Recently, whilst attending the ‘Sustainable Communications’ workshop at TTG’s Fairer Travel Sustainability Forum, I was struck by the number of attendees who, when asked admitted that they had yet to adopt any sustainable practices into their own business.
This is not the first time we have encountered people focussing on communications before taking real action. Travel and hospitality business, starting work on their environmental strategy’s, routinely ask our advice on their sustainable communications. It’s understandable that many are fearful of saying the “wrong thing” and seek guidance. Daily, we read headlines, exposing big brands for greenwashing; like the Dutch airline KLM, who face a corporate lawsuit for allegedly giving a false impression about the sustainability of its flights and its plans to tackle climate breakdown. It’s also justifiable that brands want to shout about their progress, as stakeholders want to see a business’s green credentials. Those taking steps to be more sustainable, rightly reap the rewards by attracting more investors, enjoying greater staff retention and customer loyalty.
Our advice is simple – if you want to talk the talk, first you have got to walk the walk. It’s paramount that your sustainability strategy is more than a veneer. If we reflect upon those travel businesses that are true advocates for sustainable travel, without singling out names, (but TTG’s sustainable travel heroes are a good starting point); one thing is true of them all, sustainable values are embedded deep at their cores.
OK, so some businesses have already “earned their stripes”, well done them! But how can other companies that want to do the “right thing”, transition to be greener?
The Glasgow declaration is a great starting point, BUT as the name suggestions it’s a ‘declaration’ – a statement of intent. The real work starts once you have committed to act. Practical actions mean creating and publishing a transparent plan as well as measuring your carbon footprint (if you can’t measure, you can’t manage) then setting about reducing your own emissions.
No company is perfect, speaking “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” will allow your authenticity to shine. It’s also important to remember that there is no such thing as a quick fix. TerraVerde’s logo depicts a winding road working its way into some high mountains and this represents the necessary commitment in taking the long journey to a sustainable future.
Then, it’s time to engage your superpower – your team! Smaller businesses, who involve their team in the act of measuring their emissions promote a deep understanding of their impact and the principles of carbon reduction. Larger businesses can quickly build momentum by engaging their teams, running ambition setting workshops and embedding values throughout the organisation; these may address the social as well as the environmental side of sustainability. As all good managers know, when people are engaged, they are quick to spot opportunities and champion change.
So, what does an effective sustainable communication strategy look like? It starts internally. Walk the walk and you’ll find your team will talk the talk with confidence and ease.