Hilary Matson, let's pack for sustainable tourism
Hilary Matson, HEC MBA alumna 2020 is the founder of Yūgen Earthside that aims at shaping the future of sustainable tourism. Thanks to her new online platform, she helps us to travel better to protect and preserve our planet’s most vulnerable destinations so that future generations of residents and visitors can continue to experience the splendor of these places for years to come. Discover below her experience at HEC and how she has pursued her dream and commitment while on the campus.
What is your background and can you tell us what was your motivation to work in this field?
My background is working in retail e-commerce. I spent nearly a decade at Amazon in roles like inventory management and product marketing management. I have always been passionate about travel and sustainability, so when I came to HEC I was looking to make a big pivot from my prior work experience. I wanted to find a career where I could truly make a positive impact on the world and be able to see tangible results of my efforts. After getting my MBA and taking the Inclusive & Social Business certificate, I launched Yūgen Earthside, a sustainable travel company.
What is the best impact you achieve and that you are proud of?
The impact I am most proud of at the moment is working with our tour operators to expand on and highlight their sustainability actions. I find some tour operators who are doing lots of great work in the sustainable travel space - but they’re not necessarily advertising it. I consult with them and lay out a framework for how I suggest they tell the story on their website. Several tour operators so far have already taken my feedback and created dedicated pages on their websites for sustainability, and more are working on it! Seeing that type of visible change and knowing that I helped drive it is really rewarding.
What were the greatest difficulties or constraints that you faced?
The hardest part about my work right now is vetting travel companies to gauge their authentic interest in sustainability. Yūgen Earthside is not a certification company, we’re simply looking to create a “home base” for sustainable travel operators, and bring awareness to travel companies focused on the triple bottom line. At the same time, customer trust means everything. So, even with our very limited resources, we have to be very diligent in our research and analysis of the companies we invite to our platform.
What are you working on right now?
Yūgen Earthside was launched in December 2020, so right now we are working on finding more sustainable tour operators and listing more responsible self-guided, private, and small-group tours to our website. As vaccinations continue to be deployed for COVID-19, people are eager to travel again! We’re trying to increase our selection as much as possible so that when travel is safe, people will discover and book trips through our platform.
I pledge to “Travel Better” by making a conscious effort to
LIGHTEN the footprint of my travels
CONSERVE the wild places I explore
SUPPORT the people and communities I visit
RESPECT the wildlife I see
CELEBRATE cultures authentically and respectfully
ADVOCATE for sustainable tourism
What is the contribution of your activity to the creation of a more inclusive economy and the solutions to the current crisis?
Yūgen Earthside is a registered Social Purpose Corporation, and this enables us to pursue social and environmental objectives in addition to financial objectives. It’s in our company’s DNA that we will donate a percentage of profits to sustainable tourism development projects. These projects will support various Sustainable Development Goals, as set out by the United Nations, such as SDG #5 – Gender Equality, SDG #6 – Clean Water & Sanitation, SDG #7 – Affordable & Clean Energy, SDG #9 – Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure, SDG #10 – Reduced Inequalities, SDG #11 – Sustainable Cities & Communities. Specific project examples could be things like empowering female entrepreneurs in the tourism space, donating to organizations investing in renewable energy, and contributing to the training of locals for higher-paying tourism jobs. Our Impact Projects page lays out more information.
How has HEC helped you or contributed to your career/professional path?
HEC has helped me tremendously! During my MBA program, I participated in the Entrepreneurship specialization which gave me the tools to lay the foundation for Yūgen Earthside. After the MBA, I took the Social & Inclusive Business certificate through the Society & Organizations (S&O) Institute. This is where I developed the “Social Purpose Corporation” aspect of my business and realized that I do want to run a for-profit company, but with a true emphasis on social and environmental impact. We need to make money so that we can donate more money to worthwhile projects and organizations. I wasn’t aware that formal terms for these types of blended companies (triple bottom line companies, essentially) existed before taking the certificate. Discovering that made me feel like I was really in the right place with my business idea!
HEC help me to develop the “Social Purpose Corporation” aspect of my business and to realize that I wanted to run a for-profit company, but with a true emphasis on social and environmental impact.
What advice would you give to anyone who would like to make a social and environmental impact?
For entrepreneurs, I would say go for it, because the world needs more companies focused on more than just making a profit. In most (if not all) sectors, there is an opportunity to help make a real difference on a social or environmental level. Consumers increasingly want to support companies “doing good” and not just “doing business” - so find a way to authentically tie this into your business.
For non-entrepreneurs, make it clear to prospective employers that a commitment to CSR/RSE is important to you. Ask if they have a clear sustainability policy, give paid time off specifically for volunteering, do pro-bono work, etc. The more people who demand that companies do better, the more companies that will do better. Together, we can all help build a more inclusive, just, and equitable world.