White lies regarding environmental performance could result in embarrassment for travel companies. Consumers have become increasingly sceptical regarding sustainability claims and will call companies out in highly visible environments.

Due to the amount of information consumers now have at their fingertips, and past greenwashing scandals that have gained worldwide media attention, travellers are much more aware of attempts to exaggerate claims around responsible operations and carbon-reducing initiatives.

Scepticism is abundant

According to a GlobalData poll which asked respondents if they think that the business community is fully committed to sustainability, 31.3% of respondents stated that they think ‘some companies take sustainability seriously, but for others, it is a marketing exercise’, and 28% said ‘sustainability is just greenwashing’ for companies*. This sentiment shows that many travellers are aware of greenwashing attempts and are likely to question companies if they perceive them to go overboard with their statements.

Many travellers have become sceptical about environmental claims because of their stance on sustainability issues, with many now taking greater consideration of their carbon footprint and the companies they purchase products and services from. According to GlobalData, 56% of global respondents stated they ‘somewhat’ or ‘completely’ agree that they are more loyal to brands that support green and environmental matters**.

Green claims do not have to be head turning

Travel companies may not just be caught out with exuberant claims regarding greenhouse gas emission reduction. Aspects as small as a single word could now land companies in bother. The use of buzzwords is now what travel companies should be most wary of. These phrases are often used by tourism companies and have little substance behind them. For example, a holiday resort may provide ‘eco-tourism’ activities. However, these activities just take place in natural environments, such as guests exploring a nearby lagoon. Companies need to be wary of using phrases such as this to portray themselves as acting sustainably.

Social media intensifies the risk of greenwashing

Potential greenwashing claims are often posted on a company’s social media platforms to generate positive PR, but this is a risky game to play. According to GlobalData, time spent on social media increased during the pandemic. Out of those respondents who participated in the survey, 26.9% of consumers stated that they spent ‘more time than before’ or ‘all day’ on social media, with this habit likely having carried on as the impact of the pandemic lessened***.

All it takes is for one social media user to fact check a travel company’s exaggerated claim or buzzword, and the comment could go viral. This would make for an embarrassing situation for the company in question, and could even result in existing and new customers purchasing elsewhere.

*GlobalData poll (ended June 14, 2021, with 364 responses)

** GlobalData’s Q3 2021 Consumer Survey

*** COVID-19 Consumer Survey Tracker – 2020 (ended May 30, 2020)