Guest amenities

Bergin argues it’s the same on the toiletry front. “I’m not going to base my choice of where I’m going to stay on the little bottles I might find in the bathroom,” he says. “My advice to hoteliers is always if you want to give a customer a present, give them a present. The toiletries issue I personally believe is like LED lights. It’s purely a matter of time before they effectively disappear.”

Even the guests that you might not have expected to embrace sustainability initiatives tend to be taken along for the ride, according to Dolton. At IHG, as part of a wider ten-year responsible business plan – Journey To Tomorrow – the group aims either to eliminate plastic altogether or move to reusable or recyclable alternatives, which means mapping out which single-use items are used by brand and by country, and working with suppliers and third-party owners to source alternatives in each market. “There are regional variations and cultural nuances and we do have to be cognisant of those,” Dolton says, “but even when our colleagues in some markets thought their customers wouldn’t like switching to, say, bulk amenities, the overwhelming reaction has been positive. In some cases, we must make a stand and say, ‘This is the right thing to do and we’re going to bring our customers along with us.’” Naguib says employees won’t stand for anything less. “When we set out sustainability goals, we did a lot of deep interviews with our executive leadership as well as our associates to understand what we as a company should be focused on as we moved through the next decade,” she says. “This resulted in one of our five core values tethering back to our responsibility as a company to drive responsible travel.”

Sweet spot

Neither IHG or Marriott’s plastic reduction initiatives are driven by legislation, which is spotty across different markets and, in many cases, has been set back by the pandemic. However, both Dolton and Naguib are thankful that regulations are beginning to tighten. Ireland, for example, is about to sign the Climate Action Bill into law, which for the first time in the country will set out legally-required carbon reductions by sector.

“The industry will remove small amenities before regulators catch up,” says Bergin. “But legislation will draw in the 25% of businesses that aren’t doing anything yet. The first movers – that’s also around 25% – have already moved and the middle block, 50%, will be jogged along, and as the deadline gets closer, they’ll adopt good policies.”

He certainly sees demand for the environmental certification part of his business, the GREENMark, growing in the next few years. As a large part of one of its accreditation programmes – PlasticSmart

Hotel Management International /

Hoteliers have slowly stumbled on the sweet spot between sustainability ethos and cost-effectiveness.

– he encourages hotel operators to work with their suppliers to find alternatives to single-use plastic. “One of my clients in Ireland was pretty embarrassed when I produced the tray of single-use plastics that I was given when I stayed there, but within 12 months they had got rid of all of them at no cost to the hotel. They’d turned around to their suppliers and said we want what’s inside but we

businesses that aren’t doing anything yet.” Maurice Bergin

don’t want this packaging, and if you don’t give us an alternative we won’t buy anything from you.” Dolton agrees that the key to success is finding that sweet spot between doing the right thing and making it work financially. The example she gives – removing non-essential items from rooms – both reduces waste and is beneficial from a cost perspective. “When we launched our Journey To Tomorrow plan in February, we were in the heat of the crisis still but it was the right time to do it because it signalled that this is an industry that is going to bounce back. And also that sustainability fits into business strategy, and we can make it work for our owners,” she says.

Naguib believes the only way for the industry to recover is for people to get back on the road. Invariably, many consumers will only do that if they’re convinced the hotel businesses are behaving responsibly. “They are thinking about sustainability and social impact as part of their decision-making process,” she says. “We may have missed some goals in 2020 but now it’s about picking back up, identifying our path forward for the next five years, and doing more than we originally planned.” ●


IHG Hotels & Resorts

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