Erasmus+ Mobility: Green Travel vs. Greenwashing

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Supporting the European Green Deal is a key priority for the latest incarnation of the European Union’s flagship educational mobility and cooperation programme, Erasmus+. This aligns with the European Green Deal goals, aiming to make the European Union carbon neutral by 2050. The Green strand in Erasmus+ reflects the importance of education and skills in facilitating and enabling transitioning to a greener environment. At the same time, the programme itself will strive for carbon-neutrality by promoting sustainable means of transport and environmentally responsible behaviours.

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is defined as “Disinformation disseminated by an organisation so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.” In other words, Greenwashing is about using marketing strategies in an effort to deceive customers into believing that a company’s products, activities, or policies are genuinely eco-friendly when they really aren’t!

As the Green movement gradually began to enter mainstream, countless companies proved willing to Greenwash if it brought them the Green they wanted most, such as money. Adjectives such as “All-natural,” “Organic,” and “Post-consumer recycled content” were rendered meaningless, as claims were rarely substantiated or verified by impartial third parties. The travel industry was no different.

How do Travellers Know Whether a Company is Green or Greenwashed?

It’s time to think about the environmental impact of the Erasmus+ Programme, in particular, the higher education area. So how do travellers know whether a company is truly green, or just Greenwashed during an Erasmus+ mobility?

  • Truly responsible travel businesses will put the needs of the local people and environment before the needs of travellers, always striving to make a positive impact on an Erasmus+ stay.
  • If there is a voluntourism element involved, truly responsible travel businesses will work directly with local NGOs to ensure the programme meets the needs of the community and are not just “Feel Good” experiences for Erasmus+ students.
  • Truly responsible travel businesses may be affiliated with international organisations. They may also have certification from Green organisations that proves Responsible Travel, so they have met certain recognised standards for sustainability.
  • Truly responsible travel businesses pride themselves on openness and transparency. Most will have details on their sustainability and corporate social responsibility initiatives clearly placed on their website.