Despite well-documented climate change and the impact of production systems and consumption on the environment and society, sustainability is still often thought of as just a “feel-good” consideration. As a result, during major economic disruptions like the COVID-19 pandemic, it may seem an easy choice to deprioritize your sustainability-related initiatives.
However, it is important to remember that sustainability, at its core, is a model for resilient businesses and communities. While some sustainability approaches might change, it should still be viewed as a model for transparency and good governance. These efforts are not only good for the environment and often aid in reducing operational costs, they also help signal to guests that you care about them, your employees and the environment and global community.
Companies looking to continue sustainability best practices during COVID-19 and come back even stronger post-pandemic can start with short-term operational and purchasing decisions that integrate into their current business strategies and sustainability goals.
Here is some best practice guidance to consider:
- Start with the basics. Reassess what you can do to conserve energy, electricity, waste and water to reap savings. It’s good for the environment and your bottom line. Analyze your operations and identify any equipment and lighting that may not be necessary to run right now. Are there operations using a lot of water that can be reduced or scaled back? How can you reduce food waste? Are there ways to reduce overall waste and minimize the amount of hauling trips? This could be a good time to rethink “standard” pre-COVID business practices and adjust where appropriate.
- Utilizing reusable foodservice wares is still considered more sustainable, and there is mounting evidence that properly washed and handled reusables are just as safe as disposables. You may want to consider reviewing your standard operating procedures (SOPs) and relevant training on handling and washing to ensure your operations are maintaining hygiene standards. That being said, the need for single-use “to-go” options, as evidenced by many food and beverage offerings in hotel marketplaces and for curbside dining, have increased significantly as a result of COVID-19. Guests are expecting to receive easy “to-go” containers and packaging but will also prefer properties to source them responsibly. For more information on selecting sustainable options, please read Avendra’s Disposables Primer – 5 Best Practices for Purchasing Disposables During COVID-19.
- In the time of heightened sanitation concerns, the hospitality industry is hyper-focused on the health and safety of all guests, implementing more stringent processes and procedures for cleaning and sanitizing. However, consumers are aware of their personal health so taking the opportunity to use safer cleaning chemicals is an opportunity for hotels to differentiate themselves. This also ripples into a company’s care for its workers, as harsh cleaning chemicals can negatively impact the health of janitorial and housekeeping staff. Read Avendra’s guidance on selecting safer cleaning chemicals here.
- Some research indicates consumers are leaning toward healthier foods during the pandemic and are even more likely to continue this practice after. Operators could take this opportunity to increase healthier food offerings to stay ahead of guest needs. One way to support this continued trend is to serve less meat, which can also significantly lower your environmental footprint and help reduce costs. An even more holistic approach is less meat – better meat – which could be another way to increase revenue by charging more for meat with higher sustainability and welfare standards. Avendra’s Less Meat-Better Meat article helps shed more light on this topic and approach.
- COVID-19 has further highlighted the complexities of managing supply chain disruption. For most hotels, their supply chain extends well beyond their direct and regional operations. In fact, some research indicates that supply chains are responsible for more of a company’s environmental and social impacts (including possibly links to human rights and labor rights abuses) than their direct operations. Environmental and social responsibility is increasingly becoming an important issue for guests. Be extra judicious when selecting suppliers for your products to ensure they have responsible manufacturing and sourcing practices in place. Additional focus on good governance and transparency within supply chains helps build resiliency that can often better withstand disruptions such as COVID-19 and the increased effects from climate change.
As a company focused on supply chain management, Avendra takes great care to continually advance our responsible sourcing standards. Even during this pandemic, we have made major strides to integrate sustainability and responsible sourcing further into our contracting and supplier management processes. Avendra is excited to announce that we will have more information to share on this soon, however, in the short-term, we are always open to sharing ideas on how we are helping our customers with their sustainability goals. Feel free to reach out for more ideas to Hamzah Abu-Ragheb, Avendra’s Sustainability and Responsible Sourcing Manager.