Travel firms must substantiate green claims to win consumer trust

Travel companies have been told to be ready to substantiate any green claims they make in advertising and marketing as consumers ask more questions about sustainability.

Mike Coates, assistant director of consumer protection at the Competition and Markets Authority, told the Travel Weekly Sustainability Summit it was vital firms followed the Green Claims Code as clients would soon be asking them to prove what they were saying.

The code was published in 2021 and highlights the obligations of businesses under consumer protection law when making claims about their environmental sustainability.

Coates said: “Consumers are getting more and more interested in this. Going forward they will be more and more interested in asking businesses “where is the proof”.

“You need to be ready to substantiate the claim that is made. Have that information ready and accessible to the consumer if they wish to explore it.”

Under the code, firms must be sure the claims they make, for example about their green credentials, are accurate, he said.

The claims must also be clear, not hide any information, only include comparisons that are ‘fair and meaningful’ and should not focus on something which represents a ‘tiny fraction’ of the service or product provided.

He reminded travel firms their customers would not necessarily understand the context of their green claims about sustainability but were willing to “hear and believe” what they were saying.

“For example, if you said you are the greenest airline you need to be able to explain what you are saying. Do you use less plastic inflight or do you use renewal energy? Against what criteria are you the greenest? Think about what you would need to substantiate your claim,” he said.

He urged travel companies to avoid using vague terms in their green claims and be as specific as possible.

“As we get closer to these net zero targets we will see more consumers focusing on these issues. I think customers will focus on airlines that they trust; those that tell the truth about their credentials,” he said.

He predicted there would be “huge competition” around companies’ sustainability and said the winners would be those consumers could trust.

“The ones that will win the race for the consumer will be those who win consumers’ trust,” he said.

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