Lately you might have been hearing the term “greenwashing”. In fact, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has just announced its first court action on local shores against an investment firm, which it claims misled members by investing in coal and other fossil fuels, along with alcohol and gambling stocks, in a fund that promoted its sustainable credentials.
Put simply, greenwashing is when a company practices any deceptive conduct in relation to its corporate responsibility and sustainability programs. It may not seem particularly relevant to the educational travel sector; when in fact it is a highly topical issue and one which school leaders must consider when they are selecting an educational travel partner.
More about greenwashing
Words such as “eco-friendly” and sustainability have been everywhere for the past few years, however lately we’ve reached a tipping point. Many of us are sick of being told that something is good for the environment, with no evidence to back it up.
In its mildest form, greenwashing is when companies leverage marketing messages around being eco-friendly or sustainable, without really demonstrating they have the “meat and potatoes” (or tofu and kale, perhaps!) to back it up.
There’s also a darker side to greenwashing, and that is when it’s used by industries and companies that are harming the world around us in an active sense, to deflect attention away from the harm they are doing.
You might immediately think of industries such as big oil and tobacco when it comes to the second type of greenwashing, but the travel industry also must be held accountable. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council, the travel industry generates between 8% and 11% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
The majority of these come from transportation, but accommodation and other sundries also contribute their fair share.
However, the answer is not to stop all international travel, particularly for schools. Young people still need to see and experience the world, as it is an integral part of learning and character development.
We believe the last three years, since the arrival of the pandemic, have presented us with an unprecedented opportunity to do things better. At Latitude Group Travel, we have been striving actively to help secondary schools to realise this change, and engage in more ethical and sustainable travel moving forward. After all, the example we’re setting to young learners now is helping to build the active global citizens of the future.
Schools need more than just lip service
Travel undeniably needs to be more sustainable, but the actions your touring partners take need to be more than lip service. We know a lot of educational travel companies claim to have a focus on sustainability , but we find frequently there is little to no action to back it up. This is the crux of greenwashing in the educational travel industry.
We recommend school leaders consider the following points before engaging an educational travel partner, to ensure their commitment to sustainable travel is as robust as they claim – and not just greenwashing:
- How recent are their stated corporate social responsibility and/or sustainability initiatives? A lot has changed in the world since the pandemic arrived in 2020. If your educational touring partner has collateral promoting policies from pre-2020, they are likely out of date.
- Do they offer carbon offsetting programs for your travel, with reputable partners and projects that are aligned to your school’s values? We announced this capability back in 2021, alongside our own reinvigorated commitment to sustainable business practices in our operations, and it’s something our staff all live and breathe.
- Are they able to offer service-learning programs that take into consideration the ethical dilemmas many commentators have raised about older-style programs? We’ve written about this topic extensively and it’s worth reading some of our older articles, if you haven’t already:
– Why now is the time for schools to reimagine Service Learning and voluntourism experiences
– What does a reimagined service-learning program look like for your school?
- Can they offer you a Sustainability subject in every itinerary, no matter what the subject, to align with the Cross-curriculum Priorities?
How can we help
Latitude Group Travel is Australia’s leading provider of custom designed, curriculum linked, educational, experiential learning tours for late primary and secondary school students. We’re committed to helping teachers and their students bring their classroom learnings to life by creating memorable and unique experiences. Our itineraries allow your group to take in iconic sights combined with as many classes, workshops, themed guided tours or subject related activities as you wish.
We also specialise in combining multiple subjects in a single itinerary, so parents will know they’re getting greater value for their money.