Illustration of people protesting

The New Year is a time for new beginnings, so it feels like a good time for us to announce a big commitment. I’m proud to say that as of January 1st, Wallop and Wallop Film are officially members of 1% for the Planet. They’re a global organization that connects companies with environmental charities. They accelerate giving through a hard commitment to contribute 1% of gross revenue.

We joined 1% for two reasons. First, we wanted the values of the company to reflect those of its employees. This is one of the ideas that we’re always pushing at this company. In our work, we push travel brands to align their values with their customers and guests to be successful. Well, we did some brand work on ourselves recently. And it was an opportunity for us to create this alignment between people in our company. Sustainability and care for the environment are important values for our employees. Joining 1% means we align with those values.

The second reason, is because we are in the travel business. It is notoriously bad for the environment. From jet fuel, laundry, to single-use containers – its harm is widespread, and evident. This is one small way we can give back, and be part of the solution. So we’re supporting charities that are working to mitigate the harm caused by travel:

On a more personal level, I am a big admirer of Yvonne Chouinard. He’s the founder of Patagonia, and 1% for the Planet. His story of being a reluctant businessman really resonates with me. I also have a tenuous relationship with business and corporate culture at large. I agree with his views on corporate responsibility. So this partnership felt right for me personally.

Momentum in the Travel World

Out there in the travel and hospitality world, the push for sustainability is gaining momentum. There’s been a lot of greenwashing over the years, like the reuse of towels and sheets. But we’re now starting to see real change.

There are visible things, like the use of local ingredients, energy efficiency, and meaningful efforts in conservation. You’re probably familiar with building certifications like LEED, and green buildings. Behind the scenes, hotel development and operations are being guided by CSR (corporate social responsibility) programs. In finance, ESG (environment, social, and governance) scores are used to benchmark and gauge the future performance of an investment. Studies show that companies that have a higher ESG score are less volatile, deliver higher profits, and more stable returns.

These measurements also reflect the values of investors; more people want to invest responsibly. Plus the recent advances in green technologies have improved their economics. Using less and reusing costs less. The tension between capitalism and ethics has always slowed the progress on sustainability. So getting alignment between the economics and governance is a big deal.

So that’s on the finance and business side. On the brand side, customers today have higher level needs, beyond comfort. They expect that you are not doing inordinate harm to the environment. They want to know that you are making responsible decisions, through the lens of sustainability. So if you’re asking guests to reuse towels, but serve water in bottles and food in styrofoam containers – you are eroding brand equity, and costing your organization much more than you are saving.

This is especially true with luxury brands and one-of-a-kind travel experiences. Good service, comfort, and amenities are expected. It’s not a differentiation. How does the experience help the person grow? Is it authentic to the place and culture? Does it consider future generations? Those are the questions you should be addressing.

The Road Ahead

It’s good to see the conversations around sustainability changing, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. The issue of sustainability is a once in a generation, extinction-level crisis. Our participation with 1% is a small thing. But it’s my hope that it’ll add to the momentum that’s building around the world on this issue.

If you want to be on the right side of this issue, and create better alignment with the value of your employees, it’s worth a consideration.

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It’s going to be a rough couple of months for the travel industry, there’s no doubt about it. But not all is lost. With a cool head, a bit of flexibility, lots of empathy, and some creative thinking, hospitality marketers have the opportunity to minimize the effect of Covid-19 on their business.

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