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What use does Sustainable Development have within the hospitality industry?


1st May 2009


The growing pressure in the media, from the government and consumers for more action on the environment is forcing increasing numbers of businesses to implement environmentally friendly policies. The hospitality industry has been fairly late to the game, with ill-advised problems being sited…

‘But there will be costs involved!’

‘Will it really effect my customers spending habits?’

‘It won’t have a positive impact on my business, there are far more important matters I can be focussing on.’

Companies who continue to operate with this outlook are missing a trick and shrewd entrepreneurs are realising the benefits to implementing a Sustainable Development (SD) strategy.

Before we go any further, lets outline exactly what we mean by Sustainability.

What is Sustainability?

Sustainable Development is the ability to sustain your business in the long-term with profits, environmental efficiency and social engagement working in tandem to create long-term development.

It’s more than simply jumping on the green bandwagon – changing a light bulb or two – it requires a holistic approach to business that incorporates these 3 key areas (people, planet, profit) to drive the company to long-term profitability. Ignite’s 3 point circle demonstrates the integrated nature of their relationship:

They should support and drive each other, to illustrate, here are two examples:

  • The introduction of environmental policies (ecological) leads to reduced energy & water bills, resulting in increased profits (economical). This wouldn’t be possible without the internal involvement of staff and their motivation to implement the environmental strategy (social).
  • A restaurant/hotel that recycles waste food in a compost bin could deliver the soil door to door in the local community. Good for the environment – promotes good will in the local community – leads to an increased trust in the brand – benefiting the businesses economic objectives.

The theories are sound, but…

What are the practical benefits to a business in the hospitality sector?

There are 7 areas I will briefly touch upon, plus a few hints & tips to get you started. To integrate a full SD strategy you will need to engage consultants to do an audit, set relevant objectives and develop a strategy for your business.

Reduce Costs, Increase Profits

Logical, but often overlooked… reduce your energy consumption, water usage, waste & air emissions through environmentally friendly equipment & a bit of common sense, and your bills will decrease.

Even better – the initial investment can be covered through grants, funding & interest free loans.

View current grants available >

Cheap tips to get you started:

  1. Operate chillers, boilers, pumps, dishwashers & cooling tower equipment in accordance with actual load
  2. Check for infiltration of outside air in the form of negative pressure, leaking windows and draughts
  3. Use energy efficient light bulbs and turn equipment off not in use

More tips on reducing energy & water usage here


Stay ahead of the game. EU legislation is on its way and it won’t be long before your business is forced – by law – to meet high environmental standards

A little bit of info:

  1. New builds in London currently have to provide 20% of their energy through onsite renewables. For more info:
  2. The UK Government has committed to an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050. For more info:

Stay ahead of the game – implement a SD strategy today

Morals & The Environment

It’s obvious, but it’s got to be said, no? We all live here and it’s high time we started taking care of planet earth. Just think about how good you’ll feel… 🙂

Company Staff

It’s simple – a fully integrated strategy will make for a more pleasant place to work and engagement of staff will lead to an increased commitment to the company

A recent study carried out by the London Met university on Hotels in England found that 60% of staff interviewed would like to be more involved in Sustainable Policies at the hotel

A few tips:

  1. Allocate a ‘Sustainability Officer’ for each section of your business. E.g. for a hotel wing or for a kitchens energy usage. Each officer will make up the Sustainability Committee, who should meet regularly, and will be responsible for ensuring targets set out in your SD strategy are met
  2. Engage each member of staff on Sustainable issues, ground level staff will be more aware than anyone in the company of where improvements can be made. Without them on board – targets will be difficult to hit
  3. Organise a group activity for staff to raise money for a staff-selected charity in the local community. Team building & increased brand trust

Public Perception

Public perceptions of the environmental problems we face are at an all time high and tourists have become more aware of the socio-economical aspects of their travels

The onus has shifted to an expectation that businesses in the hospitality industry will have environmental policies in place

A little bit of info:

An Edelman study of consumers in 9 countries, including Brazil and China, found 70% are willing to pay more for a brand that supports a good cause. Whilst statistics such as these don’t necessarily translate to purchase decisions – there is a rising expectation amongst consumers that businesses have environmental & social policies in place.

Increased Brand Awareness & Loyalty

Customers demand more today than they ever have from the companies they interact with and purchase from. Sure, good service, good product and an attractive environment are as important as ever, but there is a growing expectation that companies should give back to the community and take responsibility for the environment. This falls back on to a well-known essential for businesses, build customer trust in your brand

A few tips:

  1. Communicate any charity involvement or environmental policies your business adopts via your website or through in-house marketing
  2. Depending on the scale of your involvement, consult a PR agency for public release of information
  3. Ensure your policies are concrete and don’t exaggerate any environmental claims. The damage to your businesses brand if exposed will take a long time to re-build

Press Coverage

It’s hot on everyone’s lips at the moment and most companies seem to be dipping their toes into environmental policies of some form. The vast majority are ‘Greenmongrels’, we’ve all seen it; hotels who place a card on the towel in your room, stating: ‘be green, re-use’, and lay claim to being environmentally friendly…

One problem – they DON’T tackle any of the real issues! Fortunately the public are savvy and increasingly treat Greenmongrels with contempt.

Despite the natural suspicion over ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ policies, a fully integrated Sustainable Strategy has considerable legs in the media providing it is communicated intelligently and effectively.

For more information on how to go about implementing a Sustainable Development Strategy, get in touch.

This was originally posted in 2009. Read more about what we’re doing with sustainability in hospitality here.

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