How can sustainability be communicated beyond clichés and greenwashing?
— 31 experts shared their view
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Both clichés and greenwashing are amongst the biggest traps to fall into when communicating sustainability. A "let's save the world" claim and tacky towel policy stickers are superficial and unappealing and could be a turn-off to the small group of environmentally and socially-conscious consumers. Green certification and lengthy, detailed corporate sustainability reports may (potentially) be of interest to a small niche group of highly activist consumers, who may not buy into that type of corporate hospitality in any case. However, there is a growing number of informed travelers: Those in search of genuine wellbeing and meaningful experiences at no (or as little as possible) cost to the planet. What works and what doesn't work in communicating sustainability? Any recommendations in regard to communication entering this critical decade?
Senior Research Fellow in Sustainability at Hotelschool The Hague
Everyone can picture the ways of how not to communicate your sustainable goals and practices: too often companies communicate and report only their goals and objectives and actions in the future. It is more interesting to learn what have been accomplished already and how much effort it took to accomplish this!
I am very positive of generic reporting systems such as GRI (Global reporting initiative), but these are obviously not read by your guests. A very important requirement from the GRI standard is to be open on achievements, but also on challenges. Unfortunately this is something that is often overseen. Two good examples of very accessible reports are Tony Chocolonely (linked to GRI) or The Student Hotel (linked to SDG indicators).
Simple message: be Authentic, Communicate and be Transparent. So make sure in your communication towards your employees (who can tell the story to your guests) that they can both present the accomplishments, but also the challenges.
Being able to explain to the 'informed travel' why you still have an menu-item that is not the best available option from a sustainability perspectives, will create a more authentic story that have your employees trained to inform your guest that you comply with this or that standard.
Training your staff member to do this is not a simple task, but will turn out very effective!