The True Value of Sustainability Beyond Eco-Friendliness

By Jan Peter Bergkvist Owner, SleepwellAB | May 28, 2017

This article was co-authored by Karl-Henrik Rob?rt

Co-authored by Karl-Henrik Robèrt, Professor of Strategic Sustainable Development, Blekinge Institute of Technology

193 out of 196 possible countries have agreed on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and in 2015, 194 countries signed the Paris Agreement that includes a joint commitment to leave 80 per cent of known fossil fuel resources in the ground. These are signs of a paradigm shift that is happening right in front of our eyes.

What does this shift mean for an individual hospitality executive in May 2017? Has it, or will it perhaps change the playing field dramatically?

How can you relate to a sustainable future while at the same time guaranteeing a prosperous future for your business now and in the years ahead?

Is there perhaps even a business case for supporting a sustainable world, a competitive edge that may pay off regardless of what others are doing?

So much has happened in recent decades, and social and environmental sustainability initiatives have become part of daily agendas, from geopolitics to local business. All aspects of public and private domains have previously enjoyed the luxury of regarding sustainability as an optional extra to enhance their brand by being perceived as ethical and working for the common good.

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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.