Hotel greenwashing dirties eco-friendly reputationStaff writer ▼ | October 10, 2015
Hotels across the globe are increasingly encouraging guests to embrace green practices. Yet, the background story is much more complex than that.
Hotel guests The researchers surveyed over 3,000 consumers
Greenwashing practices, such as a sign that reads "save the planet: re-use towels," coupled with claims of corporate social responsibility, have soiled the trust of American consumers who are increasingly recognizing hotels' green claims may be self-serving. This could cause hotels to lose valuable repeat customers.
Writing in the Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, Washington State University hospitality researchers Imran Rahman, Jeongdoo Park and Christina Geng-qing Chi investigate the consequences of greenwashing in the lodging industry and suggest ways hotels can establish credibility in consumers' minds.
Their paper, "Consequences of 'Greenwashing:' Consumers' Reactions to Hotels' Green Initiatives," comes at a time when as many as 79 percent of travelers worldwide agree that implementing eco-friendly practices is important to their choice of lodging. Research shows a majority are willing to boycott a company if misled.
The researchers surveyed over 3,000 consumers to see whether recognizing a hotel's hidden motive of profit caused them to be skeptical about the hotel's environmental claims and if it influenced their intention to engage in a linen reuse program or to revisit the hotel.
Since environmentally conscious guests are often willing to pay higher premiums for green hotels, the researchers also examined whether their sense of moral obligation would override skepticism and willingness to participate in a linen reuse program or revisit the hotel.
Results indicated that recognition of a self-serving motive indeed made consumers skeptical and unlikely to participate in the green practice or revisit the hotel in the future.
However, researchers found that consumers with high levels of environmental concern still felt morally obligated to participate in the hotel's green initiative, despite realizing its greenwashing tendencies. ■