Why Bother With Sustainability?

Simply because “business as usual” is no longer an option and the paradigm shift is here already.

By Jan Peter Bergkvist Owner, SleepwellAB | June 24, 2012

'Green' programs and sustainability plans are launched by almost every business today. That goes for the hospitality sector, in particular. For more than 20 years, and perhaps with a start at the IHRA Stockholm conference in 1991, (always those Swedes!) numerous programs have kicked off. Each and every initiative, except those which are pure green wash, is good and should be encouraged. So my ambition is not to judge those many initiatives, but to suggest and underscore how hotels can maximize the ROI of sustainability initiatives by adding an element of co-creative, engaging education for all team members.

Why does sustainability make such a big difference, and why do programs based on 'systems thinking' and co-creation get so much more traction than a traditional, top-down approach?

People want to survive. And they want their kids to survive

But why, then, are almost all of us on this planet making thousands of unsustainable decisions each and every day? Are we mean or stupid? No, of course not. We just don't have the right knowledge.

The scientific community has long since identified the answer. Scientists all agree that we have, in many cases, surpassed the boundaries of what nature and society can supply us. At the same time, we are heading towards 9 billion individuals on our only planet. Last year, 'World Overshoot Day ' occurred in late September. For the rest of the year, we lived on resources borrowed from our grandchildren.

So why aren't leaders at all levels, in all kinds of organizations, systematically adapting their business to become part of the solution instead of adding to the problem? Because, most leaders, lack an understanding of how to steer the organization towards a sustainable future. Some leaders deliberately choose to acknowledge the need for taking action. Like marathon runners, smart business leaders must be mindful of the energy and resources they spend. Yet, like marathon runners, those that manage their resources effectively, and those that are bold and persistent, stay in the race and win reward.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.