Recently, I had the pleasure of attending the Rainforest Alliance’s annual Sustainability and Certification Workshop, including participating in a panel discussion.  The big highlight of this event was a gala dinner at which Sabre was presented the Rainforest Alliance’s Sustainable Standard-Setter Award – the organization’s highest corporate award for commitment to sustainability.  This was a truly exceptional event, and we were proud and humbled at the same time to be included among leading global companies like Unilever, Mattel, Oriflame,Newman’s Own and others recognized for their commitment to sustainability.

Seeing this group of award-winning companies re-confirmed my conviction that companies who focus on sustainability and social innovation as an integral part of their strategic long-term tenets and who embed these initiatives into the company’s core business are better positioned for delivering long-term value to their customers.

Customers in any industry value transparency and responsibility. Consumer trend reports continue to emphasize consumers’ desire to engage with brands that inspire them – and brands that they can trust.  Back in 2006 and 2007 consumer attention toward environmental degradation and climate change was on the increase and companies were being scrutinized on their social and environmental policies. With the economic downtown in 2008 and 2009, consumers shifted their focus to demanding transparency and authenticity from the brands they honored with their business – in all sectors, and innovation around the “shared economy” and “sustainable consumption” blossomed.

Demand for sustainable travel in this same time period evolved from “seek” to “expect.” Travelers, both corporate and leisure, are now experiential shoppers and want to incorporate their values into their overall travel experience. Whether it is through health and wellness, natural resource improvements (energy and water), non-toxic products, recreation or travel, sustainability programs are one of the best ways to engage customers and to enhance their experience, and their loyalty.

Travel suppliers have stepped up to the challenge by offering some innovative and exciting sustainability programs.  In Hotels “up” their green game, we shared some inspiring work in the hospitality industry around sustainable travel offerings and the over 9,000 hotels that participate in Sabre’s Eco Certified Hotel program are aligned with the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria, and environmental programs such as LEED and EnergyStar. Other travel industry suppliers are equally committed to providing more sustainable options; British Airways has partnered with Solena to convert trash to jet fuel and last year Enterprise Rent-A-Car partnered with top hotels and major attractions in Orlando, along with the National Electrification Coalition to launch “Drive Electric Orlando (DEO).”  This ground-breaking initiative provided travelers a seamless experience from the reservation counter to their hotel and theme parks, thanks to an extensive network of partners and more than 300 electric charging stations throughout Orlando.

Global standards and frameworks are essential tools for our businesses to innovate, increase customer loyalty and compete in today’s fast-paced environment – all while protecting our key stakeholders: economies, communities, people and the planet!

Our Sabre team should feel proud of our sustainability accomplishments.  We were a founding member of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, along with the Rainforest Alliance – and we were the first technology provider in the travel industry to use Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria as the benchmark for creating a program that made it easy to shop and purchase true, certified sustainable travel options.  Great progress from great people at a great company – all to help support our customers, our planet and our future.