Do you have a sustainability story to tell? Evidence shows that you probably should, or you could be missing out on new customers. In this article, you will find 5 steps to building and sharing your authentic sustainable tourism story.
Research has shown that the majority of your customers want to protect the natural environment, and want to support businesses that are also taking steps to reduce their environmental impact. According to Business Wire, the global sustainable tourism market is expected to see a growth rate of over 10% between 2019-2023. Adding the layer of the most recent global pandemic, consumers are more than ever seeking out businesses that support local, provide clean and environmentally-friendly accommodations, and that are taking the initiative to take care of their natural surroundings, and give back to their communities
What can you do to cultivate and weave an authentic sustainability story into your brand and company culture?
Follow these five steps to gather everything you need to communicate your sustainability story to your staff and your guests. (Remember, you will need to be transparent and authentic to avoid being accused of Greenwashing).
- Take a Sustainability Inventory
Have you ever made a list of all the social and environmentally responsible actions that your business has taken? You might be surprised that you’re already doing several things that your guests would love to know about! Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Energy efficiency – Have you switched to LED lights or upgraded equipment to high-efficiency options?
- Water conservation –Does your business have low flow toilets and low flow showerheads?
- Waste reduction – Do you recycle and compost? Have you switched suppliers to support local food and zero waste organizations?
- Social & economic impact – Do you support community efforts through your business? What about hiring local staff and employees?
Write everything down and make a list of the categories that are relevant to your business.
- Measure your impact
Have you measured any of the impacts of these sustainable actions? Your guests might enjoy learning about the difference you’ve made in addition to the actions you’ve taken. If you haven’t been tracking your energy, water and waste consumption, now’s the time to start. Take a look at your utility bills and see how your consumption has changed year over year. If you want to go further, track and measure your carbon footprint. You can access a low-cost carbon calculator like ecobase for as little as $99 per year.
- Set S.M.A.R.T. goals
What’s on your wishlist for future sustainability-related projects? Engage your staff and create a Green Team if you don’t already have one. Think long term and set goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Results-Focused and Time-Bound (S.M.A.R.T.). A good goal might sound like this: “We will reduce our carbon footprint by 30% by 2025, based on 2016 emissions”. Then brainstorm all the actions you will take to get there and don’t forget to prioritize and assign them.
- Define your journey
Now that you’ve identified where you’re at and where you plan to go on your sustainability journey, it’s time to put all the puzzle pieces together. Create a few short documents that summarize what you’ve done and what you plan to do. Then create your sustainability policy.
- Communicate your story
If a customer asked a staff member what your business is doing to be more sustainable, would they be able to accurately communicate it? First, you will need to ensure your staff understands your story. Keep things simple and reiterate the message, then build on it every staff meeting and through all communication channels. Publish a webpage within your site where the outside world can learn about your sustainability journey. For a great example, see Sustainable Tourism Platinum member Eagle Wing Tours.
And don’t be shy when it comes to telling guests how they can contribute to improving their environmental impact while visiting you. See Sustainable Tourism Gold member Pointhouse on Sargeant Bay’s Responsible Visitors Charter.
You now have the ingredients to communicate a great sustainability story. And don’t forget to add your own branding, language and personality into it. Part of being transparent is saying you are open to continually improve your sustainability performance so always ask for feedback.