. For example, drivers are encouraged to ensure the good environmental behaviour of customers and the company will reprimand any customer doing something outwith Rabbie’s core values. As well as receiving significant environmental training, employees are also motivated by an incentive scheme that is partly dependent on their being an ambassador for the company by promoting the companies environmental values and engaging with sustainable policies. Staff have responded to this with enthusiasm and drive—a recent staff satisfaction survey showed a 10% increase in job satisfaction since they started the carbon reduction scheme in 2007.

Rabbie’s have also implemented a self-imposed carbon tax and donate £10 per tonne of carbon used to local environmental projects, for example Trees for Life. In 2010, 500 tonnes of carbon were used so £5000 was donated to charities; in total, £12,550 has been donated.

Rabbie’s were also seen by the judges to have very strong customer relations: they email surveys to customers asking for feedback, inviting comments on Rabbie’s impact on the environment. Previous customer surveys have identified passionate staff that set an example and act as an incentive to customers to travel with them. For example, they reported a driver who, during a stop, was seen to collect litter in the parking area.

Rabbie’s demonstrate that they take ownership over the choices of their customers and work closely with their accommodation suppliers to improve their environmental reputation. They recommend Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS) graded accommodation to all customers. As a result, 20% of accommodation used by Rabbie’s customers is GTBS graded. This figure is used as an informal target and Rabbie’s are keen to work with other accommodation suppliers to boost this level. The company now work with GTBS to promote their scheme and its benefits and are also investigating the potential for B&BS to enter through the company. This demonstrates a very comprehensive engagement with suppliers to change attitudes towards the environment within their supply chain.

The judges highly commend Rabbie’s for influencing attitudes of their competitors beyond their supply chain. They recently worked with Lothian Buses to identify improvement opportunities and they have promoted their carbon reduction programme encouraging competitors, such as Wild in Scotland, to follow suit.

It was clear to the judges that Rabbie’s staff have excellent commitment to the ongoing development of the company’s environmental policies. The business also demonstrates impressive results from changing the attitudes of their customers and suppliers. Rabbie’s drive to affect changes within their industry is excellent and their ‘sustainability journey’ will continue to develop and grow in the coming years.