Embracing sustainable practices is not a new phenomenon. The concept of sustainability was first mentioned in 1987 on an international platform with the UN-sponsored Brundtland Commission’s unveiling of “Our Common Future,” a movement that has since transgressed the globe.i More so, the hospitality and tourism industry has been pursuing greener methods of operation since the 1990’s due to the fluctuating economic levels and the positive degree in which it impacts customer service.ii The United Nations Conference on Environmental Development (UNCED) in 1992 at the Rio Earth Summit recognized Travel & Tourism as one of the main sectors of the global economy which could have a positive effect implementing sustainability initiatives.iii
In 1996, three organizations, the World Travel & Tourism Council, the World Tourism Organization, and the Earth Council converged to create a global environmental certification program for the travel and tourism industry. The organizations together launched an action plan entitled “Agenda 21 for the Travel and Tourism Industry: Towards Environmentally Sustainable Development.” Subsequently, “Green Globe,” a certification program that sets targets and performance standards based on the Agenda 21 principles was created.iv Hotels receive this “Green Globe” designation by addressing major environmental issues in key areas including: greenhouse emissions, energy efficiency, management of freshwater resources, ecosystem conservation, and waste water and solid waste management.
Of course, it is the right thing to do considering global warming and the focus on preserving the planet, but what are the other motivations? The hospitality and tourism industry has much to gain from focusing their efforts on employing sustainability objectives into their operations, many that can be implemented with little to no capital investment by the company.
The economic benefits that reflect environmental and social initiatives are:
Gaining a Competitive Advantage by Going the Extra Mile;
Earning & Maintaining Customer Loyalty;
Employee Education and Retention;
Honors and Recognitions;
Increased Brand Value.v
What is being done currently and what does the future look like in hospitality and tourism? Will the industry continue going green into the future if the added value stagnates?
Major efforts were started over two decades ago and travel and tourism was the leading industry to launch such industry-specific action plans. Hospitality, the fastest growing global industry, introduces one new job every two and a half seconds. Considering the hospitality industry contributes $7 trillion annually to the total world gross domestic product as reported in 2014, there is definitely a means and more so an incentive when it comes to fostering sustainability and making a difference in the world. It is just good business. The tourist population has doubled in the last 20 years, and it is forecasted to double again in the next 20 years, totaling 1.8 billion people.vi More and more of these customers are conscious of what impact they have and their actions have on this planet. This is cause to take even further action than just what was done before.
The past methods only skimmed the surface of what could be done in the future.
- Monitoring waste excretion into waterways
- Decreasing energy consumption
- Recycling plastic, glass, paper, and metal
Today more than ever before there is an abundance of products on the market and practices available that take the environment into consideration. From energy saving lightbulbs to low pressure or low flow shower heads. Many hotels buy their own linens and launder in house, reusing those linens that are not dirtied lessoning the use of water, detergent and greenhouse gases. Growing their own produce or buying local also stimulate regional economies and lessen the carbon footprint. Installing solar power roofs and using electric powered machinery are also effective methods in reducing the reliance on natural resources.vii
Soon the industry will see green, sustainable practices become the norm rather than the option. Though, today is not the day. The trend has decreased in the public’s willingness to pay extra for environment protection. While the industry battles the balance of low cost options, their smart, environmental friendly approach may fall on a non-existent audience. The market is fractionalized and the consumer values affordability and practicality just as much, if not more than taken the state of the planet into consideration. The hospitality industry must look further afield for innovative ways to stand apart and retain customer allegiance.
At GBSB Global Business School, we recognize the aspirations of all people and the urgency of caring for our fragile planet. We teach students to craft business methods that match the sustainable vision by doing good for society while doing well for the company, by profiting others while turning a profit.
Opportunities for research, leadership, and advocacy help students at GBSB Global Business School connect their education in Tourism and Hospitality Management with real-world problems. Our college offers students many ways to learn about and practice sustainability. Here are just a few examples:
- Innovative courses, such as Global Environmental Science and Ethical Dimensions of International Business;
- Mentorships with biologists, environmental activists from Spain and Europe, and local leaders;
- Co-curricular opportunities such as our GBSB campus sustainability theme floor, recycling activities, and renewable energy conferences promote greener practices for a better tomorrow.
By Emily Dawn Szajda, GBSB Content Manager
ii v viiGraci, Dr. Sonya and Kuehnel, Jacqueline. Why Go Green? The Business Case For Sustainability-How to Increase Your Bottom Line By Going Green. Hotels Combined. Retrieved from http://green.hotelscombined.com/Gyh-The-Business-Case-For-Sustainability.php
iiiWorld Travel and Tourism Organization and International Hotel and Restaurant Association. 19-30 April 1999. Tourism and Sustainable Development: The Global Importance of Tourism. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Retrieved from https://www.gdrc.org/uem/eco-tour/wttc.pdf
viGlobal hospitality insights: Top thoughts 2015. EY Building a better working world. Retrieved from http://www.ey.com/Publication/vwLUAssets/ey-global-hospitality-insights-2015/$FILE/ey-global-hospitality-insights-2015.pdf