If you really care about the planet, don’t travel. But is that realistic? Globetrender speaks with co-founder of Positive Luxury, Diana Verde Nieto, about how its “Butterfly Mark” is motivating luxury travel companies to be more sustainable.

What is Positive Luxury?

We assess luxury brands, from fashion to beauty to hospitality, based on their commitments to sustainability. The Butterfly Mark identifies those brands that meet the highest standards of verified innovation and environmental performance and offers transparency for consumers.

Each brand is unique, so each one is assigned a bespoke collection of Positive Actions that signifies their efforts and illustrates their sustainable and ethical business practices in a simple and consumer-friendly way

Why is it innovative?

It’s innovative because it’s the first interactive trust mark. The Butterfly Mark sits at points of sale and when it’s online, consumers can click on it and learn more about the sustainability efforts of a brand.

What does sustainability mean to you?

The true vision of sustainability, as coined by Gro Harlem Brundtland back in 1980, is “meeting the needs of today without compromising the needs of future generations”. At Positive Luxury, sustainability is not a destination, but a journey.

Can travel really be sustainable?

Like buying less clothing, travel less. If you need to travel for business, reduce the number of trips you take and switch to conference calls or video calls. If you have to make the journey, take the train instead of flying.

If you have to fly, travel with carry-on only instead of checking a bag. When you’re staying at a hotel, ask for your sheets to not be changed every day and reuse your towels. Eat seasonal, local food and travel around the city you’re in via public transport.

If you’re travelling for pleasure, follow the same rules, and make sure your adding value back to the community you’re visiting.

How is Positive Luxury motivating the travel industry to be more sustainable?

Consumers are the ones who motivate the industry to do better. We would love to take the credit for this but it’s people like Greta Thunberg and millennials driving the industry to more sustainable practices. We are enabling the hotels that are investing in those practices to communicate with and engage consumers.

What motivated you to launch Positive Luxury? What’s the story behind it?

Neither myself or my co-founder, Karen Hanton, felt that the job was done. Combining our skill sets, tech on her side and sustainability on mine, we created a mark that is technology-driven to create mass change and mobilise consumers to choose brands that are more sustainable.

We were inspired by the story of the Large British Blue butterfly, which became the most successful insect reintroduction in the world when it was brought back from near extinction in the UK.

Sir David Attenborough told me this story in 2010 when I presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award, and it exemplifies how we can come together to reverse the negative impact we are having on our planet’s resources. It’s taken us eight years to get to where we are, but the sustainability conversations are happening everywhere.

Describe the business model

We have several revenue streams. Careers is our platform where people can find jobs according to their values. We also have events, like the Positive Luxury Awards and Positive Week, that are supported by sponsors, and we have our annual trend reports that are sponsored. Lastly, brands license the rights to use the Butterfly Mark.

Why is it just for the luxury sector?

Luxury brands are inherently more sustainable, valuing quality across craftsmanship materials, processes and design. The luxury industry has the capability to drive innovation and make positive changes, changes that we hope will influence the rest of the fashion industry, and consumers purchasing decisions.

What criteria do they have to meet?

Brands who want to be awarded the Butterfly Mark and be part of the Positive Luxury community must go beyond compliance. That means they have to go beyond a minimum sustainable standard that is compliant with local law, international law and best practice principles.

Our assessment process is designed to be a thorough examination of a brand’s commitment to sustainability in the following five key areas: governance, social framework, environmental framework, philanthropy and innovation.

Our Butterfly Mark identifies luxury lifestyle brands that meet the highest standards of verified innovation, social and environmental performance, offering transparency and equipping people to make informed purchasing decisions.

Are travel companies doing enough to reduce their impact?

There is always room for improvement, but again, it is such a competitive industry and one that drives innovation, so I think travel companies have the capacity to move the needle if they keep moving forward with their sustainability initiatives.

What are the most important things hotels, airlines and travel companies should be doing to make travel better for the environment?

Innovate. Airlines should innovate through using different fuels and increasing efficiency. That goes for all kinds of transport and hotels as well. Also, ensuring that the biodiversity of the area is taken into account when a hotel is being built, and once it’s in operation.

What should travellers be doing to lessen their impact on the world?

If you really want to make a difference, don’t travel. And if you have to travel, don’t go to destinations that are fragile. Do it mindfully and with respect for the places you’re visiting.

With Greta Thunberg urging the world to take sustainability far more seriously, what do you predict for travel in the next decade?

I predict that change won’t happen quickly but it will happen faster than we expect. Travel companies must innovate in order to become more efficient.

Download Globetrender’s free 2020 Travel Trend Forecast here.