Travel companies are ‘greenwashing’ — here are 3 ways to find ones that aren’t

by Anna Munhin Jan 30, 2023 News
Travel companies are ‘greenwashing’ — here are 3 ways to find ones that aren’t

The people said they wanted to travel more responsible in the future.

New data shows they are doing it.

A report was published in January by the World Travel and Tourism Council.

  • Nearly 60% of travelers have chosen more sustainable travel options in the last couple of years.
  • Nearly 70% are actively seeking sustainable travel options.

James Thornton said finding companies that are serious about sustainable practices is difficult.

He said, "You see hotels saying they're sustainable, and then you're using these little travel bottles forcurblesscurblesscurblesscurblesscurbless."

He referred to the term greenwashing, which refers to companies trying to appear more eco-friendly than they are.

For a company to say they’re “100% sustainable” or they’re “eco-conscious” …  doesn’t mean anything.

Demand for sustainable products and services has led to the rise of the term.

A mix of those who are dedicated to the cause, and those who sprinkle eco-buzzwords and photographs of trees in their marketing materials, with no real action to back up their claims.

Thornton said to be cautious of these tactics.

It doesn't mean anything if a company says they're 100% sustainable. Travelers should be cautious when they see these words and look in more detail.

Thornton said that consumer interest in sustainable travel has changed a lot. When he joined the company 18 years ago, people looked at them like they were crazy.

Many companies are doing it regardless of seriousness.

He thinks the travel industry is divided into three categories. One third of them have good intentions and are working to address the climate crisis.

Some people have good intentions but aren't taking action. They are not sure how to act.

The truth is that the final third is burying its head in the sand and hoping that it will go away.

Travelers should look for three critical things if they want to find a company in the first category.

Thornton said to examine the company's history to determine if it is jumping on the eco-band wagon.

He says to look for a long history of association with issues of sustainable living.

Intrepid Travel CEO James Thornton.

He said that if the messaging is new for the company, that isn't a dealbreaker.

He said that it would encourage the customer to look in a bit more detail to see if what the company does has rigor behind it.

Travelers should look at the company's greenhouse gas emissions.

Every travel company contributes towards the climate crisis. The best way to measure the greenhouse gas emissions of a travel company is to do so.

Travelers should check the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism.

He said that the Glasgow Declaration website has a list of organizations that have agreed to reduce emissions and a climate plan to show how they are doing that.

The UN World Tourism Organization monitors signatories' climate plan.

He said that consumers can use this to check if a company is serious about decarbonization.

The Science Based Targets Initiative is a partnership between the World Resources Institute and the United Nations Global Compact.

American Express Global Business Travel, the United Kingdom's Reed & Mackay Travel and Australia's Flight Centre Travel Group are among the companies that have emission-reducing commitments on its website.

Travelers can check for accreditations.

The B Corp certification is one of the most impressive.

He said that it took three years for the company to be a B Corp.

Thornton said that the most famous B Corp in the world was Patagonia.

A certification lasts for three years and is given to companies that have been reviewed by the B Lab.

B Corp is the most widely respected certification according to the director of sales and marketing at Indonesia's Bawah reserve resort.

The Global sustainable tourism council is one of the other ones. They do an audit and are legit.

Bawah Reserve, a resort in Indonesia’s Anambas Islands, is applying for B Corp certification. The resort uses solar power and desalinates drinking water on the island.

The travel eco-certifications are not as strict.

She said that many of them are just a racket.

The B Corp certification process began in November of 2021. It's expected to take about a year to complete.

B Corp's certifications fees start at $1,000 for companies with less than $1 million in revenue.

Thornton said that the cost is relatively low if you are serious about sustainable living.

He said it takes about 25 years to get the certification.

Travelers should ask questions, Thornton said.

  • Are you using renewable energy sources?
  • Is the food locally sourced?
  • Are employees from local communities?
  • Who owns the hotel?

There are places that are perceived to be sustainable that are actually owned by a casino.

Travelers are encouraged to look at online reviews.

A little research on the internet can give you a good indication of whether a hotel is doing what it says it is doing or not.