As seen in HOTELS Magazine.
It’s no secret that ‘sustainability’ has been a growing focus for the hospitality and tourism industry for some time now. Yet, a key element often left out of the discussion is sustainable procurement, or sourcing products from verified environmentally friendly vendors which affect minimal harm to the planet.
While sustainable procurement may not sound as glamorous or PR-worthy as re-wilding a habitat or creating a reef regeneration program as part of the guest experience, it is a crucial element of every eco-friendly hotel. Furthermore, it is an initiative available to any hotel or brand.
Contributed by Graeme Labe, Luxury Frontiers, Johannesburg, South Africa
According to the World Economic Forum, adopting sustainable procurement practices is not only better for the earth, but also provides businesses with a measurable 15% to 30% increase in brand equity, which fosters revenue growth. Given the rising attention to the effects of tourism on the environment, ensuring sustainability measures will become increasingly important, and thankfully so.
But how do you know if a product is truly sustainable? From FF&E and OS&E to raw building materials, procurement firms who do their due diligence and can recommend vendors who take sustainability seriously can provide clients with a leg up. In the age of greenwashing and misinformation, deciphering whether or not a product is in fact sustainable requires assessment on a variety of different metrics. Here are a few ways to source green and assess the sustainability of a product:
Question misleading terms like “Green” or “Natural”
Vague terms such as “Green” or “Natural” used when describing a product can mislead purchasers into believing a product has passed some sort of sustainability test. However, these general terms are thrown around quite liberally and depending on the country of origin, may not need to meet any requirement to make such claims. It is safer to look for specific claims, such as “Made from 100% recycled material” or “biodegradable”, when assessing whether a product meets your sustainability standards.
Look for verified certifications
Accredited certifications verify whether or not the product has undergone testing. For example, internationally recognized certifications that Luxury Frontiers Procurement looks for include the Forest Stewardship Council, Green Seal, Energy Star, EcoCert, GOTS, and Global Green Tag. In addition, there are local certifications to be aware of, specific to the country the product is sourced from.
Check the composition or ingredients list
Any good procurement and sourcing firm will do their research and check the composition or ingredients list of a product. In many cases, this can entail a deeper dive into each ingredient and whether it was sourced ethically.
In certain cases, if a material or product is durable, or if it can be re-used and re-purposed, then it could be deemed sustainable even if at the outset it doesn’t appear to be. An example of this is solid, repurposed timber being more sustainable than new timber, which could be a result of deforestation. Or a pool derived from a plastic composite – if it can be re-used and will last a long time, then it could be the more sustainable choice over new material.
According to the EPA, a Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA) is a “cradle-to-grave” technique used to assess the environmental impacts on the life of the product. Beginning with the gathering of raw materials from the earth used to create the product and ending when all raw materials are returned to the earth, an LCA evaluates all stages of the product’s life and the cumulative environmental impacts resulting from all stages of the product lifecycle. Conducting this test on a material or product is an effective way to verify how the product will begin and end its life. Referring back to the examples used above, a plastic pool may be eligible for a recycling program and if unable to be repurposed, timber can be used as fuel or chipped for composting purposes.
Researching the country of origin or manufacturing location is essential to assessing sustainability for more reasons than one. Importing a product increases carbon emissions and may take business away from the local community. In addition, if you know the manufacturing location you can verify that the working conditions in that region meet your ethical standards.
Sustainable procurement practices are paramount to any eco-resort or hotel and are becoming increasingly valuable as society trends toward more conscious travel. Properly vetting products and vendors through the lens of sustainability takes time and investment on the side of the procurement firm. However, the benefits of sustainable procurement long outweigh the costs to your brand or operation and, most importantly, the planet.