Related to sustainability practices, what are some of the key challenges facing hotels? What can hospitality professionals and accommodation leaders do to implement concrete steps towards becoming more sustainable?
Based on the discussions shared through the recent GSTC Sustainable Hotel Course, below are some key considerations related to stakeholder buy-ins, supply chain management, and sustainability communications.
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Making a Business Case for Sustainability & Achieving Stakeholder Buy-In
To justify investing in sustainability efforts, we need business leaders, hotel owners and managers, staff members – as well as business partners and suppliers - to clearly understand the importance of sustainability, and see its relevance to business priorities.
- Your guests are seeking tangible sustainability actions, meaningful impacts, and honest and credible communications. The 2021 Booking .com report shows that "83% of global travelers think sustainable travel is vital, with 61% saying the pandemic has made them want to travel more sustainably in the future". So yes, travelers are interested in sustainability. Not all hotel guests may be making booking decisions based on sustainability factors, but a majority of them want to support businesses that are actively doing their parts to minimize negative impacts and to enhance benefits for local communities and destinations.
- Your (current and future) employees are seeking fulfilling work experience that aligns with their key social and environmental values. More and more workers, especially the younder generations, consider the culture and value represented by the organizations they work with just as important (if not more important) as the pay. So demonstrating leadership in sustainability issues is a great way to remain competitive in the hospitaity talent market. In addition, studies show that employee satisfaction is directly linked to customer satisfaction.
- Increasingly, the global tourism and hospitality supply chains are pushing for sustainability requirements and guidelines. From TUI Group promoting "credible, independent sustainability certifications to demonstrate social and environmental good practice" for its partner hotels; to online travel agencies (OTAs) that promote certified accommodations in their listings; to even organizers requiring sustainability practices as conditions for venue selection - more and more industry players are incorporating sustainability as part of how they do business.
Supply Chain Sustainability for Hotels
In addition to making changes internally to make hotel operations more sustainable, we need to ensure that hotels have access to sustainable product and service options that meet the quality and quantity requirements. The whole value chain must become more sustainable to achieve meaningful impacts.
The pandemic has made it clear to many in our industry that sustainable management - especially sustainable supply chain management - is not just about reducing environmental footprints and (hopefully) saving costs, but it is also importantly about effectively addressing risks and becoming more resilient.
"Hotels largely call the shots when it comes to their supply chains, but they’re increasingly turning to third-party certifications to standardize and add global prestige to their efforts. These voluntary certifications, which may apply specifically to hospitality companies or span several industries, can have varying degrees of strictness. They largely tend to focus on operational areas like reducing water and energy consumption, but also address broader goals like sustainable sourcing and impact on the local community."
For hotels seeking information on sustainable supply chain management, a very good place to start is the "Responsible procurement factsheet" by the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, highlighting how responsible purchasing can positively impact hotel operations, and providing tips on how to get started on improving your own procurement practices.
Raising Awareness, Engaging Stakeholders and Improving Practice
Hotels need practical tools to not only improve their own sustainability practices, but also to effectively communicate with and engage others (staff, suppliers, customers, shareholders) in concrete sustainability actions.
One such tool, for hotels and other businesses, is "credible, independent sustainability certifications", which will help ensure that sustainability claims are based on verified facts, and not just aspirational stories.
Here are some tips, ideas and inspirations for hotels of all sizes and at every stage of their sustainability journey:
- Get your guest engaged: As the famous saying goes, "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn." Your hotel's sustainability stories can become even more impactful if you are able to effectively involve your customers to learn - in a fun and memorable way. An example shared by Jeff Smith, Vice President Sustainability, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas (as part of the GSTC hotel course in May 2021) included the Group's "Earth Lab", aimed at evokeing "feelings of scientific discovery, ... in our hosts, guests and community members through educational programming."
- Share stories: You don't need to make 'sustainability' the main focus of your communication. After all, you are in the business of hospitality and your customers are looking for relaxing, rejuvenating, and refreshing stays. Without "preaching" to your guests about sustainability, you can share engaging stories about your sustainability journey - the reason why you care, the people who make it possible, and the communities you wish to positively impact. For some inspirations, see how The Long Run members demonstrate their commitment to sustainability.
- Be honest: No business is perfect, and no one is expecting your hotel to be perfect. Rather than resorting to exaggerated sustainability messages, aim for more transparency and less lip service. Be sure to set bold goals, and be clear about your commitment to steps that will help your hotel achieve such goals.
- Be human: Rather than just listing facts and pushing information to your audience, work on building an emotional connection through human-centered approaches to guest experience and customer relations. Listening is just as important as sharing; by listening more intentionally and deeply to your customers, staff members and community members, you will be able to more effectively tell your sustainability stories.
GSTC SUSTAINABLE HOTEL COURSE
The GSTC Sustainable Hotels Course is designed for hospitality and accommodation professionals, and provides practical insights into sustainability practices for hotels. Delivered as a 2-week-long facilitated and interactive online course, the GSTC Sustainable Hotels Course features expert presentations, useful resources, and real-life industry examples and lessons on applying sustainability best practices.
The upcoming course (SHC-2107) is scheduled for July 22 - Aug 6. Learn more & join.