SOCIALLY AWARE: Three years ago, when Condé Nast Traveler started its World Savers Congress to honor corporate social responsibility in the travel industry, it was a forum to recognize giving back in a time of excess. On Monday, in a changed world, it was clear the event had become a conversation about how to stay relevant in a time of global distress, amid a rapidly evolving media ecosystem.
The conference’s answer seemed to be to satisfy a consumer’s search for meaning or authenticity through public-minded activities — and reaching out on social media.
Edelman chief executive Richard Edelman encouraged travel companies to become “media companies” as well, both to be responsive to their customers and broadcast their socially responsible practices. “The conversation is happening with you or without you,” he said. “You might as well be part of it.”
Perhaps with that idea in mind, Traveler launched truth.travel, a more informal site that covered the conference in real time, introduced several new blogs and aggregated Twitter updates (many of them generated by a Traveler team armed with laptops in the back row). The site is separate from Concierge.com, which carries Traveler content and is operated by Condé Nast Digital. In addition to the hoteliers and outfitters, Mandy Moore, Wyclef Jean and Edward Norton stopped by to talk about their favorite causes. Jean, who spoke about his work with his foundation, Yéle Haiti, modeled a new Timberland boot, from which $2 of every sale will go to benefit Haiti. His rather direct sales pitch: “If you want to be cool, wear this boot.”
Timberland ceo Jeff Swartz gave a rousing, at times stinging speech about corporate social responsibility, including a rant on the distinctly ungreen halogen bulbs and flat-screen televisions he spotted at the Old Executive Office Building at a White House meeting on climate change. “My staff wouldn’t let me Twitter it,” he complained.
Later that day, he did manage to tweet, “Appreciate all the kind words/feedback on my #CNT09 speech today. Where were u all during my low-[self]-esteem adolescent yrs?” — Irin Carmon