Countless studies demonstrate that the global hospitality industry must urgently transform itself and play an active part to achieve the COP21’ Paris Accord to limit global warning that is already dramatically starting to affect us, in our daily lives.
What’s more, as discussed last week in my previous post, the market behavior is changing like never before: A recent Accenture study demonstrates that clientele will drop their usually preferred brands if these brands don’t dynamically implement environmentally friendly policies.
It means therefore that companies must communicate on their ‘green practices’. Because the market strongly demands that their favorite brands be environmentally friendly if they want to survive, proper green communication is a must.
The pressure is so intense that brands might consider implementing greenwashing.
To summarize, greenwashing is a form of marketing spin in which green public relations and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organization's products, aims, and policies are environmentally friendly.
According to a 2021 Booking.com survey, 83% of travelers state that they will book an eco-friendly hotel in priority. While a similar study from Expedia shows that 59% of these travelers will agree to pay more, if it is what it takes to stay at a true green hotel. Google even mentions that the “green hotel’’ keywords search quadrupled since 2020.
According to a Condor study, from the 800,000 hotels worldwide (2021), only 6,000 can truly be considered as true eco-friendly properties. Does that mean that the great number of ‘Travel Sustainable Property’ listed by Booking.com, or ‘Green Leader’ of TripAdvisor are greenwashing for the most part? The answer is not as plain as responding with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No’. Many properties are doing their best to lesser their carbon footprint by actively cutting down their fossil-fuel usage, or implementing a comprehensive waste management. More and more also apply Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) schemes by introducing fair labor and business procedures. Because of lack of international regulation to plainly define what an eco-friendly hotel is, it is difficult for properties to know what is expected of them. Of course, private certifications exist, but they can greatly vary from one to another, even if they are slowly moving to some type of standardization year after year.
In the meantime, would some level of greenwashing be a solution? Absolutely not!
It is not an option for many reasons:
First, the adverse impact on the environment. Like this hotel that was using 1.5L plastic bottles they poured into ‘eco-friendly containers’ for guests to believe they were reducing their plastic waste; the main reason being that the 1.5L plastic bottles were cheaper than their eco-friendly counterparts.
Once caught (sooner or later they will be), these hotels or brands lose consumers and market trust, beside the risk of being sued. It will cost them dear over a long period of time to get trust back if ever; the 1996 so-called ‘Nike sweatshops’ scandal is an example that companies must keep in mind at all times.
Major brands are at risk to be boycotted by consumers associations, hence losing market shares to the competition.
Therefore, greenwashing is not a solution. So what is then?
Some hotels, scared by the potential danger of wrongly communicating about their eco-friendly efforts, may be tempted by the opposite of greenwashing: greenhushing.
A 2016 Green Lodging Trends report states that 52% of hotels prefer not to communicate about their eco-friendly efforts to avoid any public relations issues.
Since 2016, things have changed greatly and – as we’ve seen above – guests are more in demand than ever of eco-friendly properties.
On the other hand, consumers are more aware and are always online, using various social medias to sometimes celebrate a hotel they stayed at, but more often to criticize it. High within main complains, hotel’s green marketing vs. actual witnessed by guests and influencers are on top of the list.
Between greenwashing and greenhushing, hoteliers must find the right balance. It is not an easy but necessary exercise: Those hotels that got a certification from major international bodies can communicate without any issue if they keep implementing certification’ requirements. Others, that are working independently and try their best to reduce waste, carbon foot print, implement CSR techniques and more, should communicate only on their achievements and plans, but no more – no need to claim to be the perfect environmentally friendly property if it is not true; it will backfire sooner or later.
At Amsa Hospitality, we try to implement every day what we are advocating, even if it is not always as simple as it seems. We go one step at a time, ensuring before everything that each Team Amsa member is on board, environmentally conscious, and ready to make a difference.