Tess Longfield, Global Communications – ESG

Ahead of Earth Day on April 22, people and companies come together to advance sustainability and climate action. This year’s theme is “Invest in our Planet,” something that is particularly important for the travel industry. Studies indicate that travel and tourism account for between 8-11 percent of global CO2 emissions,* and this contribution is continuing to increase. While recognizing that travel can be a positive force for good, we all have a role to play in reducing its negative impacts. No one entity can do this alone, and through innovation, collaboration and partnerships, the industry is taking bold steps to tackle climate change and nature loss.  

Amidst an ever-evolving landscape of new legislation, shifting terminology and language, how do we communicate our efforts in a space which can be rife with misinformation and therefore mistrust? 

I spoke on a panel recently to an audience of travel PRs about the challenges of sustainability communications. My fellow panellists included respected travel journalists: Chris Haslam, Chief Travel Writer at The Sunday Times, Richard Hammond, Executive Producer & Founder of Green Traveller and Kate McWilliams, Managing Director of LOTUS, part of W Communications; all shared a deep passion for and knowledge about sustainability in travel. Here are three top takeaways from the session: 

🌍 – Communicate with clarity. Companies should be clear and transparent in their communications, whether they are communicating directly to consumers, B2B or to investors. They should avoid using vague terms like ‘green’ and ‘eco’ without concrete evidence as this could be seen as “greenwashing.” 

🌍 – Perfection is the enemy of progress. The fear of saying the wrong thing and therefore saying nothing at all, or “greenhushing” is a reasonable concern. However, it prevents companies from having open, honest engagement with partners, customers and others in the industry. Complex issues such as the climate emergency are not going to be solved overnight and every organization is in transition. Communicating progress, rather than perfection, is therefore the aim.

🌍 – Sustainable travel does not have to mean a luxury barefoot ecolodge. Technology is enabling travellers to make better choices when they travel by surfacing more sustainable accommodation options, flights with a lower carbon footprint or rail alternatives. Tourism boards are also showcasing ways to travel more sustainably whilst in the destination, at a lower cost, such as the successful #SlowTravelSpain campaign. 

Earth Day marks one month for me in my new role supporting sustainability communications at Sabre, and it’s hugely encouraging to see the focus on ESG within the organization. Travel technology companies like Sabre play a crucial role in helping agents, travel managers and travellers choose more sustainable travel options. It’s a privilege and a responsibility to be in a position to effect change at scale. Our customers care about this and so do our people around the world, and we are excited to play an increasing role in accelerating innovation across the sector, through our own products and through industry-wide collaborations and alliances.

*Source: WTTC