CAMPAIGN: lastminute.com in carbon offset scheme

In November 2006, travel and leisure website lastminute.com pioneered Carbonwise, the travel industry’s first carbon offsetting scheme. Read on...

lastminute.com: promotes responsible travelling through a carbon offsetting scheme
lastminute.com: promotes responsible travelling through a carbon offsetting scheme

Campaign: Carbonwise
Client: lastminute.com
PR Team: In-house
Timescale: Ongoing
Budget:  £10,000

It was des­igned to encourage customers to travel more responsibly and tackle climate change by offsetting their flight emissions.

The in-house PR team – together with Climate Care, the organisation set up to tackle climate change by reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – was charged with educating the media about the initiative and increasing public awareness.

Objectives
To manage the launch of the carbon offsetting tool. To generate positive media coverage and uptake among users.

Strategy and plan
To create awareness and educate consumers about how much carbon each flight emits, lastminute.com’s in-house PR team set about comparing carbon emissions with how much energy household appliances emit. It calcula­ted that one return flight between London and Bangkok generates 2.8 tonnes of CO2 – the equivalent of leaving the hairdryer on non-stop for six months.

To illustrate this, a household set was designed to show the various comparisons and the initiative was launched in central London’s Trafalgar Square. 

Aviation minister Gillian Merron and climate change minister Ian Pearson opened the launch, which included a record attempt to blow up the world’s largest inflatable balloon.

A press release was sent to regional newspapers located near UK airports, followed by a press pack to all national and travel press. 

The campaign was bolstered by teams giving away carbon calculators to the public. At the end of November the lastminute.com PR team set off to the annual ABTA convention in Marbella, where many of the UK’s most influential journalists and opinion-formers were gathered.

Carbonwise was launched at the conference and journalists were offered interviews with the management team, including UK MD John Bevan. Six months later, to show lastminute.com was committed to the scheme, a further release was issued to detail the uptake figures. 

Measurement and evaluation
Coverage ran in national newspapers, including The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Observer, The Sun, Mail on Sunday, The Times, Times Online and The Independent Online. Regional press coverage included Metro, London Lite and the Evening Standard. And leading travel magazine Travel Weekly analysed the scheme.

Results
Within one week of launching the initiative, lastminute.com experienced a 10 per cent uptake among customers. This has since risen to 15 per cent. This was despite the Government announcing the doubling of Air Passenger Duty tax days after the scheme’s launch, and
citing environmental reasons for its decision – a statement treated with scepticism by many experts.

As of July 2007, lastminute.com has offset more than 7,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Indeed, the UK would have to turn its lights off for more than 71 minutes to save as much carbon.

The success of Carbonwise has seen it scoop two prestigious awards. At the Agent Achievement Awards, lastminute.com came away with the Innovation Award. It also bagged the first Online Green Awards for the large retailer category.

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