Living in uncertainty describes our present and future reality.
We are facing monumental challenges and threats – the undisputable climate emergencies and biodiversity crisis, environmental devastation and loss of species 1000 times their natural rate, lack of trust and widening inequality, virus pandemics and more. We can only reverse or slow the progression if we act NOW to advance sustainability* and support the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), and amplify our efforts to reach scale at speed.
Business is either part of the problem or part of the solution. CSR with well-meaning initiatives is no longer enough. Today, companies have an enormous responsibility to drive transformative change by mandating development, operations, products and services that deliver on rigorous sustainability expectations with accountability and transparency, and prove this transformation to customers, stakeholders and investors.
The world’s largest asset manager – BlackRock – sent a seismic wave through the business world with their recent announcement – ‘Contribute to Society, or Risk Losing Our Support’. The same ‘Or Else’ warning is expected from more investors.
Risks are everywhere and no company is immune to the loss of reputation and financial repercussions. Globally in many industries, the growing importance of sustainability is now ingrained in strategies and is seen as a key business driver and risk mitigation. Lagging behind in seriously “walking the talk” is the travel industry where the term “sustainability” was first introduced and remained voluntary since the late 80’s. In the hotel sector, some Owners and Operators committed early based on values and heart. Over the past several decades, more Hotel Owners and Operators have turned their focus to the importance of sustainability, not for the planet or based on values and heart, but for cost savings, economic incentives from governments, regulatory affairs and corporate brand image.
We believe that no leader wants people or planet to suffer because of their value chain. Yet over thirty years later, many Hotel Owners and Operators are still part of the problem by choosing to delay action, greenwashing and/or settling for easy tick-box sustainability programmes without accountability and transparency, citing the lack of budgets, staff and bandwidth as their reasons for not doing more. It is a huge concern that many today are still not accountable or transparent and are at ease to “talk the talk” on sustainability with creative PR, highlighting the greenwash and apathy towards their stakeholders (guests, staff, media, travel operators, suppliers). Most examples of greenwash can be found in the rooms whereby a hotel puts out a sign for guests to hang their towels and not change their bedsheets, but do little else to benefit the community and the environment. Building resilience and risk mitigation tends to be widely talked about in tourism circles but little understood, as evidence of how unprepared most businesses are when climate extremes hit us and the shock of Covid-19.
Hotels that choose to be part of the solution are Forces for Good. They are aspirational and better businesses because they do more than just sustain, they aim to regenerate and respect limits with sustainability at its core and help achieve the Global Goals. They raise the bar on transparency with full disclosure and commit to an accredited sustainability programme with independent audits to prove accountability. They inspire consumer trust because they understand that to be truly sustainable, they must take total responsibility for their impacts and the travel experiences offered to guests must help solve societal and environmental problems.
Millennials are the largest group of travellers today and they are influential to all other generations and attracting them is an essential step of a hotel’s recovery plan. Many have embedded sustainability in their personal lives and use the power of their wallets to support what they value – trust, transparency and brand authenticity. One day soon, Millennials will also take-over all global leadership positions.
Sustainability with accountability and transparency is now in the global spotlight with many investors showing confidence that sustainable business practices contribute tangible bottom-line value and this shift is starting to push business leaders in taking a closer look at the inner workings of their operations and supply chain. More investors are recognizing the need for better businesses that think beyond profits and the need to contribute to society for a better world. They have no interest in supporting businesses that are part of the problem.
*itmustbeNOW.com defines sustainability as wellbeing for people and planet; and taking responsibility for a company’s total impact on communities and the environment, to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.