Prioritizing Sustainability in a Post-Pandemic World
By Ana Granados Hospitality Sales National Manager, Cosentino North America | June 21, 2020
There is not a single business that hasn't been affected by COVID-19 in one way or another. The impact is still in the very early stages, and we really won't know the true long-term effects until down the line. But, even in the first few months of the pandemic, as the world went through a pause, some good did come: our environment began to heal in a small but impactful way.
From the clear water in the Venice canals, blue skies over Delhi to visibly less pollution in China, these changes over the course of a few months show the true impact we have on our environment and how previously we've been abusing our resources. It's truly eye-opening. Sustainability and the commitment to our environment should be a priority year-round and returning to a world post-pandemic is our time to implement real change.
So where do we start? We can start by examining what daily changes have had such positive impacts on the environment. Most, if not all, interactions are now taking place on the phone, through video conferencing or via email. And what at first seemed alarming, to take all conversation digitally, has actually brought people closer together. We're less likely to drive straight into business and instead, begin calls by having a real conversation about the current climate and how everyone's holding up. We're dedicating our time to learning more about each other. And this new way of communication has had a direct impact: less traffic and less travel has resulted in a drop in pollution.
As recently reported in the New York Times, a satellite that detects emissions in the atmosphere linked to cars and trucks shows huge declines in pollution over major metropolitan areas, including Los Angeles, Seattle, New York, Chicago and Atlanta (source: The New York Times ). In New York City specifically, the article notes emissions of carbon monoxide declined more than 50 percent below typical levels the last week in March. And that drop is solely linked to less car traffic. So, does the future of business embrace more virtual connections? Can we be successful in business and more kind to the environment if we replace 50% of travel?
Another factor to consider is prioritizing guest well-being while prioritizing sustainability. In a recent survey by Skift Research, the research company that provides news, research, and marketing services for the travel industry, one-third of Americans said they hope to travel within three months after restrictions are lifted, which begs the question, how will hotels receive this change? Cleanliness has already become a top priority for the industry and will remain one for the foreseeable future. Hoteliers will likely have to double-down on cleaning products and should consider materials that can help to eliminate the spread of germs.
When making this switch though, manufacturers that keep sustainability top of mind should be considered along with eco-friendly cleaning supplies and products that reduce water consumption. In addition to cleaning, there will be a rise of new technologies and protocols as well. Whether that's a new touchless check-in process, room service or a seal on room doors that indicates the room hasn't been entered since they were last cleaned. Hilton properties actually are already implementing this new "seal of cleanliness" idea. While there's a lot to consider, the opportunity to re-evaluate routine practices now and post-pandemic is a chance to prioritize sustainability.
Along with prioritizing guest well-being, what about the hotel's renovation cycle? The hospitality industry has a high renovation rate, which generates unnecessary waste and produces unwanted energy. Building and using materials that are durable and long lasting, ensure a prolonged use of the space, which leads to renovating every ten years instead of every three to five. Investing in materials that are built for the long-haul not only saves money but is also the more sustainable option. A few options to consider include opting for non-porous hard surfaces, metal moldings, and veneer furniture, each requiring less maintenance and are more durable than options like carpeting, wood and vinyl.
Lastly, while durability and long-lasting products are important, implementing policies to improve companies carbon footprint is essential. Cosentino has always focused on the idea of the circular economy, the economic system aimed at eliminating waste and the continual use of resources. We're looking to keep products, equipment and infrastructure in use for longer periods of time while eliminating waste. This idea of use, reuse, remake and recycle, is now more than ever, highly important. For instance, 90% of the water used during the manufacturing process is recycled and reused, and the other 10% is evaporated.
Additionally, as we continue to develop new colors we're re-using the waste generated from the manufacturing process of the colors that have already been developed. And more recently, we've installed solar panels to generate solar power for on-site consumption. Each method helps create more durable, long lasting products, but also builds a more sustainable future. There will be plenty of innovations to ensure a more sustainable future, which can be achieved as green technology and materials are developed. What policies and/or protocols can your business implement to improve its carbon footprint?
Looking beyond sustainability, we've also seen companies in various industries step up to help during this uncertain time. Looking at the hospitality industry specifically, hotels and other travel companies are supporting front-line response efforts as well as their own employees. They've jumped in to donate food and supplies, aid medical personnel, lend empty real estate and other physical assets, and establish employee funds. It's fantastic to see an "all hands on deck" approach in such uncertain times. Cosentino, too, has made donations of personal protective equipment (PPE) to hospitals and local fire and police stations in Spain. The increased focus on giving back is something we can all take with us as we continue to put the community and each other first in the future.
So while we've learned a lot these past few months a key takeaway is that there is no future without sustainability, and it's up to every business to implement new strategies and encourage a prosperous, safe, and sustainable industry for the future. In times of crisis, average companies fail, good ones survive and great ones transform. Let's transform the hospitality industry together.
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