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5 Learnings from CL Training – Lemongrass Marketing

January 2024 by Ben Thornton Harwood

Rather than paying lip service to sustainability with recycled paper notebooks and reusable water bottles, travel PR company Lemongrass Marketing wanted to really drill down into the impact that the company (and the travel industry as a whole) has on the environment, and take as many steps as possible to reduce, rather than offset, damage.

So, in October, they invited Can Marketing Save the Planet? to their eco office in Bicester to teach the team their Carbon Literacy for Marketers course.

In this guest blog, originally published by Lemongrass Marketing, the team share their main takeaways from the day, and, more importantly, how you can put them into practice for your own travel business.

1. Know your number

What we learnt:

It’s easy to wash out some jars and take your canvas bags to the shop and feel that’s enough, but the fact that the UK needs to reduce its emissions by 68% by 2030 in order to be even close to our Net Zero goals in 2050 should be more than pause for thought. To put it in individual terms, each person on Earth would ideally emit less than 1 metric tonne of CO2 a year – that’s the weight of 440 bricks – and in the UK, we’re currently emitting nearly five times that per person.

To cut our emissions back to a fifth of what we’re currently producing, the first step is to know exactly how much CO2 you’re currently emitting – and which of your actions are responsible for the majority of your carbon footprint – so that you can tackle the biggest problems first.

As part of our B Corp journey, Lemongrass has been working with eCollective on a live tracker that takes into account every part of our working day and calculates a carbon cost. Whether that’s the flights or train journeys we book for press trips, the petrol we use as a team to commute to the office, or the energy we use working from home, knowing our number gives us a clear-cut carbon budget for the year, as well as a vital indication of where we can cut down to bring our numbers towards that Net Zero goal.

Even the hosting of our website and the emails we send day-to-day add up, so Lemongrass keeps a close eye on the figures to hold ourselves accountable and in order to hit tangible targets. On that note, our blog posts are looking a little more static than usual – this is because GIFs significantly increase page sizes, and with each extra byte transmitted increasing carbon emissions, swapping resource-heavy GIFs for optimised images is just one easy way for us to reduce the overall CO2 output of our website.

How it can help your business:

Knowledge is power, so the first step to reducing your number is to take stock of your current activity – that way, when you shout about shrinking your carbon footprint (as you should), your statements can be based in fact.

There are plenty of free carbon footprint calculators for businesses available online, such as Switch2Zero, but attempting to track one or multiple properties can be a daunting task, not to mention time-consuming. Instead, for serious carbon-cutting we recommend investing in a speciality software programme such as Weeva, which is specifically designed for the tourism and hospitality industry. Data input is easy and can be assigned to individual task members (ideal for that all-important accountability) and progress bars showing how close you are to targets are an added motivational bonus. With all the figures laid out in front of you, it’s infinitely simpler to assess the areas in which you can cut emissions and shrink your footprint once and for all.

2. Rethink your plate

What we learnt:

Considering what – and how – you eat can be one of the most impactful changes an individual can make when it comes to carbon emissions. Results from an Oxford University study released in 2023 found that vegan diets resulted in 75% less CO2 emissions, water pollution and harmful land use, as well as cutting back on water use and slowing destruction of wildlife habitats. While it may seem a drastic choice for some, committing to just one vegan day per week can save nearly 50kgs of CO2 per year, and eating vegan one week per month can save nearly 80kgs of CO2 per year. To this end, Lemongrass has committed to Meat-Free Mondays, and any food ordered for the team during meetings or while travelling will be plant-based.

Whatever you’re stocking your fridge with, the point is moot if food goes wasted. Over a third of all food produced globally goes to waste, hitting the bin before it even reaches our plates, and the UK throws away around 9.5 million tonnes of food waste in a single year – even though 8.4 million people in the UK are in food poverty. Squandering the earth’s resources and then not even making use of the product adds insult to injury, so reducing food waste is key to reducing environmental damage both on an individual and business level.

How it can help your business:

18% of annual food waste is created by the hospitality and food service industry, with 1 in 6 meals in hospitality being wasted. Once again, knowledge is key, as knowing where and how much food waste occurs in your business is crucial to reducing it. Take measures such as avoiding over-ordering ingredients, sourcing them locally and seasonally, and monitoring the popularity of dishes (particularly when it comes to buffet set-ups). Consider working with a local non-profit organisation to donate leftover meals, or work with a composting partner so wasted food can be reduced. Better yet, make it as easy for guests to take away leftovers so that food is eaten rather than thrown away wherever possible – and what’s more, be transparent about your reasons for doing so. If you’ve made a decision with sustainability in mind, taking the customer on the journey is crucial. As an example, Club Med is transparent about how it engineers its hotel buffets to reduce food waste, including serving up more appropriate portions, providing smaller platers and reusing uneaten food for new recipes.

3. Consider the four Rs

What we learnt:

When it comes to travel and tourism, an inescapability high emissions sector, it’s not enough to simply offset the damage with carbon sinks and tree-planting (although these absolutely have their own merits). Instead, focusing on the four Rs can help businesses take an all-round, responsible approach to how we sell and provide tourism services in future.

REDUCE:
The huge toll that long-distance overseas travel takes on the environment should not be underestimated, with tourism emissions projected to reach 6.5 billion metric tons by 2025 – the equivalent to about 13% of current greenhouse gas emissions. For true carbon-cutting, both frequency and distance travelled for both business and leisure should be reduced, while multi-destination trips should be avoided in aid of deep dives into a single location to reduce carbon-costly take-offs and landings.

RETHINK
If reduction is not an option, then taking a creative approach can be just as beneficial. Lemongrass is committed to pitching alternative destinations to reduce environmentally damaging overtourism, as well as focusing on activities and enterprises that benefit local communities rather than taking from them. We will also always promote rail travel over flying or cruising wherever possible. Even something as simple as eating at local, sustainable restaurants rather than chains can make a huge difference in the long run.

REUSE
Eliminating single-use plastics and focusing on reusable amenities is no longer news within the hospitality industry, but in a post-Covid world, disposable items are once again creeping into hotel rooms. Wherever possible, reusable or responsibly sourced materials should be used, and laundry should be reduced by only washing towels when necessary rather than daily. Daily house-keeping as a whole should be reconsidered – a good example of this is the ‘opt-out’ house-keeping button at Forestis in Italy, with a tree planted for each day that guests choose not to have their rooms reset.

REFILL
As a minimum, hotels should be providing refillable amenities such as toiletries in bathrooms and drinks fountains rather than single-use cups can help to reduce unnecessary waste. Instead of having daily papers and magazines delivered, SCHLOSS Roxburghe in Scotland provides a QR code at reception which gives guests access to digital copies of their reading materials.

How it can help your business:

When it comes to rethinking our approach to traditional tourism, enlisting help from experts in community tourism can help strengthen your business offering – after all, a more social focus not only benefits the environment, but also our bottom line. As covered in our Lemongrass Travel Trend Report 2023, 56% of Gen Z and 46% of Millennials are willing to pay a premium for companies embracing an environmentally sound, socially conscious ethos. Companies such as The Conscious Travel Foundation or Planeterra can help connect you with community projects and initiatives that benefit from tourism – think restaurants and cafés that provide training and jobs for marginalised populations, or homestays that use the income to improve their local community.

Group touring company Travelsphere is a good example of community tourism at work, as many of their tours visit local initiatives to help raise money for local projects. Their Best of Costa Rica tour includes a stop at Mi Cafecito Coffee, a local tourism and agriculture co-op, where guests can learn about the lives of Costa Rica’s coffee producers, sample the coffee and buy goods directly from the people working hard on the product. On their Invitation to Vietnam & Temples of Angkor Wat and A Journey through South East Asia tours, guests will take classes at Oodles of Noodles, an initiative that offers culinary training and language classes for at-risk adolescents to help them find jobs in the food industry. Including these community elements in your travel offering not only benefits the local economy, it offers your business a USP and off-the-beaten-path experience travellers will clamour for.

4. Make your money talk

What we learnt:

While you might be taking every measure to be as sustainable as possible in your consumption of energy and resources, you may be indirectly contributing to irresponsible companies – without even knowing it. Depending on what bank or pension holder you use, money sitting in your savings accounts and pension pots could be bankrolling fossil fuels companies, contributing to deforestation and the arms trade. Barclays, HSBC, Santander, NatWest and Lloyds provided $37bn to fossil fuel companies in the last twelve months alone.

How it can help you:

As a business, factoring ethical banking into your financial planning can be one of the simplest ways to instantly reduce your carbon footprint – according to campaign group Make My Money Matter, ‘greening your money’ is 21 times more effective than giving up flying, becoming a vegetarian and changing an energy provider combined. Their recent celebrity campaign with Olivia Colman gained traction in the UK media thanks to its hard-hitting message, and we’re expecting more discussion of where pension money is held in 2024 – so now’s the time to make the change. Tools like Switchit.green can help you find the most sustainable bank for your business needs and advise you on how to switch.

5. Back up your claims

What we learnt:

We know that sustainability is increasingly driving purchasing decisions – but with the rise of more responsible initiatives comes an inevitable uptick in ‘greenwashing’, the practice of making your company seem more sustainable than it is through the use of misleading, overstated or false claims. According to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), a recent international analysis of websites found that a whopping 40% of green claims made online could be misleading.

However, as of 2023, the CMA has been granted new powers under the ASA to financially penalise companies who are found to be greenwashing, which means that your claims need to be backed up by evidence if you’re going to make them.

How it can help your business:

While stricter rules on greenwashing might cause the reverse to take place – ‘greenhushing’, where companies keep their sustainability initiatives under wraps for fear of being taken to task over them – here at Lemongrass, we think it’s a brilliant opportunity to shout about the genuine work being undertaken to reduce environmental damage and support more responsible tourism, and as consumers will know that claims are more strictly regulated, they’ll be more likely to view your business as trustworthy.

We recommend checking your wording (on printed, digital and broadcast materials) against the UK government’s handy Green Claims Code to ensure that you’re in the clear, and avoiding vague terms such as ‘eco-friendly’ where possible, unless you can point to clear evidence. An example of a company recently hit by greenwashing claims is Ryanair, who referred to themselves as having the ‘lowest carbon emissions of any major airline’ in print advertising. However, the ASA forced them to pull the ads once it became apparent that the data they were using to back up their claims was from 2011, and several major airlines were not included in the comparison.

It’s a tricky subject, so we’ll be exploring this further to give you the latest up-to-date advice in 2024.

Conclusion

We’re happy to announce that each member of the Lemongrass Marketing team passed their Carbon Literacy course with flying colours, and as a company, we’ve made pledges to help further reduce our carbon emissions, such as combining press trips to lower carbon footprints, performing digital health checks for our website and email databases, and examining our wider network in detail. In every client meeting, sustainability will be a crucial point of discussion – because staying silent is no longer an option. Both the company and the country have strict criteria we need to hit in 2030 for our carbon goals to become a reality, and we want to take as many clients as possible along on this journey with us.

As a business, having a Carbon Literate team not only aids in this global journey to reduce emissions and make the world a greener place; it also reduces your risk of greenwashing, makes communication more cohesive as a team and makes your business more appealing to an increasingly eco-minded customer base.

If you’d like to know more about Lemongrass Marketing’s experience of the process of becoming Carbon Literate, or you have any questions about how they can help advise your sustainability initiatives, get in touch or call 01865 237990.

If you’d like to learn how Carbon Literacy could work for your company, get in touch with The Carbon Literacy Project.

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