Aerial view of the Toronto skyline from above the Islands in summer.

In an era when travellers increasingly seek eco-friendly and responsible experiences, the tourism industry in Toronto and globally has made strides toward more sustainable practices. The first step is making the operational changes necessary to act more sustainably. The second is communicating that ethos to attract these conscientious visitors. 


1. Form meaningful partnerships:

Collaborate with non-profit organizations that align with your company’s goals and values. Support their cause and highlight to your audience the positive impact you are achieving together. This partnership will demonstrate your commitment to sustainability while boosting your contribution to the community.


2. Focus on a specific initiative:

Avoid muddling your message by addressing too many sustainability initiatives at once. Choose a focal point that represents your core values and build a compelling narrative around it. By focusing on one initiative, you can communicate a stronger story and engage your audience more effectively.


3. Avoid “green hushing”:

Don’t be discouraged from confidently sharing your accomplishments for fear of potential criticism or negative feedback. Embrace your sustainability efforts and, as Laura Purdy puts it, “ignore the haters.” Take pride in the fact your business is making steps towards greater sustainability and you might inspire others to join the movement.


4. Make sustainability fun:

The word “sustainability” can conjure negative associations for visitors looking to enjoy their vacation or conference, but there are ways to make it fun. Whether it’s through lighthearted storytelling, or designing a cheerful logo to represent your most sustainable offerings, you can communicate your efforts with positive messages. 


5. Use creative touch points:

Look beyond your website and social media channels to communicate your sustainability initiatives. Consider incorporating messaging into menus, signage within your establishment, or waste bins. And don’t forget about your staff — as the faces of your business, train them to be ambassadors of your achievements. Create an immersive experience that reinforces your commitment to sustainability throughout your customers’ or clients’ journey.


6. Be specific and transparent:

Use clear and specific language when describing your sustainability initiatives. Provide concrete examples of the positive changes you have made and quantify your achievements whenever possible. This transparency builds trust and makes your message more believable.


7. Make Sustainability Irresistible:

Research shows that visitors tend to pick the default option presented, so make sustainability the easiest choice. Put plant-based dishes at the top of a menu, make single-use items available on request only, reward eco-friendly choices with a discount on another service, or require guests to opt into daily housekeeping. Support these choices with messaging that appeals to their self-interest, such as health benefits, cost savings, or enhanced travel experiences.


8. Foster a sustainability culture:

Involve your employees in setting sustainability goals and show them how important their roles are in achieving those goals. Empower them to become sustainability advocates and encourage their participation in implementing and promoting your initiatives. When your staff is passionate and knowledgeable about sustainability, their enthusiasm will positively impact your customers’ or clients’ experiences.


Taking any of these actions is a great start, but how can you better integrate sustainability into your overall business strategy? Those looking for a clear roadmap should consider applying for sustainability certification. Not only does this signal your commitment to environmental and social impact, it also helps you measure where you already excel and where you can improve. GreenStep Sustainable Tourism offers a free business assessment so you can begin your journey at your own pace. 

Check out the following resources for more information or useful examples: