What is the Impact of COVID-19 on Sustainability?
By Dimitrios Diamantis, Dean of Graduate Studies at Les Roches Global Hospitality Education
Sustainability as a concept has been in a turmoil over the last 35 years. Since the World Commission on Environment and Development Report, commonly known as Brundland Report in 1987, sustainability has been advancing as a concept of developmental strategies in a number of destinations and organizations. With the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aiming to showcase progress towards sustainability by 2030, a number of stakeholders have been working hard to make such goals achievable and a step towards their completion.
The current pandemic will undoubtedly contribute to the enhancement of the natural environment state, especially over the air quality and natural habitat. Equally, the human cost of the disease is raising as well as global business and stock markets have showed negative performance and decline. As sustainability is founded by the three main principles of environment, society and economy, where economic growth is considered to be a driver of change, the latter situation with the current pandemic poses a "rethink" of corporate governance and business models. Next, consumers will exit our current period, being a bit hesitant. Such attitudes will also have an effect on hospitality and tourism business as "getting back to normal" will take a bit of time. Considering all the factors, the industry clearly needs to redraw the strategies of development and growth. From the sustainability perspective it is crucial that after the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of well-being takes a center stage. That is no different to the original Brundland report, page 52, over quality of growth.
The latter report notes that the "economic development is unsustainable if it increases vulnerability to crises", page 53.
Taking all the factors into account, the period that we are currently going through does provide a platform that the existing models of governance, sustainable management and growth, ought to be seen from the original principles of sustainability.
This can be further illustrated in better measurements over emissions and climatic initiatives, so that the world can become more stable in terms of its natural conditions. That will be followed by the unparallel societal mechanism that the 2030 UN Goals are highlighting as well as initiatives of community engagement and support. Next, the economic development needs not only to recover the "lost ground" but set a platform that can become sustainable over the next years. That will involve improvements in strategic thinking, enhancement in service quality models as well as careful product design that respects the principles of sustainability. Being careful to the environment, being considerate about society as well as being economically sustainable is more important than ever before. The current pandemic has showed so far, the human cost and with such loss comes responsibility to the stakeholders to act with care and to promote strategies that respect the economic, social and environment well-being. That will only be achieved if the industry showcases its hospitality attitudes and it is more important than ever that the key attributes that drive our business are embedded in their future growth. That will enhance the sustainability of our industry and it will make sure that the current pandemic will serve as a reminder and a contemplation that quality of development and growth is, within reason, the driver of recovery and change.