Tackling questions of sustainability

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From left, Hyatt’s Marie Fukudome, Visa’s Douglas Sabo and Cool Effect’s Jodi Manning talked about sustainability at Ensemble’s conference.
From left, Hyatt’s Marie Fukudome, Visa’s Douglas Sabo and Cool Effect’s Jodi Manning talked about sustainability at Ensemble’s conference. Photo Credit: TW photo by Jamie Biesiada

SEATTLE -- The halls of the Hyatt Regency here were lined with reusable chalkboard signs during Ensemble Travel Group's conference last month. Attendees carried reusable, glass water bottles in bags made of plant fiber. Staffers wore shirts made of recycled plastic. Laptops being used to train members during workshops would be donated to schools.

These were all signs of Ensemble's commitment to sustainability, furthered by an announcement of a partnership with Cool Effect, a nonprofit that works to reduce carbon emissions.

Ensemble offset every attendee's personal carbon footprint for attending the conference, and it is making Cool Effect's tool to calculate and offset emissions available on its agent platform.

But what should advisors take away from the sustainability conversation, and how should they address it with clients? A panel at the conference tackled those questions.

Marie Fukudome, Hyatt's director of environmental affairs, said advisors should ask suppliers questions about their sustainability initiatives.

"Asking questions prompts the businesses getting these requests to do even more, because they hear from their customers that this is important to them," Fukudome said. "So even if they're doing some things already, sustainability is a journey. There is more we can be doing, so hearing that it's important propels that advancement."

With clients, it's important to recognize that their level of care for sustainable travel will vary, said Douglas Sabo, Visa's vice president and head of global corporate responsibility and sustainability.

He encouraged advisors to look at their clients as shades of green, then tailor sustainability messages to each. The darkest shade of green are the ecowarriors who want to stay in ecovillages and travel by train, not plane. But lighter shades might only be interested in knowing the property they're staying at has done something to be more sustainable.

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