Let's Get Engaged!
By Herve Houdre Regional Director of Operations & General Manager, Intercontinental New York Barclay | May 19, 2013
Sustainable Development (or Sustainability or Corporate Responsibility) is now part of the hotel industry's key words and programs. Though the concept was recognized in 1987 by the United Nations Brundtland Commission and translated for the corporate world through the Triple Bottom Line of Profit, People and Planet (Cannibals with Forks, John Elkington, 1997), it took almost twenty years for it to be acknowledged and included on the agenda of most of the major hotel companies. In comparison, Social Media with Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2006) got almost instant recognition within the hospitality industry. It would be interesting to understand the reasons for this disparity. Is it because Social Media is a simpler concept and does not intrinsically change the way we work, whereas Sustainable Development (SD) obliges us to rethink our values and our business strategies?
In a world of instantaneous communication, Social Media is definitely sexier than Sustainable Development, and it offers immediate gratification when one sees the number of "followers" or "likes" who appreciate one's brand. Yet SD is so much more important to the world, its communities and to the future of our children.
It is heartening nonetheless to see the recognition that Sustainable Development has achieved in the past seven years in America. Most hotel management companies now recognize that their business model must endorse Sustainability. There is a lot more to be done until SD becomes the foundation of their strategy and not simply part of it, but we need to be confident and patient.
Adopting the Triple Bottom Line of Economic Prosperity, Social Responsibility and Environmental Protection is a smart business decision but not recognized as such by some who are hesitant or doubtful. In other industries, major companies (General Electric, Dow Chemical, Coca Cola, Wal Mart, etc.) have adopted this business model and we can be certain that they have made their decision after carefully taking into account all business parameters, not the least of them being their Return on Equity.
Hoteliers should consider that one of the numerous advantages of a Sustainable Development strategy is the relationship it helps develop with stakeholders and the trust and image enhancement their company gets thanks to this. Let's pause and see where we stand today.
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