In the film Plastic Oceans, one of the shocking highlights that leaves anyone who watches it dismayed is this:
More than eight million tons of plastic are dumped into our ocean every year.
That’s absurd and truly unacceptable. Especially when you consider how long it takes for plastic to biodegrade. And even when it does (hundreds of years later), becoming part of our land and the ecosystem and thus part of our food chain is very discomforting given all the toxic chemical residue it produces.
In other words, there was a time when being ignorant served us well. Plastic is cheap and readily available. Today, however, given all the knowledge, technology, and creativity we’ve acquired, being ignorant can only lead us to self-destruct as a species. Our future and especially our children’s futures depend on the choices we make today as business leaders regardless of how small our role is.
Now that we know how harmful plastic is for the environment and for our future, we need to start prioritizing any and all initiatives that promote a more sustainable future.
We must address plastic waste management immediately, and although change won’t take effect all at once, any small step taken forward will have lasting positive effects.
This is a subject that I’ve become extremely passionate about in the last few years. Growing up, my parents taught me the importance of being mindful of the environment; of being self-sustaining and efficient. But I must admit, getting into the luxury industry caused me to put concepts like sustainability in the back burner. These concepts were not common or even encouraged in our space. But things have been changing in the luxury sector for the better, have you noticed?
The traditional concept of luxury doesn’t work anymore
What previous generations considered luxury doesn’t cut it anymore. We are entering an era where experiences matter more than physical objects. And our guests still expect luxury, but they also want to know that it’s not at the expense of devastating the environment.
What that means for those of us who have been serving in the luxury market for years is that we need a paradigm shift. We must shift our thinking, get more creative with our solutions and start creating good practices that help everyone (including our planet) to thrive.
This is a quest I am on, and even though there’s much work to be done, I believe we are starting to lay a strong foundation for sustainability at my hotel. As a fellow hotelier, I hope some of my best practices can help you achieve your sustainability goals as well.
Good practices that can help your hotel manage plastic waste more efficiently:
Guests are demanding we find innovative solutions to replace plastic. Therefore it is important to develop a culture internally of sustainability and engage our teams.
Eliminate single-use plastic.
This is a big task when closely examined so don’t expect to resolve it overnight. Start with your top management and let it trickle down to the bottom because everyone deserves to take an initiative in this task. Leadership should no longer be given a bypass.
Build a hospitality culture of sustainability and encourage leadership at all levels.
Ask your entire team to list every item in the hotel made from plastic and start sourcing alternative products.
Leverage the power of the Internet.
Once you have the whole team engaged and doing their part to help make the shift to a greener hotel, I recommend leveraging the internet for faster results. Many websites are now available to help you know what alternatives work, how to make the transition and how to promote the conversation internally as well as with your guests – because remember – sustainability is a two-way conversation.
Here’s a website worth bookmarking: The Oceanic Standard
Get buy-in from investors and shareholders.
This will require some effort on your part especially since some of the adjustments might incur higher costs than traditional methods. That’s why you need to do your research well and make a strong case that convinces investors to support those initiatives. Share reports on market behavior towards sustainability so the property owners can see how the consumers are choosing sustainable products and brands over the rest.
Give your brand a competitive edge with a more eco-friendly brand positioning
The truth is, a business needs to remain profitable in order to exist. Which means the best way to win over the support of your investors and shareholders is to find a way to leverage sustainability for your marketing strategy. Done ethically and with the right intention, you can make sustainability part of your marketing differentiator and produce a superior financial performance which ultimately leads to a win-win for both guests and the property. For example, “stop plastic” can be a strategy that generates a lot of buzz and gives your hotel a competitive advantage and therefore better results.
The caveat here is that you must not use it merely for marketing purposes because, in today’s social media world, transparency and authenticity are everything.
The demand for sustainable luxury is real. Tackling this global issue of plastic pollution and waste requires careful thought, creativity, planning, and commitment so that you can execute on the plans generated.
It also requires strong teamwork and the spirit of togetherness. This isn’t about short-term gain. We can’t afford to think that small as human beings anymore.
This is about paving the way for a better tomorrow and ensuring that business doesn’t get in the way of having a bright and healthy future.
As you take steps forward to eliminate plastic from your property, track and measure your performance to make sure you move toward that end goal. Create regular reports to keep yourself accountable and share with all parties concerned the progress being made and the expected positive Return on Investment, even when the return isn’t necessarily of monetary value. The longevity of businesses today and in the future will depend largely on how “human-centric” and eco-friendly we can make them.
As awareness continues to rise on the importance of sustainability, you need to be able to explain its implications clearly to all investors and stakeholders. You also need to motivate your team to execute the solutions.
As I said, there is no instant fix. It’s going to be a process of adjustment, especially if you’re managing a large property or a property that is part of a big brand. But there are small baby steps you can immediately start taking. I hope some of my ideas have nudged you in the right direction.