Just how sustainable is your establishment?
an industry insight brought to you by fanute make something better and Hospitality Marketplace
There are numerous reasons why sustainability should matter to you and your establishment. Not only is sustainability increasingly becoming a deciding factor for guests when choosing between accommodation options, but it also means long-term savings if implemented wisely. The main reason, though, is that it is absolutely the right thing to do – just as every person has a responsibility to do their part for the planet, businesses play an even larger role as they can make a large impact quickly.
The hotel is an ecosystem, and while we pay a lot of attention to what happens within our property’s walls, we forget that sustainability involves not just us, but all of the suppliers and partners that we use and associate with.
So, how do you know if your business is sustainable or not? How do you really make an impact without falling prey to ‘greenwashing’? How do you share your passion for sustainability with your guests? Hospitality Marketplace has partnered with fanute, South African importers and distributors of the near-waterless laundry system Xeros, to show you how sustainability is achieved, acknowledged and monitored, across the hospitality value chain.
How reliant are you on scarce resources?
There’s a reason why resources such as water and electricity derived from coal are called ‘scarce’ – there is a finite amount of these resources on the planet. We only notice our reliance during the lean times – energy-usage was brought into sharp focus during the load-shedding days, and now water usage is bearing the same scrutiny. Many businesses will already have looked at initiatives that reduce water and energy usage, such as implementing low-energy electrical systems, adding low-flow shower heads, replacing linen and towels less often during a guest’s stay, and asking guests to keep their showers short. Realistically, though, hotels go through a huge amount of water and electricity. And while you’re not going to be able to do without them entirely, you need to look at ways to decrease your reliance on these scarce resources.
One of the key ways to reduce the amount of water and electricity you use is to implement environmentally-friendly technology, though some businesses might balk at the cost involved. Cost is obviously a huge factor for most establishments when moving towards sustainable practices, but when dealing with scarce resources it’s a good idea to play the long game. Environmentally-friendly technology might come at a cost, but when you look at the price of electricity and water, and how the cost of both these resources are on an upward trajectory, you can no longer afford to live in the short-term. Simply put, water and electricity are going to continue to rise in cost, so the sooner you invest in equipment that uses less of these resources, the sooner you’ll reap the benefits.
To see how much electricity and water you use, monitor your utility useage and see which sections of the hotel are using the most. When you find the culprit, investigate the relevant options available to you to reduce your useage.
Do you use suppliers that are sustainable?
Part of being sustainable is using suppliers, and having partners and marketing representation, that have the same sustainability values as you.
There are three main ‘pillars’ of sustainability to consider – environmental, economic and socio-cultural. Environmental is our main focus in this article, but when sourcing consumable and longer-term products for your hotel, you should consider the economic effects (ie, where is the money going? Is it staying inside the country?) and socio-cultural effects (ie, is this going to positively affect the local community?)
When selecting your suppliers, there are a few questions you should ask:
- Does your company have a sustainability programme?
- What role does sustainability play in your company’s overall strategic plan?
- What are the main social, environmental, and economic challenges and opportunities in your company?
- What are the objectives and targets of your sustainability efforts and what progress has been made in meeting these goals?
- How ‘green’ are your products and what is your carbon footprint?
- Are you using alternative energy sources and how much water is used in processing?
- Do you have any certification to back up your sustainability credentials?
- Is your packaging material recyclable/made from recycled material?
Why ask questions? Any supplier that has made sustainability a priority will be able to answer these questions easily, with details, and provide enough information to back up their claims. It’s also important to not take information on websites or pamphlets at face value – asking important questions is a way of finding out if a company is greenwashing (ie, marketing spin that creates the perception of sustainability).
How sustainable is your supply chain?
So, you’ve spoken to your suppliers and made sure that their manufacturing process isn’t heavy on scarce resources and that they’ve got a sustainability programme in place, but what about the supply chain? Every product that you use is a sum total of every material, resource and process that has gone into its production. Find out more about your supply chain by asking your suppliers the following questions:
- Is there active measurement and monitoring of their consumption of scarce resources
- What raw materials are used in your product? Are these materials renewable? Where are they sourced from?
- What resources are used during processing?
- What wastes or other by-products are created? What happens to the waste?
- What are the working conditions like in the processing facilities of these products?
- How do the products get to the manufacturing facilities?
Each element of production has an impact on the total sustainability of the final product, so it really is worth investigating your entire supply chain.
How do you get your customers on board?
Many consumers are already very eco-conscious, choosing hotels with a low carbon footprint. They’ll research before booking, so make sure that your eco-credentials are easy to find on your website. In and around your hotel, there are numerous opportunities to showcase all the ways in which you’re sustainable, as well as inspire your guests to live a more sustainable life.
- After your guest has booked, this is an opportunity to send information on your sustainability initiatives via email, together with the booking confirmation.
- Place information on your hotel’s sustainability practices in each room’s information folder. You can also place table talkers by or labels on certain items, explaining their sustainable journey.
- When you communicate stats and figures, remember that your guests are probably not experts, so think of a practical way to showcase your water and energy savings, or how much air pollution has been reduced through sourcing products locally.
- Prompt guests to be energy and water conscious in their rooms with notices by the light switch and in the bathroom.
- Keep your staff informed of your hotel’s sustainability initiatives so that they can communicate these to guests.
- Use notice boards in public areas to showcase your initiatives.
- If you’re sourcing fairtrade coffee or tea, or using organic ingredients, for example, you can tell your guests about this in your restaurant via the menu, table talkers, or signage close to the relevant item on the buffet.
10 ways that hotels can reduce their impact on the environment
- Install Energy-saving technologies – great for the environment, great for your bottom line.
- Embrace Recycling – actively cut down on the waste your hotel produces by utilising recycling programmes, using items made out of recycled products and recycling goods within the hotel (other hotels are recycling stained tablecloths into laundry bags, napkins, chef’s aprons and neckties).
- Encourage guests to be green – communicate your initiatives to your guests via cards in their rooms and by reception. Encourage them to turn out the lights when they leave, reuse towels, and use water sparingly.
- Start Composting – don’t just toss food scraps into the bin! Compost the scraps and use the fertiliser in your hotel garden, or give the food scraps to a composting programme or farm where they can be used.
- Save Water – this is a no-brainer, especially in Cape Town, but implementing water-saving initiatives are imperative.
- Plant a Garden – plant trees and plants rather than paving over garden areas. If you do have to pave, add creepers and pot plants to counteract your hotel’s carbon footprint.
- Support local, sustainable businesses – using local, eco-friendly suppliers benefits the community and the environment.
- Implement alternative energy sources – use solar or wind energy power for a portion of your collective energy needs.
- Take care of your things – one of the best ways to be sustainable is to extend the life of your property so that you are not replacing them as quickly. Extend linen life by using the Xeros near-waterless laundry system.
- Practice what you preach – keep your employees up-to-date about all your sustainability initiatives, explaining why sustainability is important, so that they are more likely to help with the property’s eco-friendly initiatives.