Covid-19 has significantly impacted practically every aspect of our personal and business lives, and has made it very clear that sustainability is central to our resiliency and survival.
Defined as wellbeing for people and planet, rigorous sustainability must be ‘the new normal’ in 2021 and onwards; and we need to align on the urgency to become carbon neutral/positive and the delivery on the 17 Global Goals. Sustainability demands rigour, measurements, accountability and transparency from businesses and individuals to seriously ‘walk the talk’ and take responsibility for their total impacts on communities and the environment.
Consumers are more aware of the urgency and the negative impacts of travel and tourism, but there is still a lot of confusion on what to expect when a business claims to be ‘sustainable’ in the world of travel and tourism. In addition to the word luxury, the word ‘sustainable’ is the next most over-used, hyped, greenwashed and manipulated word used for creative PR. Many have not scrutinized their supply chain to check the resource in order to ensure it is not depleted or permanently damaged as well as the harvesting method, carbon footprint and the protection of humans and animals.
Look for hotels and travel operators that are raising the bar on sustainability with accountability and transparency. This means measuring, reducing and offsetting their carbon footprint and meaningfully scrutinizing their supply chain ‘cradle to cradle’, and meaningfully support the Global Goals. For many, rigorous sustainability is still lacking because it is not cheap or easy, purpose and good values are not embedded in the brand, and taking total responsibility for negative impacts on communities and the environment is not considered ‘the right thing to do’.
At this urgent crossroad when human induced interconnected threats and crises are accelerating, the conscious traveler and stakeholder – employees, guests, media, travel operators, investors – must demand accountable proof of ‘rigorous sustainable actions’. All stakeholders, specially those holding the wallet, are hugely influential in driving change and it is crucial to be informed and empowered, turn on the radar for greenwash, demand better from decision makers, call out the deniers and greenwashers, and only support businesses that can prove they are Forces for Good and seriously ‘walk the talk’.
Lifestyle and travel publications, news media, influencers and bloggers, and travel operators need to be part of the solution, be better informed, be less dependent on advertising and commissions, and be more honest when publishing ’The Most Sustainable Hotels and Experiences in 2021’.
2021 is the year of transition. On travel, consumer surveys by McKinsey & Company found that consumers will not act uniformly. Countries with older demographics, such as France, Italy, and Japan, are less optimistic than are those with younger populations, such as India and Indonesia. Consumer spending and travel will return with consumer confidence in health and safety measures. Leisure travel is projected to bounce back but business travel will lag and executives in the field think that it may never recover to the 2019 level.
The future of the travel industry will depend on more than just travelers’ pent-up demand according to McKinsey, with their survey revealing that ‘the romance’ that travel used to inspire was already wearing thin even before the crisis. Travel companies need to excite and attract customers as well as reassure them. To achieve this, leaders should focus on making travel better—not just safer —which means giving travelers more control, offering greater authenticity and personalization, and taking a customer-centric, agile approach. A focus on health and hygiene only scratches the surface of the changes that are necessary in the aftermath of the pandemic crisis. The shift toward a more digital and personalized journey, and an increased emphasis on wellness and sustainability really matters.’
2021 actions to advance rigorous sustainability will determine our hope for a stable future. We have gone over the dreaded tipping points and it is no longer just about saving the planet, it is about ourselves. It is still possible to avoid total systems collapse and catastrophe if we act NOW. Our biggest hope and opportunity this year is the $10+ trillion recovery stimulus from governments across the globe.
What can each person do to boldly drive change NOW?
Invest in change NOW. Support big movements that demand recovery programs address the climate emergency, collapsing ecosystems and deficits on social justice. Extinction Rebellion | 350.org | Fridays for Future | Stop Ecocide | Fossil Fuel Divestments | Possible
Build personal resilience NOW. Radically advance to a low carbon and sustainable lifestyle. Waste less.
Know you have power NOW. Only support accountable and transparent companies that aim to be carbon zero before 2030 and support the Global Goals.
How much time is left before doors close? 1.5°C (34.7°F) above pre-industrial level is the absolute ‘red line in the sand’ when a series of one-way doors start to close.
What is the science telling us? Carbon Brief’s analysis for the IPCC’s 2021-2022 Assessment Report revealed that our world will likely exceed 1.5°C (34.7°F) between 2026 and 2042 (central estimate 2030 and 2032). Events are occurring to amplify warming. 2026 is in less than 5 years. Track Climate Action By Country NOW https://climateactiontracker.org/
It’s crucial that we understand the urgency, recognise our collective responsibility and work together. It really, really matters. It must be NOW.