At the end of July, A-list celebrities met at a four-day climate change convention hosted by Google on the Italian island of Sicily. They were joined by Prince Harry who reportedly delivered an inspiring speech to Google Camp attendees, detailing the importance of protecting the environment.

But BBC journalist Andrew Neil made a valid point about the irony of the entire trip. He wrote on Twitter; “Scores of celebrities and the rich have arrived in Sicily for a Google conference. They came in 114 private jets and a flotilla of super yachts. The conference is on global warming.”

A missed opportunity

With 200 guests travelling from across the globe to attend the three-day climate change conference, it is estimated Google Camp racked up an 800-tonne carbon footprint.

A good public relations strategy starts by identifying and sharing clear company messages. You have to know what you want to say, and to whom. Through its annual Google Camp event, Google had the opportunity to assert itself as a corporate leader in climate change education and action. However, the company’s poor planning and failure to assess certain reputational risks has seen the event backfire.

The importance of planning

While Google cannot be held wholly responsible, certain plans should have been made to manage the environmental impact of an event designed to educate individuals around climate change. 

First off, location. Though many of the rumoured attendees have been named as Hollywood actors living on the West Coast of America, Google elected to host this year’s Google Camp in Sicily. By selecting a remote location, many attendees had no option but to board a long-haul, gas-guzzling flight.

As most attendees work in the public eye, a private jet provides security and privacy, but it also produces 20 times more carbon emissions per passenger mile than a chartered airliner. 

Paying for the privilege

If environmental awareness is built into your brand, “putting your money where your mouth is” will help your message pack a punch.

We recently worked on a PR campaign for Victor – a company dubbed the ‘Uber’ of private jets – as it launched its revolutionary ‘Beyond Offset’ carbon reduction programme.

[See our coverage in The Daily Mail and The Times].

By ensuring the emissions from each of its flights is offset by 200%, Victor is making every one of its journeys completely carbon negative. The cost of offsetting missions – such as tree planting – will come from the company’s own profits.

Over the next five years Victor is projected to save approximately 403,499 tonnes of CO2 – a figure equivalent to the personal annual CO2 emissions of 81,000 people in the UK.

Google could have exclusively used Victor’s private jets to fly its attendees to and from the conference, confident in the knowledge the carbon emissions would then be offset.

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