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There is no planet B

Due to COVID-19, travel has almost come to a stop. Airports stood still, transportation was reduced, and tourism halted. Consequently, nature returned: animals were sighted in city centers and less air pollution was measured. This moment of pause in the world helped increase global awareness for sustainability, which is aligned with a growing trend in consumer demand for brands that act sustainably. Out of all the industries, travel seems to have the biggest challenges: Running on fossil fuels and having relied on profitable non-sustainable business models. Airlines, transportation companies, hotels and the gastronomy sector all need to rethink their strategies.

In the latest Open Perspectives Unplugged session, travel experts Remona van der Zon, Sustainability and Reporting Manager at KLM, Jerôme de la Chambre, Sustainability Manager at Landal GreenParks and Microsoft’s Digital Advisor for Travel and Hospitality Alejandra Attal explored “Sustainable Travel - the Future of Tourism”.

This graphics captures what panelists have shared during the session. it is also written in the below copy and visualized in the picture.
 

Sustainability means business


The panel discussed the immediate social, economic and environmental consequences of not acting sustainably that call out the need for more sustainable business practices. Microsoft’s Alejandra Attal highlighted the growing demand for greener business models, especially in the air transportation sector (“airbashing”). She also mentioned, the demand for suppliers to be consciously sustainable puts pressure on the business models of many companies. As ESG (Environmental, Social & Governance) performance indicators can be made a substantial part of a company’s extra financial performance, a positive result can increase a business’ market value. Having been carbon neutral since 2012, Microsoft’s goal is to be carbon negative, water positive and to be a zero-waste company by 2030. Further, with an internal carbon fee, individual divisions at Microsoft are being held accountable for their sustainable actions and contributing to carbon removal activities.

Remona added that the airline industry has no other option but to take responsibility to innovate on sustainability in order to survive and adhere to customer demands, as well as global agreements (e.g., the Paris Agreement). Hence, KLM is opting for sustainable alternatives by 2030. The airline just launched the first commercial flight with synthetic kerosene. But it does not stop there: Remona explained that fleet renewal is an essential factor as it could reduce the CO2 per passenger by 30-35%! What is important to note: Sustainable fuels are still at least three times more costly than fossil fuels. This is why partnerships across industries and corporate programs are now more important than ever.

For Landal GreenParks, educating guests on sustainable holiday practices is key- edutainment opportunities on sustainability for kids is a big part of the guest experience. It is the business’ responsibility to encourage their guests to interact with nature in a more sustainable manner highlighting energy, sustainable waste management practices and the importance of biodiversity. Jerôme summed up the importance of investments in sustainability in just 5 words: “there is no planet B”.

written in the above copy and is visualized in the picture.

Importance of transparency


Marketing activities play a key educational role in the new trend on sustainability. All panelists agreed that marketing communications should not only tell a good story, but the message should be authentic. KLM’s ‘fly responsibly’ initiative aimed to raise awareness for more sustainable action with stakeholders within the industry. One challenge it faced was the perception it was saying you should fly less. However, the key for KLM was the focus on opportunities that sustainability could bring. In this, awareness is essential and as a team you need to explain to your colleagues and customers why you are making certain changes. Eventually, this initiative sparked collaborations with other businesses in the aim to become more sustainable.

In Jerôme’s opinion, many companies use labels, which can help to transmit a certain message. But it’s a marketers responsibility to not just use labels for your marketing, instead be honest to consumers and be honest about what you do. Meaningless labels undermine consumers’ trust in sustainability communication. Reducing sustainable momentum is the last thing we need. In agreement with this, Alejandra added that educating employees and customers is essential. Microsoft recognizes its responsibility to influence the market to help shift towards a greener future. The release of the sustainability calculator supports clients in reducing their carbon footprint related to cloud consumption.
 

What the future holds


When thinking about the future, the panel agreed that challenges lie ahead but that sustainability is the key to survival. Everyone was aligned that business and leisure travel will be impacted differently. In Alejandra’s view, business travel will be a game changer as companies have learned to communicate from a distance and carefully reconsider the need for travel versus the use of virtual collaboration alternatives. However, in the panel discussion it was highlighted that travel cannot be fully replaced as we are also craving face to face connections (e.g. teambuilding, creative functions, etc.). Due to the pandemic, employees will become more conscious of taking trips while consumers have become more aware of the carbon footprint of travel and look for sustainable offers, for example sustainable aviation fuel, less packaging on-board.  
 
Remona pointed out that for the airline industry to be carbon negative, there is a long way to go. She remains optimistic though due to a growing awareness and demand amongst consumers and corporations. KLM specifically are going to focus on a more sustainable recovery of the industry. Remona mentioned last summer, KLM was one of 250 companies in the Netherlands that announced they are working together for a ‘Green Recovery’. In this regard, she announced that KLM is looking to offer more sustainable options to their customers in the future.

The hospitality industry, Jerôme noted, had a challenging year but Landal GreenParks creatively overcame these challenges by making the best of the growing staycation trend. Due to the pandemic, guests have realised they can have wonderful holidays in beautiful places close by. They have become more appreciative of what they can find within their own country. This is definitely a trend that will continue to develop in the future.

This graphics captures what panelists have shared during the session about the Future Perspective. it is also written in the above copy and visualized in the picture.

Final tips


Our three experts did not leave the conversation without providing final tips to the audience:

Remona from KLM:
Transparency and making informed choices are essential. 1) Companies have the responsibility to raise awareness and individuals need to educate themselves. 2) Collaboration between companies, institutions, consumers and (governmental) organizations are needed to innovate. We can make a bigger impact if we work together. 3) Start in your own work environment with small steps and a positive vibe.

Jerôme from Landal GreenParks:  
Change starts at a personal level. Be conscious of your own decision-making power; while shopping, while launching that new marketing campaign and while signing off investment requests. Employees should push sustainable choices in their departments - even if it requires difficult decisions.

Alejandra from Microsoft:
Individual choices and collective responsibility count. What is more, our demand for sustainable alternatives can have the impact to help global innovation and cost reduction in sustainability. As a business you are responsible to contribute by measuring your impact on the environment, society, biodiversity, etc. With the help of technology, businesses can support the trend of sustainability by providing insights and data where possible to drive the conversation.
 
If you missed the previous Open Perspectives Unplugged sessions, you can catch up on the key takeaways in the recap blogs: 
Recap 1 – The power of inclusive marketing
Recap 2 – Is your brand truly inclusive
Recap 3 – Accessibility is a responsibility and an opportunity
 
The next Open Perspective Unplugged Session will be happening April 29th 2021. Secure your seat now and tune in for ‘Speak up – why it matters for brands to take a stand’.
 
Learn more on building business value from Microsoft Advertising’s ‘Marketing with Purpose’ playbook.