itmustbeNOW.com turned 4years on Earth Day.
‘It must be NOW’ was the urgent message of a millennial to me during a 2015 discussion in Paris with the World Climate Summit COP21 in the background. He was talking about climate action and the need for older generations, who were part of the problem, to help Gen Y&Z and be part of the solution.
Since day one, we took this message to heart in the industry we know and love. Our purpose for travellers (this is all of us) is to grow a global community of like-minded people that believe travellers and the travel industry have a responsibility to be a Force for Good. And our purpose in the tourism and hospitality sector is to advance sustainability and raise the bar on accountability and transparency.
Tourism has had an immense positive impact on communities worldwide and the hospitality sector has flourished exponentially in recent decades. It has given the international traveller access to an extensive selection of new destinations and incredible experiences to enjoy around the world. However, it brought massive negative and irresponsible impact as well that harmed communities and the environment – biodiversity damage, carbon emission pollution, competition with communities for energy and water, change in cultures and traditions, excessive waste, exploitation of women, children and animals, over-tourism, poorly paid jobs and more.
The 2019 global travel and tourism contributed an impressive $8.9 trillion ($8,900,000,000,000.–) to the world’s GDP. Then Covid-19 struck, and by year end 2020, the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Economic Impact Report revealed staggering losses for the sector that totaled almost $4.5 trillion ($4,500,000,000,000.–), a shocking GDP drop of 49.1% as the industry struggled to survive widespread travel restrictions and confusions, quarantines and lack of control, traveller concerns and mental stress, and many other pandemic-related measures. These numbers are as grim as Covid’s devastation to people’s lives and many companies in the tourism industry.
With the Spring of 2021 upon us, we are still in the grip of the pandemic, but we are starting to feel hopeful with the global vaccine rollouts on the way and the restart of travel in some countries. With so many wanting to travel again, we need to travel better and be smarter about low waste travel. Some project tourism to recover to 2019 levels within 3 years, and even reach past projections of 2 billion international travellers by 2030.
But at what cost to people and the planet? 2021 is the decisive year and we felt hopeful when most 2021 Travel Trends forecasted a surge in sustainability demand as global consumers prioritised wellbeing, not just for the person, but also for communities and the environment. This is the most powerful and influential force that will drive radical change in tourism.
We need more radical action and honest accounting. In our December 2020 article ‘Is There Hope in Hell’, Jonathon Porritt, Co-Founder of Forum for the Future, tells us, “On the one hand, we have the science that tells us that everything is getting worse everywhere faster than anyone imagined possible according to an imminent scientist in IPPC. On the other hand, there is a solutions agenda that is getting more powerful and more significant in terms of providing solutions to the world’s worst problems today. In the middle sits the politicians who can narrow the gap between the science and the deployment available to us. The judgement call is what the politicians will do. It is difficult to move these systems unless there is a shock to the system. Governments did not really understand what it takes to get to a carbon neutral environment. It is now possible to have a 100% renewable electricity world by 2030. We have to commit to more radical action including civil disobedience. There is so much that we can do.”
But climate campaigners caution us about these lofty rhetoric. Speaking of world leaders and the shortcomings of their climate proposals thus far, Greta Thunberg voices the opinion of many who believe in the science, “At the Leaders’ Climate Summit, countries will present their new climate commitments, like net-zero emissions by 2050. They will call these hypothetical targets ‘ambitious.’ But when you compare our insufficient targets with the overall current best available science, you clearly see that there’s a gap. There are decades missing. The point is that we can keep using creative carbon accounting and cheat in order to pretend that these targets are in line with what is needed. But we must not forget that while we can fool others and even ourselves, we cannot fool nature and physics. The emissions are still there, whether we choose to count them or not. The gap between what needs to be done and what we are actually doing is widening by the minute. The gap between the urgency needed and the current level of awareness and attention is becoming more and more absurd. And the gap between our so-called climate targets and the overall, current best-available science should no longer be possible to ignore.”
The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer reveals an epidemic of misinformation and widespread mistrust of societal institutions and leaders around the world. Adding to this is a failing trust ecosystem unable to confront the rampant infodemic, leaving the four institutions – business, government, NGOs and media – in an environment of information bankruptcy and a mandate to rebuild trust and chart a new path forward. None of the societal leaders tracked – government leaders, CEOs, journalists and even religious leaders – are trusted to do what is right, with drops in trust scores for all.
While the world seems to be clouded by mistrust and misinformation, this year’s 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer study shows that business is not only the most trusted institution among the four studied, but it is also the only trusted institution with a 61 percent trust level globally, and the only institution seen as both ethical and competent. When the government is absent, people clearly expect business to step in and fill the void, and we have high expectations of business to address and solve today’s challenges.
During Covid, many hotel companies reached out to itmustbeNOW, realising that sustainability will be a priority issue in 2021. More are finally realising that their eco steps to change light bulbs to LED, offer not to change towels and bedsheets, remove single-use plastic and offer a range of cuisine options are now ‘basic’ expectations, same as good service. With the surge in sustainability demand from conscious travellers, more are inquiring about what rigorous sustainability means and nervous about the financial drain to deliver Net Zero carbon emissions and support of the Global Goals. Many are rethinking the future of work. More are realising the need to have a credible partner that can provide trustworthy advice and sustainability solutions, to have technologies to engage their stakeholders with accountability and transparency to rebuild trust. And most important, all want to be recognized as a Force for Good and an extraordinary place to stay that advance the wellbeing of people and planet by taking total responsibility for their impacts on communities and the environment.
With trust declining worldwide, we are looking for leadership and actionable solutions. Our internal radar can acutely detect BS, creative PR and ’trustwashing’; and those who are fake and ‘arrogantly talk the talk’ without credibility. This is the moment of reckoning for all CEOs and management of companies in countries around the world to deliver more than profits. Institutional investors are pushing for greater accountability on environmental issues, climate change and carbon accounting; and social issues on employee treatment, equal rights and diversity in companies and its supply chain to manage risk. And most vital today, how a company behaves in the world is as important as what it sells or produces as far as we, the stakeholders, are concerned.
It must be NOW!