The last few years have been very challenging for the whole hospitality sector, as the majority of business people and travelers moved to online conferences whenever possible and holidays became a luxury for many people. Beside this shortage the most important hotels in the world and its shareholders have decided to give a lot of emphasis in sustainability and green technology. This happened because they understood that in order to be a key player in this competitive market, they absolutely needed to set up a long term strategy, which consisted in profitable operation combined with particular focus to the needs of the people who both use and work in the hotel and also focus on careful trusteeship of natural resources. These ideas, well known as the triple bottom line, were pointed out for the first time by John Elkington  in 1997,who basically assumed that in order to be sustainable, without particular regards of the industrial sector, it is vital and necessary for a corporation’s business to operate with more responsibility, and concerning of not only economical margins (profit), but also environmental (planet) and social issues (people). My purpose in this research is to investigate how these three pillars of sustainability should fit the nowadays hospitality sector.
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According to Dr. Hervé Houdré, General Manager of the Willard InterContinental Hotel, the triple bottom line in hospitality is achievable giving a lot of emphasis to all the three steps, starting from the economic viability: “The Sustainable Development concept is not the consequence of the delusion of people who determined that this world would be better if we were going back to our natural roots and resources. SD is definitely geared toward profitability and the future. Without profit it seems obvious that no business would be sustainable”(Hervè,2008).
From this quote we understand that it is very important to remember that an hotel it is not a NGO or a NPO and must be profitable to remain sustainable. With this crucial principle, the idea should be to drive a business with also an ethical point of view and use sustainable development to reach an high turnover but also lowering the costs, in order to have a better profit margin, wich creates value for the shareholders.
The second step concerns social responsibility. As briefly pointed out in the introduction, hotel’s two major components in this issue are employees and the community. An hotel should be recognized as a fair employer and be sure that its employees are happy and proud to be associated with its name, for instance Accor’s hotels motto is encouraging its 170,000 employees through the idea that “one employee can make the difference.”. The hotel should also be well integrated in the community by helping worthwhile causes and every organization should select those that are appropriate to its goals and community. Not only it is right and ethical to offer our help across borders, but if an international clientele sees that the hotel is involved in international causes, this will probably reinforce the perception of generosity and caring of both the hotel and the country, facing in this way a double outcome.
The last pillar is about the environmental protection. Among other steps, the hotel will apply for national and international environmental certifications and awards, such as ISO 14001, ISO 22000 (both are international environmental certification), and the IHRA environmental award. An hotel may also consider the idea of starting a his own initiative concerning the environment, like Taj Hotels Group did with EARTH (Environment Awareness & Renewal at Taj Hotels), a project which is about the effort of one of Asia’s largest and finest group of hotels to commit to energy conservation and environmental management. This project has also received a certification from Green Globe, the only worldwide environmental certification program for travel and tourism. Moreover, in everything that an hotel does in order to reach this kind of goal, it will be useful to research for an association with a well-known organization to benefit from their existing infrastructure and consequently to ensure the correct and ethical application of the funds that will be donated or, more in general, the actions that will take place.
As pointed out by Business Ethics,Ethical Decision Making & Cases: O. C. Ferrell, John Fraedrich, Linda Ferrell,it is crucial for a 21st century company to build a strong relationship and interaction with its stakeholders, because they are both influenced by and have the ability to affect the business, as noticed before in the second pillar of sustainability. This general view has been transposed also in the hospitality sector, where now it is frequent to witness this kind of stakeholder approach in order to maximize the positive impact and minimize negative impact on society. Although there are many different approaches, it is important to highlight key features, which include assessing the corporate culture, identifying stakeholder groups and related issues, and gaining also feedbacks from them. After that being stated it stands to reason that communication is a key part of this project and letting all stakeholders know about the strategy is just as important as setting and implementing the triple bottom line strategy in the first place.
The hotel industry is well positioned to demonstrate to the world that a sustainable development is possible, because every year hundred millions of people enter in contact with it.
Consequently, as a major player, hospitality can reach many families and individuals through a good communication plan. Travel and tourism represents one of the most important sources of economic activity in the world, and therefore a single hotel can influence many industry stakeholders.
It has already been noticed how an hotel may enter in contact with some of its primary stakeholder such us employees, clients and shareholders in the three pillars. It is also interesting to investigate more deeply the links with other primary stakeholders like suppliers and then to have a look at a secondary stakeholder like the media.
Regarding the suppliers, hotels are in the right position to share the values of sustainability development and they should actually encourage them to embody this principles in their strategy. One big example is given by the Willard Intercontinental Hotel, which is actually asking its suppliers to deliver sustainable products, also forcing them to search for and add these products to their catalogues, in order to be available also to other clients. This is really important because in this industry, usually, one supplier deals with more clients and consequently the approach of a sustainable product strategy by a supplier may lead to a massive usage of these sustainable products throughout the entire hospitality sector. In fact, as highlighted by dr. Houdrè, Willar Intercontinental procurement company, Avendra, represents also Fairmont Hotels, Marriott International, Hyatt Hotels Corp. and Club Corp USA. This means that, thanks to the hotel efforts (in this case the Willard Intercontinental), if Avendra completely embraces the strategy its 3 billion dollars buying power will reflect in 3 billion dollars of sustainable products purchased, which furthermore will be sold at all their hotel clients and which will finally enter in contact with the final customers, creating in this way a real virtuous circle of sustainable awareness.
How anticipated in the introduction an organization should also be conscious of its secondary stakeholders, in order to handle efficiently its position with particular focus in the external market. In the hospitality sector a key player may be identified as the media. Nowadays, in fact, they are facing a lot of interest and coverage of initiatives related to the sustainable development. All the regards shown about global warming and oil prices means that the media are seeking for stories concerning the strategies to thwart these issues. A hotel should make efforts to be acknowledged of its initiatives and values by the media representatives (both normal and web-based) and also share news of its actions in order to encourage its clients to spend their nights in it. By doing this, sustainable development becomes a unique selling point for a hotel, which enables him to gain also competitive advantages. There may be also another step, where the hotel encourages or shares the initiatives even with its competitors (for instance exactly as Willard Intercontinental did with Avendra) but, in this case it will be paramount for the hotel to be acknowledged by all the stakeholders as the early mover and pioneer in the sustainability field and to do that clear values that support the hotel vision should be provided in a mission statement:
â€¢ Accountability: We are dedicated to performing our assigned
tasks with excellence and to deliver outstanding
â€¢ Education and development: We provide everyone the opportunities,
knowledge, and skills to grow both personally
â€¢ Empowerment: We have the authority to take ownership,
anticipate needs, and make decisions which exceed our
customers’ expectations on first contact;
â€¢ Integrity: We believe in honesty, ethical behavior, respect,
â€¢ Professionalism: We are an action-oriented team of savvy
experts who are passionate and quality driven;
â€¢ Sustainable Development: We are committed to economic
viability, and social and environmental responsibility;
â€¢ Working smart: We encourage innovation, proactivity, agility,
and a safe work environment.
Houdrè, H., 2008. Sustainable Hospitality©:Sustainable Development in the Hotel Industry.Cornell Industry Perspectives No. 2.›Online P.5-20. Available at willarddc.com/sd/docs/willardwhitepaperproof.pdf ›Accessed 20 Oct 2010
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