Behaving to look like sustainable and having an ESG focus is the “hot trend” for many businesses – and is increasingly becoming a competitive feature in the communication with customers. “Bio”, “nontoxic”, “natural”, “earth friendly”… are common terms but they’ve lost their true meaning.
The term greenwashing is a modification of the term whitewashing, which is associated with using false statements to hide business practices which were not ethical.
Early greenwashing techniques first appeared in marketing in the 1960s.
Environmentalist Jay Westerveld came up with the term ‘greenwashing’ in the 1980s. He used it in a essay to describe the false equivalency created by hotels that asked guests to reuse their towels to save the environment.
A recent research has found that one in every five cases of corporate risk incidents linked to environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues stems from greenwashing and misleading communications.
Companies as EcoHotelProjects or RepRisk consulting have found that too often greenwashing actions are implemented as an answer to the pressure on the demand side towards sustainability and not by a true belief in sustainability values.
“Greenwashing is a marketing tactic used by some corporations to advertise their products or services as sustainable when in fact they are nothing of the sort”, Hector De Castro.
This problem is increasing at the rythm that tourists are willing to buy or experience more environmentally conscious experiences and products.
When companies greenwash, they worse an already deep problem of global waste and warming.
The World Bank predicts that by 2050 global waste will increase by 70%.
At EcoHotelProjects our main markets are Spain, Mexico and South East Asia. And, despite differences in legal regulations we’ve found in all of them an extremely lax law when it comes to discouraging companies from greenwashing.
This is really evident in areas as Tulum, Mayan Riviera, a tourist city once awarded as the most sustainable in the world -but there is a long way to walk yet.
Nevertheless, there are some hotels and hoteliers as Mr Ernesto Luna, director at AHAU Tulum boutique hotel, who are truly responsible and highly qualified hotel sustainability professionals. They belong to that small group of professionals who promote actions as the #tulumcircula initiative, to clean the region, being in this way fully alligned with the Luxury Sustainable Hotels International Association (LUSH) values and actions. Excellent.
At this point I am happy to say that hope is not lost. But we need to keep on discouraging greenwashing through educating and implementing real measures towards a more sustainable luxury hospitality.
Tulum is indeed a beautiful region to enjoy nature and beauty at its upmost. So, before it gets spoiled, we need to join strenghts.
To advance at this point we collaborate with Anahuac Cancun Tourism University, among other institutions, to boost a real sustainability and showing to the market that sustainable -yet profitable, is possible. There is indeed a better way to do hospitality.
I speak loud that tourists are not empty-minded people. As soon as the market gets more mature and savvy regarding to the sustainability concept, it’ll soon demand a real sustainability and not just empty words.
This actions should not be promoted. I do agree with certain level of incremental adaptation. That makes sense, since all businesses need to provide profits and deep changes need time to be implemented succesfully both, at a technical level and also at a corporate culture level.
Greenwashing is a serious thread for the environment and SDGs that deserves to be analized deeper.
“Hospitality companies need to be held accountable, and tourists expectations must be treated with respect so that the local communities and the environment”,
Héctor De Castro.
At the start of 2022, a survey by Alcumus consulting found that many finance firms felt they lacked competent guidance and frameworks on ESG and reporting to combat greenwash. The survey was taken by 621 senior managers, and they found that 90% said their business had included ESG considerations in its overarching strategies. And, among those who said their business hadn’t made this implementation yet, 43% said there are planning to do it by 2025.
Institutions as the Luxury Sustainable Hotels International Association work to join and give voice to all that hotels which are willing to grow as sustainable and environmentally respectful. At LUSH association the experts work to certify hotels and hospitality companies as really sustainable Technical knowledge alongwith passion and values to develop reliable solutions and market analysis.
MY TOP 5 RECOMMEDATIONS TO AVOID GREENWASHING
- BE CLEAR AND SPECIFIC IN YOUR MESSAGES TO BUILD CREDIBILITY
- TRENDS ARE NOT THE BEST. FOLLOW WHAT IS PROVED TO BE GOOD, NOT FASHIONABLE
- BE COHERENT BETWEEN YOUR ACTIONS, SPEECH AND VALUES
- TRY TO REALLY MAKE A DIFFERENCE. CONTINOUS IMPROVEMENT.
- ALWAYS TRY TO MAKE USE OF DATA AND SCIENTIFIC INFO TO SUPPORT YOUR ACTIONS OR IMPLEMENTED MEASURES.