You’re Greener Than You Think: Five Steps to Finding and Sharing Your Unique Sustainability Story

This article originally appeared in the February 2021 edition of TIAC Talk.

By Angela Nagy, CEO

Deloitte was right. In their special feature publication Hospitality 2015: Game Changers or Spectators, Deloitte’s team of economic professionals spent a year researching, analyzing and interviewing tourism industry leaders about the future of tourism. One of their key findings was that “Sustainability will become a defining issue for the industry in 2015 and beyond…. sustainability will need to be embedded within all facets of the hospitality industry.

Indeed, this prediction has been proven five years later by the growing consumer demand for responsible business. A growing body of research, including Booking.com’s 2020 Sustainable Travel Report confirms this. The vast majority of travellers, 87 percent, say that they want more sustainable travel options. However, only 39 percent manage to do so and 48 percent say that they never, rarely or only sometimes are able to travel sustainably. Values-based marketing expert, Jacquelyn Ottman, has identified that 83 percent of  consumers are choosing to support companies that share their personal social and environmental values.

So what can you do to cultivate and weave an authentic sustainability story into your brand and company culture?  Make a plan to take these five steps to help identify and communicate your sustainability story, both internally and externally.

1 – 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! Include, but think beyond the traditional “green” aspects of your business. Below are some headings to get you started on a team brainstorming exercise of the things your business has done to promote or integrate sustainability.

  • Social & Economic Impacts: Local and sustainable purchasing, local hiring, accessibility, inclusivity, diversity
  • Natural & Cultural Impacts: Arts and cultural heritage, indigenous connections, biodiversity and ecosystems, conservation
  • Environmental Impacts: Energy, water,  waste, carbon, pollution
  • Management Efforts: Sustainability action plan, goals, guest engagement, employee training

Record everything you can think of under each of these headings, or create new ones that reflect your efforts. Do you have any certifications, or purchase products or services from suppliers that have recognized certifications? Take note of these as well.

2 – Document Your Efforts

Keep your messages simple, transparent and authentic. Emphasize the impacts you’ve made, the partnerships you’ve created and make sure your message is easy to understand and engaging. TIAC member, Eagle Wing Tours, does a fantastic job of showcasing their conservation efforts and multiple certifications, including their carbon neutrality and Platinum Certification with Sustainable Tourism.  Most of all, be honest and don’t exaggerate your claims.

3 – Train Your Team

Train your staff to quickly and effectively communicate your green message in a short “elevator pitch”. If a guest asks any employee about your green credentials, make sure that they are equipped with the tools to comfortably explain it in one-two sentences. Not only does this help improve your guest experience, it will also help to build the sustainability culture within your team as they become more aware of and take pride in your efforts.

4 – Engage Your Guests

Take things a step further and proactively communicate a few key points as part of your standard guest welcome and messaging, pointing out areas that guests can engage with or be a part of. Include images, stories, or tips in guest facing areas or rooms that reflect what guests can do to become a part of your story during their experience with you.

5 – Share and Partner

Update your key marketing assets with the story you are weaving for your staff and guests; your website, brochures, etc, to ensure that your story is easy to find. Seek out other organizations that you can collaborate with for cross-promotion, cross-pollination and co-marketing to combine resources and amplify your efforts.

All of these efforts and activities will make great content for social media and other marketing platforms. Make sure that you include your marketing team and try to maintain a consistent integration of sustainability-related content in your messages throughout the year.

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