Why do I tell?

Why is it important to your business to communicate openly about your green credentials?

two ponies eating grass on a green hillsideContents

  1. Make customers feel good
  2. Raise awareness and change behaviour
  3. Sell more to your current customers
  4. To get more customers


Make customers feel good

Show you take care of things, leaving them to enjoy the benefits.

The fact that most travellers will not go out of their way to buy from you because you are green does not mean they don’t appreciate it. Worded right, your messages about sustainability can make them feel good about themselves, knowing that they are ‘doing their bit’. This applies to both leisure and business customers.

If you genuinely think your customers don’t want to know, focus on what you do for them. They probably won’t help you reduce your carbon footprint, but might value the fact that you are doing it (particularly in the business market).

Make it easy, by telling them they can relax and enjoy, while you take care of things without compromising quality. Show them you are committed to green practices as well as ensuring a quality stay.

Customers feel good (or less guilty) facing easy choices. Encourage charitable donations, tell them about public transport options or where to recycle - show them it is both better and more sustainable. The easiest solution of all is for the options provided to be ‘good’ choices with positive impacts.


Examples of good and bad ways of sharing local supplier information with customers
Poor OK Good Better Best
Saying “we buy local whenever possible” A list of supplier names With a map showing your local supplier Now add photos that show a human side to who they are Make the photos clickable, linking to stories telling how these suppliers take good care of the produce they sell

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Case study: improve your product for your customers’ enjoyment

We reassure customers that sustainability means more quality.

Lesley Graves is the co-founder of Burton Road Chippy, a 30-year old fish and chips business in Lincoln, Lincolnshire.

What we do: We are proud of our MSC (Marine Stewardship council) certification and the ‘national fish and chips 2015’ award. We want customers to feel special by eating sustainably, but mainly by enjoying traditional, delicious, crispy fish and chips.

How we tell: We show and explain proudly both our certification and our award on our website, social media and in the store. To make our certification interesting, we post messages and pictures on Facebook to show “today’s wild fresh fish”, where it comes from and the brave fishermen on the boat. We also share it on our store’s daily blackboard.

On our website, besides our sustainable practices, we mention that we care about the real “old English chippy”. This includes providing unique food, sourced sustainably, to ensure the best fish and chips will still be available for future generations.

But more importantly, whatever platform, tool or place we use to communicate, we are consistent with our belief: sustainability is quality. 

fish and chips

When they come, they simply enjoy a winning traditional dish, leaving us the worries of finding sustainable sources and tastier, healthier ingredients.

Our top tip: Be proud of your sustainability and share it naturally. remember, most people are not interested in technical, confusing words, so communicate things that they can relate to and that will make them feel special.

Raise awareness and change behaviour

Make it easy and appealing, and offer a reward.

Doing all the work for your customers may leave you unsatisfied. There are easy things your customers can help you do, but you need to make them aware of what these are, and make it easy for them to change their behaviour.

Step 1: Be specific about what you ask them to do. Vague messages lead to frustration. Telling customers to be green has no results; they won’t know what this means, especially away from home.

Step 2: What’s the benefit? Show them the actual benefit of their action, even if it means someone else benefitting. Have you noticed how fundraisers tell you what your £10 to charity can buy and what kind of person will benefit, in what way? Well, you need to do the same.

Step 3: Empower them. We like to feel we had a choice, and respond better to being asked than being told. For example, let customers choose which charity they will fund, rather than tell them it all goes to a charity pot, and they will give more.

Step 4: Give something in return. We like rewards for our effort, no matter how little we did. Whether you want your customers to purchase local or respect local customs, to drive less or recycle more, you need to provide an incentive.

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Case study: behave responsibly in pubs, clubs and bars

We send a clear message of the consequences of misbehaviour.

Stephen Baker is from National Pubwatch, a voluntary organisation that helps keep our town centres safe by reducing alcohol-related crime and disorder.

What we do: Pubwatch schemes run a “banned from one banned from all” system by sharing information, CCTV footage and collectively refusing entry to those that disrupt the safety, security and well-being of their staff and customers.

How we tell: We provide a range of free window stickers and downloadable posters to reinforce the very strong message about social responsibility and the consequences of irresponsible behaviour. The variety of posters allows pubs to change these regularly, making them more noticeable and reminding customers to drink and behave responsibly.

The messages are direct and to the point because users, often under the effect of alcohol, need to be clear about what the impact of irresponsible behaviour is. However the message is always the same: irresponsible behaviour leads to being banned from all 

pint glass of beer on a pub bar

Pubwatch pubs from the local area, which is more powerful than being excluded from one single pub.

We think it’s very important that customers are made aware that they are socialising in a Pubwatch pub or bar and that the management is committed to making their visit a safe and enjoyable experience. Licensees, local authority licensing departments and the police agree that the scheme has had substantial impact on crime.

Our top tip: repeat the main message in as many different forms as you can, but keep the message consistent and make sure customers are clear of what the consequences of not behaving responsibly are.

Sell more to your current customers

Offer common sense products and services that naturally happen to be more sustainable.

Sustainability helps upselling. Design sustainable packages for your low occupancy or usage periods, or think of services that can generate more money in high season. Look at ways customers will stay longer, or will come back when your business is empty.

  1. Show them things to do throughout the year, tell them what’s special each month. Do this not only with local events, but also with a nature diary, on your website.
  2. Promote products such as meat, vegetables and jam from your local farm or neighbours - encourage customers to come back to restock.
  3. Offer ‘Grow-and-cook your own veg’ classes, local history courses, “eco-warrior” after school kids’ clubs, children’s nature-themed birthday parties - create demand for times that are normally quieter.
  4. Promote March or April cycling weekends where you offer bike maintenance, so your customers get the season started early.
  5. Offer your most loyal customers to be ‘midwives to a baby lamb’ to get them involved early in the year.
  6. Typically, a rural pub is fullest at lunchtime on weekends - develop special promotions to encourage mid-morning coffee or mid-afternoon tea and cakes, together with a free map for a circular pub walk.
  7. Business hotels can include 30 and 60 minute local running maps, and design and promote a runner’s breakfast with the right nutritional contents - if you are a chain, roll it out across your whole portfolio.
  8. List things to do with a message of “stay for longer”:
  • what to do for free (message= stay longer as the entertainment is cheap)
  • on a rainy day (message= your holiday fun does not stop)
  • with children (message= the whole family will have a great time)
  • from your doorstep (message= more convenience, more options)

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Case study: cross-selling works

We’ve got it all: accommodation, events, courses

Tony Spencer is the Accommodation and Events Manager of The Sustainability Centre in Petersfield, Hampshire.

What we do: We are an independent learning and study charity centre with a holistic, practical and creative approach to environmental education. Visitors can pick from a huge variety of services, all carefully planned to offer great experiences throughout the year.

How we tell: We have diversified our products to cross-sell – visitors look for one particular experience and often do two or three things.

This happens in two ways. We appeal to people who wish to make a more conscious change in their living patterns through the principle of permaculture. They get inspired by our diverse range of activities, learning opportunities, vibrant natural spaces and knowledgeable staff. This also happens on site - people get hooked because we successfully demonstrate practical methods and links within sustainable methods to try at home, in a fun and beneficial product package.

bluebells in a spring woodland

In our course ‘spring delights’, people learn what hedgerow and woodland herbs to use to cleanse, detox and re-energise, while relaxing on a day out through the woods. Thanks to this experience many book other courses, stay longer to enjoy fresh vegetarian food from our Beech Café and stay at our lodge or campsite.

The key is to be consistent, local and seasonal with all products – we run courses across different days and offer weekly residential courses and volunteering opportunities.

Our top tip: offer more product options for them to choose from and explain the benefits of each in ways that relate to their experiences and interests.

a green field with two treesTo get more customers

Differentiate yourself with unique offers.

Your sustainability credentials can give you the edge over other businesses with a similar price and location, in both the business and leisure markets. It’s all about being noticed and giving a bit more.

Remember, customers like to know they are getting a good deal.

There are more examples that show that using sustainability creatively results in increased occupancy and lower seasonality, than show it results in higher prices. This is good news for the accommodation sector, where managing occupancy levels has a more significant impact on the bottom line than charging more at peak periods does.

Businesses that adopt the recommendations provided in this booklet should be able to increase their prices marginally or not reduce them as substantially in the low season.

To get more customers, reward them for behaving sustainably with either a discount or additional benefits. Some cafés give a discount (and others put 10p in a charity pot) for regulars that bring their own commuter mug - saving on disposable cups and gaining customer loyalty.

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Case study: if there’s no market, create one

We have aquarium visitors even at night.

Josh McCarty is the Head of Marketing of the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, Devon.

What we do: We have diversified our activities to increase non-traditional aquarium visits to fatten the trends of weather and holiday related visits – one specific area we have addressed is evening visits.

Our business is hugely segmented, so we developed ‘Aquarium Lates’ - a series of science, art, conservation and music evenings for the over 18s. Parallel to this we have ‘Sleeping with Sharks’ family sleepovers for our core audience.

How we tell: Our communications about ‘Aquarium Lates’ focus on emphasising the unique experience and build upon our research in aquaria therapy. The evenings offer tranquillity and culture.

Our ‘Sleeping with Sharks’ family sleepovers attract a variety of demographics so we have developed an artwork series to maximize our appeal. Placement of this product is very precise and has seen great brand partnerships.

We present clear call-to-action messages on our website, social media and in print based upon customer profiles. For example, “Sleeping with Sharks, are you brave enough?” and “Forget counting sheep… Sleeping with Sharks family sleepovers”. The messages go together with stunning artwork and images focusing on the visual experience of visiting. As a charity we also echo that all events help support marine conservation.

Our top tip: Increase your market by expanding targeted services focused on your business’s unique selling points. It’s important to offer diversity which not only means different activities, but also different experiences for each target profile.