Sustainability Programs are Not a Luxury
By Rebecca Hawkins Managing Director, Responsible Hospitality Partnership | May 26, 2013
A decade or so ago, green was in vogue. When asked, around 70 per cent of the travelling public said that they would prefer it if their hotel choices didn't damage the environment. Slightly fewer would like to know that their chosen travel agent, tour operator, accommodation and hospitality provider does something to support the communities in the destinations in which they are based. Give or take a few percentage points, this magic 70% figure was relatively consistent throughout Europe.
Those were heady days. Banks were healthy (or seemed to be); politicians had put an end to boom and bust cycles (or so they claimed); customers were willing to pay more for ethical or sustainable products (or so they told us); and corporations were committed to responsible, sustainable, ethical or green modes of operation (or so they advertised). What a lot can change in a decade!
As we have found (often painfully), many banks are far from healthy; boom and bust is alive and kicking; ethics are a consumer luxury; and responsibility in the business world (especially in big companies) is in rather sparse supply. In fact over the last few years, public trust in corporations has fallen to depths never plumbed before.
Many, including Michael O'Leary (boss of Ryan Air) gleefully predicted that the cold winds of recession would kill off the sustainability movement(1). And some in the hospitality sector concurred with his view, taking the recession as an opportunity to lay off responsible business teams. What is surprising is the fact that most did not. Why? Hotel businesses seem to have come to a surprising conclusion and that is that sustainability programs are not a luxury. They are instead a fundamental part of resilient business strategies.
If anything, it seems likely that sustainability will become a word that is more, rather than less, important over the coming years for surprising reasons.
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