What if travel became sustainable the moment you began typing in your dates and destinations? What if the very act of booking a trip was enough to make a positive impact in the world? This is the premise behind Goodwings – a Copenhagen startup poised to dramatically disrupt the travel industry.
When we think about sustainable travel, we tend to imagine the physical journey or the destination. Travel by train, maybe. Or travel to places that have minimal impact on the environment – or even enhance and build up the local community they are part of, like the Coco-mat Eco Residences on Serifos, Greece.
However, with Goodwings you can make a positive impact in the world already when booking your next trip at home.
So how does Goodwings do it? By spending the money other search engines spend on marketing on charity instead. We chatted with the company’s CEO and co-founder, Christian Møller-Holst, learning some surprising facts about the current state of the travel industry – and that the power to fix what’s wrong and do some serious good is now in our hands.
After a few years in the Danish military, followed by studying business and philosophy at Copenhagen Business School, Christian knew he wanted to dive into business. “But not the traditional way,” he says.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) came to play a key role in his career. He co-founded WELL, a non-profit that integrated CSR into higher education institutions, and then the consultancy
Healthy Company, which developed programs to keep employees healthy, providing healthcare devices, lifestyle campaigns, on-site health checks, and other services.
A little over two years ago, after selling Healthy Company and, in Christian’s words, “having a second kid, getting married, and just enjoying life,” the entrepreneurial itch returned, and Christian and his business partner began to take a closer look at the travel industry.
My interest was really sparked by the fact that the industry is growing at a very rapid pace – up to 10% a year. Middle classes are growing and small and medium-sized companies are becoming increasingly global, with employees traveling more,” he explains. But, the closer we looked, the more we saw that there has been very little change toward a sustainability agenda in the travel industry.
I had long dreamt of building a business on a foundation of sustainability and CSR,” Christian says. “I knew that companies are looking for sustainable solutions, or ones that can have a positive impact. The challenge is that CSR often costs money, takes time – and consumers don’t want to pay extra. We wanted to solve this problem.
The answer paired a passion for travel with a passion for making a positive impact on the world, and Goodwings was born.
Investing in Charity, not marketing
The world’s major travel booking sites spend a whopping $12 billion on marketing. Expedia alone, with one-quarter of the world market, spends $3-4 billion.
And there is no added value for the customer. So, our idea was to disrupt the distribution of travel. Simple as that. “Instead of marketing with TV ads or Google ads or AdWords, we offer customers the option to fight cancer, eradicate poverty, educate girls, and much more – at absolutely no extra expense.