How can sustainability be communicated beyond clichés and greenwashing?
— 31 experts shared their view
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?
Principal Sustainable Development at 3 Pillar Solutions, LLC
Travelers, and consumers in general, are becoming more and more proactive in their decision making. People want to consume goods and services that align with their core values. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, consumer awareness of environmental issues has translated into more ethical and resource-efficient lifestyles, which are driving the decision-making of younger generations.
One of the most prevalent green claims and marketing strategies I've seen is asking guests to 'Make a Green Choice', by opting out of housekeeping completely. In exchange, the guest can receive loyalty points or the planting of a tree. Participating in a 3-day linen change program is a positive act by the guest, but not having the bed made or the trash bin emptied has nothing to do with being green. At least two major brands are using this tactic.
Travelers shouldn't have to choose between having their room cleaned and taking care of the planet. Companies with more sustainable practices upfront/ behind the scenes can educate consumers on what is being done and help consumers to understand that they are doing their part by staying there. Communications can be informative and fun.
Facts and figures which measure conservation efforts are important. But, storytelling is what resonates the most. As an example, Soul Community Planet (SCP) Hotels aspires to be a conscious organization based solely on three core values: personal wellness, social good and the environment. They do a superb job of communicating their authenticity and genuine care for people and the planet's well-being, through their holistic hospitality brand, from the moment a booking takes place and throughout their stay. But, they are mindful of not being 'preachy'. The actually explain why they have selected certain products for their health benefits.
Imagine having a hotel automatically offer the following:
- Recycle vintage hotels that otherwise would have been leveled; transforms them into venues with lodging, coworking, state-of-the-art fitness, healthy, vegan forward food choices, etc.
- From the first day, working with a green consultant to ensure incorporating eco-friendly practices
- Solar panels and EV charging stations are added to each property
- Use of ECOS cleaning products at each property (Earth Friendly Products are manufactured in a carbon-neutral facility)
- Plant-based foam mattresses in every room (which received rave reviews), along with sheets, pillows, and blankets
- Nearly plastic-free at all properties; the final goal is zero
- Glassware made from recycled wine bottles (Wine Punts)
- Repurposed/recycled mugs, plates, and silverware in every property
- In-room JUST WATER provided
- Further bath products eliminate single-use soaps/shampoos
- One Tree: One Forest in partnership with One Tree Planet to support reforestation
- Every stay, a tree is planted. Provides a meaningful way for travelers to support the planting of trees/offset travel emissions while traveling
- Peaceful Rooms, offering guests a room free from noise
- As much as possible, source food from locals
Finally, Soul Community Planet offers a Fair-trade Pricing option. If a guest is not 100% satisfied that the property delivered everything promised, the guest can name their price.
Who else does that?