‘Greenwashing firms should be called out’, says TTC Tour Brands boss

Firms have been urged to clamp down on “greenwashing” suppliers that are not backing up their public sustainability pledges with concrete action.

Gavin Tollman, The Travel Corporation’s tour brands chief executive; Intrepid Travel chief executive James Thornton; and Hurtigruten Norway chief executive Hedda Felin all called for suppliers to work collaboratively to achieve green goals at Travel Weekly’s Sustainability Summit last week.

But Tollman went one step further, saying suppliers who were “not part of the solution” should be “called out” because “they have a choice to either change or not change”.

He said: “Whether it is beholden or not, we should just call people out. We should all be collaborating towards the greater good. We should push out those that are not part of the journey by calling them out.

“We’ll be fine as long as everyone is aligned on what the end goal is. The only one thing at TTC that we’re adamant about is greenwashing.

“If we find suppliers who are saying it but not doing it, we’re taking the decision not to work with them.”

Suppliers, he said, often do not include sustainability in conversations about company’s profits. “So often the conversation is about profits or sustainability and that’s the wrong conversation – it should be about profits and sustainability,” he explained.

“You’ve still got to run a profitable organisation. The key word has got to be ‘and’ not ‘or’.”

Thornton said successful firms which had strong eco-credentials could help bust “the myth” that “sustainability costs money” and admitted it was “widely acknowledged” some travel firms were greenwashing.

“Between 2015 and 2019 we doubled the size of the company,” he explained. “I think that’s because we’re doing some good things in the sustainability space.”

In 2018, Intrepid Travel became the largest travel company in the world to achieve B Corporation status in recognition of its “purpose beyond profitability”.

“The biggest impact you can have as a tour operator is speak to you supply chain,” Thornton said. “If you’re not working hard to decarbonise your supply chain it is very hard to say you making a material difference.”

Felin said “everyone” needed to get on board with sustainability because the travel industry’s reputation was “at stake”.

“The new generation coming through have a lot of passion for sustainability,” she said “It’s a positive circle.”