Samuel Wich | February 24, 2020
By Samuel Wich
From Greta Thunberg crossing the Atlantic Ocean to attending a conference in New York, to protesters from around the world taking to the streets in peaceful protests, 2019 has seen a huge increase in activity related to climate change and issues. environmental.
Movements such as Extinction Rebellion capture the attention of millions of people through creative exhibits, such as floating a life-size model of a typical suburban house along the River Thames to warn of rising sea levels. Brutal actions as these turn the crisis of an abstract collection of scientific data into a fact that is visually understandable to many. Not only are political leaders increasingly being pushed to embrace meaningful change, but individual consumers across industries are also realizing that changing their behavior will play a central role in tackling climate change.
Green is the new black
A 2019 study by Harvard business review found that for sales in 90% of the consumer packaged goods categories observed, brands marketed as durable grew faster than traditional competitors. This increase in customer attention to environmental issues has been echoed by large companies in virtually every industry. As a result, the use of buzzwords such as “sustainable”, “eco-friendly” and “green” has exploded in recent years as brands attempt to highlight the environmental benefits of their products or services.
Adidas‘recent engagement to use only recyclable polyester in their production of sneakers and clothing by 2024, i.e. forty-two major brands of consumer goods (ex. Haagen-Dasz, Tide & Gilette) meeting in the TerraCycle Buckle The project to provide households with zero waste containers that are filled only when needed are just two examples of these “green” initiatives.
Companies in the hospitality and food and beverage sectors also often focus their public messages on these topics, promoting achievements in saving water, electricity or reducing greenhouse gas emissions. greenhouse, directly or throughout their supply chain. Really impactful changes in the way businesses operate tend to be rewarded by the public with increased popularity and therefore sales.
A study by Just capital, an outlet that ranks U.S. companies on issues such as fair compensation, equal treatment, and environmental impact, found that companies that dominate their competitors in environmental performance also tend to benefit from ” a median return on equity 3% higher than that of their counterparts.
In addition, running an ethical and sustainable business is gaining importance in the fight for scarce talent. An investigation of the Institute of Governance and Accountability published this year found that 40% of Millennials had chosen an employer because of their sustainability performance. Regarding retention, the answers were even clearer. Here, 70% of millennials responded that they were more likely to stay with a company with a strong reputation and an environmental policy.
The dangers of greenwashing
With growing interest from various stakeholders in how businesses structure their business, businesses that decide to participate in this “Green Marketing” tend to be under constant consumer scrutiny. In their efforts to boost public image and overall revenues, many companies are focusing on their community engagement and marketing messages around green themes.
Unfortunately, these publicly hailed sustainable initiatives often act as a smokescreen to distract public attention from business activities that remain, in essence, harmful to the planet. With more than two thirds of customers willing to pay more for products they deem environmentally friendly, this trend is as understandable from a business perspective as it is troubling to consumers.
The increased public awareness means more and more businesses are caught up in their use of marketing terms and advertisements that present them in a greener light than their business deserves. The confusion and deception felt by consumers who are victims of greenwashing can lead to decreased brand loyalty and a loss of brand equity. More than ever, 2020 will be the year for companies to stay true to their environmental policies and messages.
Changes to more than your business
While switching power plants to renewable energies or replacing all point-of-sale bulbs with low-consumption LEDs are laudable acts, players across all sectors will need to do more in the years to come. Traditional linear supply chains where raw materials are bought, processed in factories, consumed and then thrown away to end up in landfills or, worse yet, in the oceans, have proven to be one of the main factors in the decline of the economy. health of our planet.
A shift towards a circular economy, where products are not only made from recycled and recyclable substances, but where consumers are also actively educated, encouraged and helped to reuse materials, is inevitable for any business that wants to be a true driver of positive change. These practices are essential in many eco-responsible start-ups. As part of their sustainable development award program, “Circulars”, the World Economic Forum (WEF) recognizes impactful innovations in sustainability.
Start-ups like the British firm Olleco, which collects food waste from outlets such as restaurants, hotels or food manufacturers and transforms it into biofuel that is returned to customers are promising models for all who want business and consumer cycles more durable.
Innovative climate protection actions are not limited to start-ups. Multinationals like the beverage giant Anheuser-Busch InBev are also commended for their efforts. On its page on “The circulars”, the WEF notes that “the largest brewer in the world wants 100% of its products to be in returnable packaging or made from mostly recycled content by 2025. Already almost half of its drinks are sold in returnable glasses. bottles. “The company also introduced a new high protein drink made from spent grains that were previously used exclusively for animal feed. Initiatives such as this will be needed for leaders in all industries, including major players in the hotel industry, to ensure continued success and healthy ecosystems.
Green initiatives by hotel companies
According to a publication by Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership, the tourism industry is responsible for around 5% of current greenhouse gas emissions. With the number of travelers and hotel rooms on the rise, that number is expected to increase by 130% by 2035.
“The immense impact on a global scale and the great extent to which hospitality companies are exposed to changes in the environment place the industry in a position where a shift towards more sustainable practices becomes an ecological, economic and ethical necessity. . “
Due to the heavy investments required to update existing locations and inherently low profit margins compared to other industries, hotels and restaurants have been rather slow to adopt sustainable business practices. By 2050, hotels will have to reduce their emissions by key 90% be compliant with the Paris Climate Agreement. Public and political pressure on the sector is increasing to implement drastic changes in the years to come. Many hotel and restaurant chains are responding, but there is still a long way to go towards a clean hotel industry. The steps that can be taken by businesses and what sustainable hospitality really means will be discussed in more detail in a later article by this author.
Nevertheless, some companies that have already taken decisive steps towards a greener operation are already worth mentioning here. In October 2019, the last SAM Business Sustainability Assessment was published, ranking the most sustainable hotel chains in the world.
The based in Spain Meliá International Hotels obtained the highest possible points in criteria such as climate strategy and social reporting.In December 2019, Melia was also the first international hotel chain to use environmental blockchain technology to offset its carbon footprint. In collaboration with the Spanish start-up Climate trade, it will also allow members of its loyalty program to dedicate their credits to initiatives against climate change “which contribute to the development, protection and conservation of natural ecosystems”.
1 Hotels is another great example. The boutique hotel chain with locations on both US coasts has an impressive track record. Each property pays great attention to ecological aspects in the design of its buildings and the choice of furniture. Much of the furniture is reclaimed wood, F&B operations use seasonal and local produce, and staff members and guests are encouraged to educate themselves and engage in environmentally friendly practices.
It is now
Transforming the way all hotels and restaurants use the resources of planet Earth can seem like a daunting task for both regulators and hotel operators. But in 2020, more than ever before, the economic and ecological benefits of a sustainable business are indisputable and the time has finally come to begin the process of transforming every last room on this planet into a sustainable accommodation that even Greta would be happy to. call home.