People said the pandemic prompted them to travel more responsibly in the longer term.
Now, latest data shows that they really do.
According to a report published in January by the World Travel & Tourism Council and Trip.com Group:
- Nearly 60% of travelers have chosen more sustainable travel options in the previous couple of years.
- Nearly 70% are actively searching for sustainable travel options.
But finding corporations that take sustainability seriously is not easy, said James Thornton, CEO of travel company Intrepid Travel.
“You see hotels that say they’re sustainable, and then you definately use these little travel bottles for shampoos and shower gels,” he said.
It’s all just “greenwashing,” he said, referring to the term that describes corporations’ efforts to seem more environmentally friendly than they’re.
Just because an organization says it’s “100% sustainable” or “environmentally conscious”… means nothing.
CEO, Intrepid Travel
The term has grown in popularity as demand for sustainable services and products has increased.
The result’s a mixture of those that are truly committed to the cause – and those that put eco-fashionable slogans and pictures of seedlings, forests and other “green” images into their marketing materials, with none real motion to back up their claims.
Finding sustainable corporations
Watch out for these tactics, Thornton said.
“For an organization, saying it’s ‘100% sustainable’ or ‘environmentally conscious’… means nothing,” he said. “I urge travelers to be very careful once they see these words and really dig down and look a bit more intimately.”
Consumer interest in sustainable travel has modified significantly over the past 20 years, said Thornton. He said when he joined Intrepid travel 18 years ago, “people would take a look at us like we were somewhat crazy” when the corporate talked about sustainability.
Now loads of corporations are doing it, whether or not they are serious or not.
Thornton said he believes the travel industry is currently divided into three categories. One-third are ‘incredibly well-meaning and [are] they’re working very actively to unravel the climate crisis… and so they are making great progress.”
Another third has “good intentions, but [aren’t] not likely taking motion yet. And often… they are not quite sure how one can take motion.”
The final third “just bury your head within the sand completely and hope this thing goes away, and the reality is – it doesn’t.”
To discover businesses that fall into the primary category, Thornton advises travelers to concentrate to the three most vital things.
1. History of sustainable development
To see if an organization can jump on the green bandwagon, research its history, Thornton said.
She advises searching for “a protracted history of links to sustainability issues, or is that this something that just got here up?”
Intrepid Travel CEO James Thornton.
source: Intrepid Travel
He said if the news is latest to the corporate, it doesn’t suggest it is a deal breaker.
“But it might encourage the client to look more closely at whether what the corporate is definitely doing has a rigor behind it,” he said, “Or if it’s something that is just done for marketing reasons – and subsequently greenwashed.”
2. Check the size
Then travelers should check to see if the corporate measures its greenhouse gas emissions, Thornton said.
“The honest truth is that each travel agency is ultimately contributing to the climate crisis,” he said. “The smartest thing any travel company can do is measure the greenhouse gas emissions it produces.”
To do that, Thornton advised travelers try the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism.
“The Glasgow Declaration website lists organizations which have agreed to actively reduce their emissions… and so they even have a climate plan that shows how they’re doing it,” he said.
He said signatories must publish their climate plan, which is monitored by the United Nations World Tourism Organization.
“Consumers can use this as a strategy to see if the corporate they book with is serious about decarbonising,” he said, adding that there are greater than 700 organizations on the list.
Thornton said travelers can check as well Science-Based Goals Initiativewhich is a partnership between CDPUnited Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and World Wide Fund for Nature.
Its website includes a dashboard that details emission reduction commitments made by greater than 4,500 corporations worldwide, including American Express Global Business Travel, UK-based Reed & Mackay Travel and Australia’s Flight Center Travel Group.
3. Search for accreditation
Finally, travelers can check independent accreditations, Thornton said.
He said one of the rigorous and impressive is the B Corp certification.
“It took Intrepid three years to change into B Corp,” he said.
Other B Corps include Seventh Generation, Ben & Jerry’s, Aesop – and Patagonia, which Thornton called “probably essentially the most famous B Corp on the planet.”
To get it, corporations are verified by the non-profit organization B Lab and the certification is valid for 3 years, Thornton said.
Kristen Graff, Director of Sales and Marketing at Indonesia’s Bawah Reserve resort, agreed that B Corp is the “most respected” certification.
The second is the so-called Global Council for Sustainable Tourism“, she said. “These things are literally auditing and legal.”
Bawah Reserve, a resort in Indonesia’s Anambas Islands, is applying for B Corp certification. The resort uses solar energy and desalinates the island’s drinking water.
Source: Bawah Reserve
Other eco-friendly travel certifications are less demanding, Graff said.
“Many of them are only money-making rackets,” she said.
Bawah Reserve began the B Corp certification process in November 2021, Graff said. “We expect it to take a couple of 12 months,” she said.
B Corp has a sliding fee scale for certificates that starts at $1,000 for corporations with lower than $1 million in annual revenue.
“The cost is pretty minimal,” Thornton said, especially “in the event you’re serious about sustainability.”
He said Intrepid pays about $25,000 a 12 months for certification.
Thornton also advised travelers to ask questions akin to:
- Do you employ renewable energy sources?
- Is the food locally sourced?
- Do employees belong to local communities?
- Who owns the hotel?
He said there are places which can be perceived as sustainable but which can be “actually owned by the casino”.
Finally, Thornton recommends travelers check online reviews.
“Often a little bit of Google research…can provide you with a very good clue as as to whether a hotel or travel experience does what it says it does – or whether it’s actually greenwashing.”