Reframing the Languages Travel Industry around the UN Sustainable Development Goals

VCE International is an Argentine educational agency founded in 1993, which recruits students for the languages travel market from Argentina, Paraguay, Perú, Uruguay and Colombia.

They have always been guided by a firm belief in education as the means for people to achieve equal opportunities. The pause in usual operations caused by the pandemic gave time for a rethink of how the international languages travel industry affects global sustainability, and whether their focus should change.

The typical students who benefit from international travel to learn new languages are the exact same people who have sustainability at the forefront of their minds. A high percentage of VCE’s clients are young people committed to social causes such as unemployment, poverty or climate change, and who value social innovation efforts & actions that support sustainable development in all its forms. VEC International believe that, when choosing a product or service, their clients are more likely to prioritise companies committed to the same causes.

So, VCE International took the brave step of re-imagining their business model to concentrate more on social, cultural, psychological, economic & environmental strategic planning. The objectives of travelling to learn a language is made up of two components: an academic and a socio-cultural one. The latter provides the experience the student is seeking. For VCE International, the experience will now be framed within sustainable development goals.
When students are able to freely travel again, the aim will be to ensure that all programs offered by VCE International will commit to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In addition, itineraries have been re-imagined to include a greater emphasis on community and charitable activities.

In their own company operations, VCE International have started B Corp impact assessment and have introduced significant changes to their internal operations. This includes recycling products and equipment if appropriate, being mindful of the use of water and energy, and using reused & recycled materials where possible. And taking on charitable activities themselves, they have joined the advisory board of the OFFSCHOOL app that provides free language courses for underprivileged children.

Gabriela Ardito - Founder & CEOOne agency doing this is a good start, but it would be better if everybody did. VCE International plan to start expanding their ideas first among other Argentine agencies through ARSAA, the Argentine Association of Study Abroad Agents, and then to the rest of the world through LATAMA & FELCA. The intention is that, worldwide, agencies which are still not aware of UN Sustainable Development Goals can gradually incorporate these changes to their business practices and take positive action to address socio-environmental problems.

The initiative has been welcomed by local high school partners, local English language school partners and their student populations.

As the languages travel industry starts returning to a new normality in 2022, we look forward to seeing the fruits of this new way of working.