Hot Topics—Executives discuss industry impact of sustainability

Sustainability has risen to one of the most important topics across the globe, with hundreds of eco-friendly and green initiatives implemented by countless companies and within consumers’ own lives.

In the hospitality industry, it is a concept that has to be addressed because today’s guests demand it. However, for hoteliers, saving the planet comes with a price, and they have to keep their efforts cost-effective in order to remain on the plus side of the balance sheet.

In the latest Hotel Business Hot Topics session, “Conscious Minds: Optimizing the Food & Beverage Supply Chain for Profitability and Sustainability,” in partnership with Entegra, a panel of industry executives discussed how hoteliers can implement sustainable practices in the F&B supply chain while keeping their bottom line in mind.

Glenn Haussman, founder/host, No Vacancy Live podcast, moderated the session, which included panelists Megan Brumagim, VP, ESG, Choice Hotels International Inc.; John Csukor, senior director/head of culinary, Entegra; Brian Hanna, procurement manager, sustainability & supplier diversity, Accor; and Dean Wendel, VP, food & beverage, Concord Hospitality.

Sustainability was the first discussion topic, and Brumagin opened the session by pointing out that sustainability is no longer just “nice to have,” adding, “It’s a business imperative. We are seeing consumer data saying more and more consumers want to see hotels focused on sustainability. This is especially true amongst the younger generation—the Millennial and Gen-Z travelers—and it’s also true of corporate customers. We’ve seen data that said half of corporate RFPs today are asking sustainability-related questions. So hotels need to take action to really walk the talk and show how they’re implementing sustainability on property.”

Hanna has also seen a rise in interest of sustainability in the meetings and events space.

“Something that I see come up quite often in corporate RFPs where you have major clients who have their own vision and their own commitments that they’ve made to sustainability and diversity, and they’re making decisions on which hotels they support based on those responses,” he said.

For Wendel, sustainability starts with concept development. “Our development team does a great job in making sure that we keep as much as we can if we’re repurposing a space,” he said.

For meeting planners and event planners, he said, “It’s a big deal if you can show them at the end of their event what you are able to do on a carbon offset report. At the end of a three- or four-day session, you could be able to give them a report that said, ‘Throughout this event, we saved X amount of trees and had 385 pounds of carbon offset.'”

Ultimately, Csukor commented, implementing sustainable initiatives is not an overnight undertaking. He cited statistics from a recent First Insight report, which found that 73% of Gen Zers are willing to pay more for services and products that have been highly influenced by sustainable practices.

“All of the executives here know what a project it is to take on the behaviors to make these foundational changes,” he said, adding, “The days of being shy are over. Show me and take credit for what you’re doing. I think it’s important to communicate and catch the eye of those for which this is really fundamentally important. It’ll help us as consumers and help us as professionals to make really wise decisions and communicate those great practices that we’re all taking on.”

For more insights on this Hot Topics session, make sure to check out the July issue of Hotel Business.

Watch the session