Hotels and the Perfect Storm: Dealing with the global polycrisis
Sustainability in Hospitality — Viewpoint by Maribel Esparcia Pérez
How are hotels navigating the current 'perfect storm' of geopolitical uncertainties, energy transition and operational challenges (e.g. having enough staff to support operations or even develop and eventually open new hotels)?
In times of uncertainty, many businesses focus on their internal operations to survive. However, the climate and biodiversity crisis as well as the 'perfect storm' cannot be tackled in isolation, ignoring neighbours, other stakeholders, and the environment we are part of. “Everything that we achieve collectively at The Long Run is about protecting ecosystems, restoring, and regenerating landscapes, and connecting habitats. This is more important than ever in the current climate — there are increasing pressures on resources and so land use and management is critical to protect wildlife, ecosystems, and communities.” (Michael Dyer, the MD of Borana Conservancy, Kenya).
To protect landscapes and seascapes for posterity, The Long Run, which is part of the Sustainable Travel Programme of Preferred by Nature, works with approximately 100 tourism business and travel partners to make sustainability and regenerative practices an integral part of their business. Using the 4Cs framework (Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce), members are striving for BALANCE across these dimensions by taking a 360 degree view of their operations, addressing challenges and leverage opportunities to future proof their business to the best of their abilities.
As a result of sustainability becoming part of a business's DNA, changes, course corrections or new ventures do not only consider commercial viability or resilience. Instead, the impact of the business's actions is carefully considered, the pros and cons of cutting costs or strategic changes are balanced and corrective actions taken in an informed manner. But resilience also comes from long-term strategic planning. Despite the uncertainties, tourism business should also not forget their long-term aspirations or north star. By keeping a clear vision of their goal for conservation, community, culture and commerce, business can and should check whether any decision positively or negatively affects their 5, 10, 25 or 100 year vision.
By working closely with our members through the pandemic and many other crises — local political conflict, extreme weather events, global economic crisis — we've proven that embedding a sustainable framework into operations is critical for survival. This is not a nice to have, but helps businesses to survive and thrive, whatever is thrown their way. We are proud to say that not one Long Run member went out of business during the global pandemic, nor did their community outreach and conservation projects suffer. That's because they are all built upon the holistic balance of the 4Cs — Conservation, Community, Culture and Commerce — which has enabled them to weather crises with a loyal workforce, passionate former guests that will donate or fundraise to plug gaps when needed, committed suppliers that will work alongside our members to find shared solutions, and build financial resilience and diversity.
Do you recommend hotel businesses to conduct a materiality assessment (assessing the risks exposed and impact on business performance)? Yes/No & Why
For The Long Run it is essential that our members accurately and honestly reflect on their business practices. No business or organisation is perfect but embracing sustainability is a journey of continuous improvement and we must start. Therefore, the team supports its members to create a baseline of their activities and projects across conservation, community, culture, and commerce (the 4Cs). By taking a 360 degree view of their business, members are able to identify challenges, bottlenecks or potential environmental, social or organisational issues. Stakeholder engagement, in-depth discussions with the team, community, other businesses, and shareholders enable the members of The Long Run to identify opportunities for improvement to further minimise their negative and maximise their positive impact where possible. Once members understand where their current strength and areas for improvement or change lie, a strategic sustainability (4C) plan is developed together with The Long Run team to ensure that the business's long-term aspirations for the 4Cs inform the way forward on where corrective actions are required or innovative approaches considered.
Combining a baseline assessment with long-term aspirations for the 4Cs enables the members of The Long Run to embrace sustainability across their operations in a holistic manner, making it part of their DNA while pursuing their north star.
How do you recommend overcoming cherry-picking and bias when assessing risks that build a materiality matrix?
It is natural for business to work on aspects that where they have excelled in the past, building on their knowledge, capacity, and experience. Addressing challenging aspects or potential areas that have previously not considered can be daunting or overwhelming to businesses. The 4Cs framework identifies these areas quickly but also helps members to identify opportunities where more could or should be done. Regular support, monitoring and continuous engagement are essential to ensure that businesses address the risks and challenge over time. Inspiration, peer-exchange and learning from other members around the world, has proven a key tool for the members of The Long Run to drive change and innovation.
Could you provide three to five resources to help hospitality companies to tackle strategic and operational risks?
To accelerate change, The Long Run has created a number of tools and resources for tourism businesses (https://www.thelongrun.org/resources/) including a free training course on strategic sustainability (4Cs) Planning to help businesses embed a sustainable mission and vision into their operations. The training also includes a number of downloadable tools and methodologies from a 360 degree baseline assessments to simple annual monitoring and evaluation frameworks. Please see here for further details: https://traininghub.preferredbynature.org/courses/the-long-run-strategic-planning-training.