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Sustainability and social media – how travel brands demonstrate their green credentials

Social Media - 6th January 2021
Woman enjoying freedom on nature outdoors. Travel Slovenia Europe.

Read time: 3 minutes, 30 seconds

Before COVID-19 hit and travel ground almost to a halt, sustainability was a hot topic across the industry. Although 2020 was extremely challenging for airlines and travel brands alike, one positive we can take from last year was the reduction in carbon emissions seen during the early phases of the pandemic and a renewed focus on our personal travel and transport choices.

When restrictions ease and life starts to return to normal following mass vaccination programmes, travel companies and airlines will need to bring sustainability back to the top of their agenda. Consumers are pressing all industries to cut their emissions, but with air passenger journeys set to at least double within 20 years according to IATA, sustainability is a huge challenge for the travel industry.

Building an environmentally-aware social media presence

Sustainability is a major concern for all generations and Greta Thunberg proves you are never too young to stand up and fight against climate change. To engage with younger travellers for whom sustainability is certainly a top priority, travel brands need to be showcasing their sustainability efforts on social media. Some companies are already taking the lead in the sustainability space, building their presence as ‘environmentally-aware’ brands and winning the trust of the eco-conscious.

Sustainability on Instagram

Sustainable travel will be even more important post-Covid-19Social media is part of our daily lives


The rise of sustainable travel influencers on Instagram over the past few years highlights the ever-growing appetite for finding new ways to explore the world while limiting our carbon footprint: a difficult paradox to grapple with. Influencers like Zanna Van Dijk, Where’s Mollie and Misty Foster of Green Suitcase Travel upload wanderlust-inducing travel photos, while also making a conscious effort to share tips on how to travel sustainably. Travel brands are beginning to follow suit by engaging with sustainability influencers whilst also sharing their own carbon reduction efforts online.

Australian tour operator Intrepid Travel has a story highlight dedicated to fighting climate change on its Instagram page and regularly shares advice on how travellers can reduce their carbon footprint with digestible, eye-catching posts. Intrepid Travel engages with sustainability experts, quoting them on social media, to ensure all advice and information shared with their followers is backed up with evidence and expert opinions. The company encourages its followers to share their own sustainability efforts using hashtags such as #RebuildResponsibly and #BeReponsible. Intrepid Travel not only uses social media to showcase its own sustainability efforts, but to build a positive community of highly engaged, environmentally conscious travellers.


What about airlines?

Although arguably a difficult feat, airlines are also taking significant steps towards reducing carbon emissions, particularly Etihad Airways. In early 2020, the carrier announced its ambitious goal of zero net emissions by 2050, and to halving its 2019 net emission levels by 2035. Like Intrepid Travel, Etihad also has a story highlight on Instagram dedicated to its sustainability initiatives, such as its use of sustainable aviation fuel and the regular assessment of fuel mileage and consumption based on the aircraft’s performance and fuel flow.

Etihad regularly takes to Instagram to share engaging videos about its Greenliner programme, a strategic global partnership with Boeing and GE that tests new green technologies. As part of Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2020, Etihad conducted an eco-flight on which sustainable technologies, products and practices were trialled. From electric tractors for baggage loading, to edible coffee cups reducing single-use plastic onboard, the eco-flight championed global suppliers that stepped up to the challenge of reducing air travel’s environmental impact. In addition, the eco-flight used 15% less fuel and followed an optimised flight route to reduce carbon emissions. Etihad showcased the flight on Instagram through a short, informative and visually engaging video, using the hashtag #WeAreCommitted to emphasise the airline’s dedication to sustainability.

Social media is a fantastic platform for travel companies, airlines and travellers to share ideas of how to decarbonise the travel industry and build strong communities that share this aim. Through visual platforms like Instagram, these groups can unite and inspire other travel and aviation companies to follow suit, making the necessary changes that will allow future generations to enjoy the wonders of travel without negatively impacting the planet.