The Rise of Sustainability

Paul Davies, Head of Travel & B2B Research, Mintel

Press headlines, TV shows and activists such as Greta Thunberg have raised people’s awareness of sustainability.


This is now impacting consumers’ purchasing habits as they seek out more environmentally friendly products and services. In fact, almost two thirds of UK adults agree that they are trying to live more ethically than a year ago. Over the past few years, industries from fashion to food and drink have elevated their commitment to sustainable production – it won’t be long before consumers demand the same from the travel industry.


The Role of Sustainability Within Travel


UK holidaymakers have good intentions when it comes to limiting their impact on the environment. A third say they consider a travel company’s ethical credentials before booking. However, fewer than 1 in 10 were heavily influenced by a company’s environmental policy when deciding who to book their most recent holiday with.


The lack of transparency in the industry is one of the main reasons for this. Consumers simply don’t know which brands or holidays are more ethical than others. Very few websites promote, or allow consumers to search for eco-friendly holidays, and even then consumers have no clear way of knowing whether a claim stands up. As we’ve seen in other industries, for consumers to really get on board and be able to act, they need help cutting through the noise to understand what truly is more sustainable – a role that travel companies have yet to fulfil.


Consumers Are Taking Action


Travellers know there’s a need to minimise their environmental impact, and some are taking it upon themselves to push the issue forward. In Sweden, consumers are raising awareness of the damage caused by air travel in a movement that’s become known as ‘Flygskam’ – or ‘flight shame’. This sentiment rings true in the UK as well; one third of Brits feel ashamed when they fly to destinations that can be reached via more sustainable transport methods.


But They Can’t Do It Alone


Travel brands need to provide consumers with more guidance in order to help them make the right decisions for themselves and the environment. We’ve started to see some promising initiatives: SkyScanner has introduced its GreenerChoice labelling feature to showcase lower-emission flights, and in June 2019 Ryanair became the first EU airline to post monthly carbon emission figures. But more can be done.


Innovations and transparency are needed to enable travellers to make more sustainable transport choices. An industry-wide scheme with clear environmental ratings on everything from accommodation, transport and package holidays would be welcomed. It is crucial that any such scheme is easy to understand and backed by an independent body in order to be trusted.

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