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5 reasons why you should add carbon labeling to your travel products

What does it mean to be a responsible tour operator today? For your customers, it means being honest and transparent about the environmental costs and carbon footprint of travel products. But transparency in communicating uncomfortable facts is not just an obligation. In fact, carbon labeling can benefit your travel company in many ways. Here is how.
5 reasons why you should add carbon labeling to your travel products
Written by Team Oncarbon
Climate footprint data for travel products
April 11, 2022

Can you imagine buying clothes without knowing where they were made, or buying food without knowing how many calories it contains? Both of these labels are now a global standard that consumers accept and want. But there is one more label we need to add to products for people to be able to make informed choices: the carbon label.

Carbon labeling is already gaining popularity in the food and cosmetics industries. For example, Unilever has announced the introduction of carbon labels on 70,000 products1 and food brands such as Oatly Inc. or Quorn include information about CO2 emissions on their product labels. What’s more, according to KPMG2, since 2017, the number of N1003 companies disclosing their carbon footprint and action plans for reducing emissions has increased from 50% to 65%. But there is one industry that continues to lag behind – the travel industry.

Tourism accounts for about 8% of global carbon emissions. Half of those emissions come from transportation – and in 2019, 85% of the CO2 emissions of commercial air travel were from passenger travel. Yet only a minority of travel companies openly communicate the carbon footprint of the products they sell.

The challenges of carbon labeling

Why is this so? There are several reasons – or perhaps excuses – why carbon labeling of travel products is not standard practice. The first reason is the lack of a legal framework and an obligation to stick carbon labels on travel products. Still, any forward-thinking travel agency should understand that sustainability communications need not be driven by compliance alone. Many companies are choosing to rethink their communication strategies and share sustainability efforts with others because of the benefits it brings. We will return to these benefits later in this article.

Another reason for not communicating carbon footprint is that until recently, there was no reliable calculation model that companies could use to display verified data. Today, it is possible to calculate the carbon footprint of various goods and services – from food to flights – using very accurate scientific models and summarize the results in a universally understood and universal “label.”

And thanks to visual communication solutions like Oncarbon, displaying the carbon footprint of the flights you sell can now be simple and transparent. Oncarbon ensures that the calculations are validated by a third party, which increases the credibility of the data displayed. If you would like to learn more about our methodology for flight emissions, you can book a demo here.

Clearly, communicating emissions is an uncomfortable reality – especially in the travel industry, which has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and continuous lockdowns. Travel and tourism are an essential part of life for many of us and a source of income for millions of people. However, as climate change continues, we must all take responsibility for our planet and mitigate the consequences of more than a century of unsustainable energy and land use, lifestyles, and consumption patterns.

Why carbon labeling for travel products

The recent IPCC report clearly shows that we can mitigate climate change if we act now. Recommendations for the travel industry include restrictions on frequent flyer rewards, the introduction of taxes and fees that are currently not levied on airline tickets, and the disclosure of information on flight emissions to potential customers.

The latter measure can be implemented by both airlines and travel agencies who want to be transparent about the emissions of the flights they sell and empower their customers to make informed choices. Instead of seeing it as a requirement, you can see it as an opportunity to attract new customers. Carbon labeling of the products you sell comes with some tangible benefits – and here are the crucial five of them.

1.Meeting the market demand

The first and probably most important reason why you should be transparent about the emissions of your travel products is the growing market demand for environmental information.

A poll by Eurobarometer4 found that 72% of EU citizens believe that a label indicating a product’s carbon footprint should be mandatory in the future. Another study conducted by YouGov on behalf of Carbon Trust5 found that 67% of consumers would support the introduction of carbon labeling on products. In the UK, 67% of consumers say they would be more likely to buy lower carbon products if they had access to accurate data, compared to 61% of Germans and 57% of US consumers.

According to another study by Carbon Trust6, if asked whether they would prefer goods with carbon labeling over unlabeled goods of the same quality, 47% of respondents would be more likely to choose those with labeling.

Carbon labeling and reporting are particularly important to Generation Z – 79% of them are moderately to extremely concerned about our dependence on fossil fuels. They also feel they have more control over their carbon footprint and are more likely to choose greener travel options.

2. Empowering your customers

Equipping your customers with knowledge about the carbon footprint of travel does not just mean you are meeting a growing market demand. It can also make them feel more confident about their travel decisions.

How? When a customer sees the carbon footprint of a flight in an easy-to-understand format, they gain a new insight into the climate impact of their travel decisions. This in turn opens up a new level of communication between you and your customers and adds value to what you’re offering.

Some travel agencies, such as Much Better Adventures, Pura Aventura or IMT Travel Agency are already using travel product carbon labeling – and observing the benefits. “Conscious travelers today want to choose greener travel products and are aware of the CO2 emissions that come from flying”, says Esa Talonen, CEO of Ikaalisten Travel Agency that decided to use the Oncarbon calculation and communication toolkit on its website.

3. Highlighting greener travel options

By eco-labelling your travel products, you also create a way of showcasing the better travel options. You might consider creating a “green travel” section and highlighting the products that are particularly low-impact. A holiday that focuses on the environment can often also be more rewarding for your customers.

4. Competitive advantage

By openly communicating the emissions generated by travel, you give yourself a competitive advantage over other tour operators. You clearly position yourself as a company that values sustainability and transparency. This, in turn, can not only influence the way your customers view you, but it also increases your attractiveness as an employer.

5. Being a leader in climate action

Carbon labeling of travel products can only be the first step on your path to greater sustainability. Making your company’s values known will make it easier for you to lead the way in climate protection, set an industry standard and educate your potential customers. In addition, open communication about emissions can be a step toward actually reducing them and putting more pressure on airlines to disclose their fuel consumption and emissions data.

How to communicate the carbon footprint of travel products?

Until recently, the use of carbon labels in tourism has been limited due to skepticism and lack of belief that choosing a labeled company will address climate change. This has changed, in part because of the pandemic. A new study by Booking.com7 shows that 43% of nearly 30,000 respondents say the pandemic has made them travel more sustainably in the future.

What’s more, today’s models allow for great accuracy in emissions data. Third-party carbon emission experts such as Oncarbon enable a detailed breakdown of emissions data to provide complete transparency without greenwashing. With up to 80% of tourism’s carbon footprint attributable to flights, communicating flight emissions could be a perfect first step to carbon labeling your travel products.

If you are looking for a trusted consultancy, book a demo with Oncarbon. Try our easy-to-implement solution that will be immediately visible to your customers and see how your business can grow in a modern, sustainable way.

Original cover picture: Leio McLaren/Unsplash


Team Oncarbon
We’re on the mission to show you that we need – and we can – travel more consciously. We bring closer to you the topics of carbon footprint, sustainable travel and aviation, and transparency in emissions reporting.