How to communicate sustainability effectively

Communicating sustainability effectively helps you attract your target group. Learn how to develop a strong sustainable marketing strategy.
How to communicate sustainability effectively

Sharing your sustainable business story

A growing group of tourism businesses is becoming more involved in good tourism. They’re implementing sustainable practices into their business, and they’re working hard to create positive impact on destinations and local communities. At the same time they focus on developing travel experiences that are responsible and meet the needs of travellers.

From the travellers side there’s also a growing demand for meaningful, responsible, and unique travel experiences. And they’re actively looking for tourism businesses that can provide these experiences for them.

Sharing your sustainable business story

Therefore, it’s essential for sustainable tourism businesses, to communicate sustainability effectively. To be visible online and to have consistent and genuine communication about sustainable tourism. Answering to the questions and needs and demands of their target group. But it seems many businesses still struggle with communicating their sustainable business story. What, how and where do you share your sustainability stories?

Sustainable marketing strategy

When you communicate sustainability right and effectively, it positions your business as sustainable. Thereby attracting committed employees, suitable partners, and ideal customers. A sustainable marketing strategy helps you promote your mission, vision, and showcase how you have turned them into practical sustainable practices.

Definition of sustainable marketing

Sustainable marketing is the promotion of responsible products, services, and practices.

Know that sustainable marketing always has to be genuine and authentic and that it can’t be a marketing ploy. Customers can easily recognise brands using cause-marketing as a profit-making strategy when there is no genuine desire to actually be a sustainable business.


If you don’t do sustainable marketing right or if you’re still just doing sustainability “on the side” in your business, it won’t provide you with all the benefits. Your practices and marketing might even come across as greenwashing.

When you’re over-selling small measures you’ve implemented, making unsupported or misleading claims about your positive impact or responsible practices, it will not be appreciated by your target group or the tourism industry.

Definition of greenwashing

Certification against greenwashing

Sustainability certification is a great tool against greenwashing. It proves that your business complies to certain sustainability criteria and that your practices have been verified by an independent certification body. Certification ensures your partners, target group and your competition you are a verified sustainable tour operator.

Definition of certification

Certification is the provision by an independent body of written assurance (a certificate) that the product, service, or system in question meets specific requirements.

However, certification also means there is no distinguishment between companies who have all reached the same certification. What if your main competitors hold the same certification as you do? According to your certification status you are all equally sustainable.

At least, this is how it looks like. And for this reason, certification is not enough to stand out, to add value to your business and travel experiences and to convince your customers. For this you need a strong sustainable marketing strategy.

“Certification is not enough to stand out, to add value to your business, and to convince your target group.”

Key concepts for a strong sustainable marketing strategy

An effective marketing strategy positions your business as sustainable and communicates your sustainability story and practices in a genuine way. Make sure to implement below key concepts for a strong sustainable marketing strategy.

1. Be transparent and raise awareness

Transparency literally translates to being easily seen through. In business communication, this means that you are not keeping any secrets from your employees, customers and partners. Present your sustainability policy, strategy and targets the way they are. Make it clear why and what you are doing, what you are planning to do in the future and how.

Be honest about your practices. Transparency builds trust, creates satisfied employees and lets them commit to the mission of your business. Thereby, raises awareness among your customers who are activated to contribute to sustainable travel. Educate them about the positive impact of your travel experiences and increase their loyalty towards your business.

2. Be practical and concrete

When it comes to sustainability, it is often explained in a vague way. The concept of sustainability has different definitions for everyone and is also interpreted differently. This means it might not be clear for your target group what you mean when you’re saying you’re a sustainable tourism business. So therefore, make your communication practical and concrete.

Explain what you’re actually doing in practice and elaborate. How does your business support the local economy, animal welfare, nature conservation and a lower carbon footprint? Also, stay away from difficult wording. If you want to connect to your audience, you need to write clear, fluent and most importantly engaging messages. Even though your message might be solid, if you write it with difficult words, the message gets lost.

“Don’t sell sustainability. Sell the benefits of your travel experiences”.

3. Don’t sell sustainability

Instead of selling sustainability, sell the benefits of your travel experiences. Travellers are not only looking for a sustainable trip. They’re looking for an amazing travel experience and it being sustainable is added value, but often not the main motivation to book. Highlight what’s unique, authentic, and amazing about your travel experiences. Why should travellers travel with you and what will they remember most afterwards?

Besides highlighting this, it is still important to feature your travel experiences as sustainable and to elaborate what this actually means.

  • How does a specific travel experience create positive impact on local communities?
  • How will your business support nature or wildlife conservation in a certain destination?

Make your positive impact visible and tangible and encourage travellers to book with you for your sustainable added value.

4. Be customer oriented

There’s not just one type of traveller out there. Your ideal target group depends on your niche, unique selling points and destinations. For a strong sustainable marketing strategy, (re)discover who your ideal customer is. Determine their characteristics and find out their exact needs and demands when it comes to travelling and sustainability.

Use this information in your marketing. Approach your target group with the right tone of voice and tap into their needs and demands. Make sure to personalise your marketing and focus on how your ideal target group can make a positive impact when travelling with you. Engage with them in a personal way, with appealing content and give potential customers what they are looking for.

5. Have a larger purpose

For a successful sustainable marketing strategy, sustainability has to be fully integrated into your entire business. If not, you can’t market or sell it properly. Customers easily recognise over-selling or false statements and avoid your business for it. So, be genuine about your sustainability commitment and make sure to only share actual practices.

Having a larger purpose is personal. It’s something to strive for that’s bigger than you and even your business. To appeal to travellers, include personal thoughts, visions, and ideas. Share projects, causes and background stories your business cares about. Sustainability is not a one-size-fits all. It’s open to interpretation and it’s up to you how you practice and implement this in your business.

Reach your audience with sustainable content!

To reach your target group with sustainable content, you can use a number of techniques, such as:

Develop your sustainable marketing strategy

Communicating your sustainability practices makes business sense, if you do it right. Having a strong sustainable marketing strategy positions your business as sustainable, and when successful, the go-to tour operator in your niche. It also increases satisfaction of employees, engagement and loyalty of customers and attract more valuable partners.

Developing your brand and highlighting your genuine sustainable efforts is very effective, as long as you stay true to the reality. Be transparent and connect with your audience in a genuine way. Always remember that presenting your efforts and objectives are more relevant than simply presenting results. Sharing your road to more sustainable practices, encourages and inspires others to commit as well.


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Roadmap to sustainable travel success (free Ebook)

Discover 6 proven paths to best-selling sustainable travel experiences.