Brands that choose to "avoid conflict" by remaining neutral on critical issues will be left behind. | Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

October 21, 2022

Step aside passive purchasers. The conscious consumer is coming through.

They’re asking questions. They’re demanding action. And they aren’t content to let greenwashing, nature-rinsing, or performative gestures slide by anymore.

Consider a few of these stats from 5WPR’s 2022 Consumer Culture Report, which considers consumer spending and saving behaviors:

  • 71% of people say they research the ethical and sustainable nature of brands and their supply chains at least occasionally.
  • 14% check out brands’ environmental and sustainability initiatives every single time they buy a product or service and 30% do this occasionally.

Going about business as usual is no longer an option for most companies. We live in a world where people overwhelmingly acknowledge there is a climate crisis, understand the importance of maximizing their positive impact, and recognize the need to acknowledge and support human rights. 

These people are your customers, your clients, and your employees — but they are people first, and people increasingly expect brands to act with integrity and responsibility. Brands choosing to sit on the sidelines and “avoid conflict” will find themselves fighting an uphill battle when people stop buying their services, booking their tours, or engaging with their products. 

Those that clearly define their purpose and share their brand stories will be in a much better position to capture — and keep — consumers’ interest and buying power. After all, more than 50% of consumers say it’s important that companies’ values match their own and that they’re more likely to be loyal to brands that share their sustainability business practices. And more than 75% say they’re more likely to buy from a brand or store they trust.

Yes, this applies to tourism too. And that’s a good thing. Travel brands, like all brands, should be held accountable for their actions (or inactions) as it relates to all aspects of corporate social responsibility.

With so many issues to address, it can be challenging for travel brands to know what to tackle first. This is especially true for small businesses with limited resources, but arguably it’s even more important for small businesses, as 46% of people say they’d prefer to support purpose-driven small businesses.

The days of neutrality are over. It’s time for your travel brand to lean in and stand for something — then share it with the world.

Clarify your mission, purpose, and values.

One of the first things you should have done when establishing your travel company is define your mission, purpose, and values. If you never did that, put it on the top of your to-do list. (There are oodles of online resources available to help you through this process, if needed.)

While these things should guide every decision your company makes, they shouldn’t sit idle and lost on your server. Consumers should be able to find this information. Prominently display it on the About Us page of your company’s website and share it as appropriate in other contexts.

State sustainability, DEI, and other corporate social responsibility commitments…

Consumers should be able to find information about what your company intends to do to create a positive impact through tourism (and minimize any negative impacts). This means you should share things like carbon emissions reduction plans, DEI commitments, and policies related to wildlife welfare, sex trafficking, plastic reduction, and similar issues. If your company has committed support for organizations like 1% for the Planet or signed onto pledges like the one offered through ECPAT, shout it from the rooftop.

…and measure and report on progress related to these commitments.

Progress is just as good (and more realistic) than perfection. If your company has made measurable commitments as a way to improve its environmental and socio-cultural impact, don’t forget to work toward making progress on those goals. And, importantly, share that progress with the public.

Companies that state commitments like “reaching net zero by 2030” without stating how they intend to get there or what progress they are making will likely be called out for greenwashing. Don’t be that company. Make it a priority to work toward these goals, measure them, and share them on a consistent basis.

Share any certifications.

There are some bogus certifications out there. But there are many others that are given based on neutral third-party verification of companies that have high standards of corporate social responsibility in place.

Certification can be pricey, so don’t let this be the thing that breaks the bank for your company. However, if you go through a certification process, such as to become a B Corp, share that information publicly.

Find other ways to embrace radical transparency.

The more opaque your brand is, the less people will trust it. So, if there is a chance to be transparent about any aspect of your company, do it.

Share stories about the people behind the brand. Help people visualize your impact with tangible and accessible examples. Talk about the challenges and solutions. We live in a wonderfully messy and complex world. Embrace it in the most authentic way possible.

Don’t underestimate the power of content creators and influencers.

Any information about your brand’s commitments and stance on critical issues should be made available on your website and in annual reports. But, don’t be afraid to share this information widely on other platforms as well.

Include it in your press room and media kit. Talk about it at industry events. Share on social media. Nearly 40% of conscious consumers find information about the brands they want to support through social media. They also rely on word of mouth (32%) and publications, broadcast media, and blogs (21%), according to 5WPR.

Encourage questions and curiosity.

If your brand doesn’t have anything to hide, you shouldn’t fear what conscious consumers want to know. Let them ask questions. Encourage them to participate in conversations with leadership at your company. Invite them along on the journey.

Stepping out from your “corporate persona,” it’s important to realize this: Every single person should feel comfortable asking for clarification about corporate social responsibility from the brands we support. Any companies that don’t know the answers (and aren’t willing to find out), can’t answer our questions, or are not willing to answer should throw up a red flag.

As conscious consumers ourselves, travelers who care about the world, and engaged global citizens, we all have a right to demand that the companies we support do everything in their power to support a vibrant, healthy, and sustainable world in return.


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