There’s no doubt about it, it’s a turbulent time. We’re seeing some of the biggest protests in history across the globe and consumers have had enough - coming together all because of two words: climate change.

It’s a topic that’s hard to avoid, with the likes of teenage activist Greta Thunberg on a mission to push this to the top of the political agenda and disruptive environmental protests in major cities around the world, bringing capital cities to a standstill to make people sit up and listen.

So it’s no surprise, then, that we’re all starting to feel a little more conscious about our own carbon footprints…

According to research from RBS, consumers are starting to experience ‘flight shame’, with more than a fifth of those surveyed saying had they had intentionally reduced the number of flights they took over the last year, turning their backs on air travel due to climate change fears. 

Now, I’m not about to suggest that every brand in the travel sector should launch a whole new fleet of environmentally friendly planes (if they even exist?) or to replace cruise ships with hybrid electric-powered models by next week. The path to a more sustainable future for the travel industry is certainly going to be a process of incremental gains.

But, there are actions that brands can take in the immediate future to show their commitment to the cause and willingness to tackle the issue head on, from a comms perspective. After all, recent events suggest customers really do care, So, here’s a starter for 10:

  • Get involved – look to collaborate and partner with charities and initiatives to donate funds or commit time, from the top down. Show consumers, and staff, that you’re passionate about this issue and are willing to put your head above the parapet to do something about it
  • Encourage sustainability both inside and out – from reducing the number of single use plastics and paper print outs in the office, to switching to low-emission company cars – brands should take just as much pride in promoting sustainability internally with its staff as well as to its customers. The first thing a journalist will want to find out is if you practice what you preach  
  • Communicate plans for change – show consumers you are committed to the issue. Changes won’t happen overnight, but stating your long-term plans will allow consumers to feel a part of the journey with you, whilst you work on adjusting strategies internally to meet new demands. Dutch carrier KLM has been ‘doing its bit’ to promote sustainability in the travel sector by encouraging passengers to “fly responsibly” and announcing the launch of train services as an alternative to its Amsterdam-Brussels route

So, brands take note - with the movement against climate change continuing to grow momentum, it’s not an issue that’s going to go away. And, as Greta Thunberg made perfectly clear at the UN Climate Summit in New York last month “The eyes of all future generations are upon you”.

The environment is one of the biggest threats to travel sector businesses, with the impact from weather on a day-to-day basis to potential radical change to policies from international governments. Comms leaders in travel need to take responsibility for communicating the business’ strategy to dealing with it and show commitment to the cause, before it’s too late.