With sustainability and ESG high up on the agenda at the Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) in Dubai this September, we asked a number of industry partners how they are leading the change when it comes to sustainable tourism and hospitality.

The hospitality industry has a key role to play in transforming society for a more sustainable future. It must act quickly and continuously adapt and innovate. We place sustainability at the core of Accor’s strategy, which means that we are encouraging each department, function, brand, and employee to challenge the “business as usual” mindset. Changing our business model also means that our ambition goes further: influencing the hospitality industry and offering a new vision of sustainable travel and tourism.

The way that we operate in the hospitality industry has the potential to influence many other sectors, from construction to real estate, F&B, entertainment and mobility to digital services, inspiring them to rethink how they navigate environmental and societal challenges. A fully integrated hospitality model cannot be reduced to a simplistic sustainable bed and breakfast model. The future of hospitality goes far beyond the four walls of a hotel, it is deeply connected to the surrounding local communities and neighborhoods. It has an economic, social, environmental and cultural impact. All need to be taken into account.

At Accor, we are addressing these nuanced and far-reaching challenges by driving strategic actions that will move our operations towards a contributive model where we give back more that we take. We call this net positive hospitality. And it infuses all aspects of our industry.

First, our people. I firmly believe that, when provided with the right opportunity to grow, people have the power to change their lives, find purpose and impact the world around them. It is crucial to constantly revaluate how to attract talent and ensure that recruitment involves offering an opportunity to grow. At Accor, we act as a social elevator by hiring, training, teaching new skills, mentoring people from diverse, under-privileged, under-skilled or under-educated backgrounds. We partner with local organizations, such as the PAQTE project in France, to welcome young people from underprivileged areas for internships. We also promote indigenous employment programs in Australia. We need to build a new vision for hospitality, an inspiring industry where anyone can thrive and build a meaningful career.

Also, because we want to provide a safe space for our employees, and in response to the Covid crisis, Accor has established the "ALL Heartist Fund" to support our colleagues, their families, and frontline workers adversely impacted by the pandemic. €34 million have already been allocated and we will continue to give back wherever we can. Prioritizing people is at the heart of everything we do. The hospitality industry is people-oriented in every way, and without our talents, we can’t operate our hotels or provide the service, connections and emotions that our guests value above all.

Next, our commitment to net positive hospitality involves us putting Nature at the heart of our operating framework. Protecting it is vital and we are calling on our guests, employees, and our peers, to come together to support communities’ biodiversity. Our travel experiences should honor and respect the local environment, not take advantage of it. We need the best experts, that is why we recently joined the Ocean Framework, created by Fondation de la Mer, to help evaluate how the Group’s activities affect ocean wildlife. Oceans are one of the largest carbon sinks on the planet, devasted by plastic pollution, and more than 2,000 of our hotels are located close to them. We are also completely rethinking our food chain, from more responsible sourcing of our products to shifting our food consumption habits, promoting more seasonal or plant-based food, and putting an end to homogenization of our menus worldwide.

Our teams, at every level, have the capacity to drive change and take action. A new employee resource group was recently launched at our head office: the Saving the Environment Every Day (SEED) network, a group who regularly meet to discuss climate change and share ideas about how they can make vital changes across all departments! It has an amazing positive energy.

Finally, net positive needs to become the new normal of our industry. It is important to recognize that meaningful social change cannot be achieved without collaboration across the industry. We can’t do it alone and partnerships are important. Compensation and mitigation are no longer enough. For example, as part of our mission to create safe communities and combat sexism, sexual harassment and domestic violence, we have joined the UN’s Gender-based Violence Coalition as a co-leader with Kering. Businesses are strongest when they act collectively to achieve major goals, and sustainable innovation is no exception. Accor is an active member of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, which uses the collective power of the hospitality industry to tackle environmental and social challenges locally and globally. Collaborative efforts such as these allow us to accelerate our contributive model.

The reality of climate change is that we must act decisively, and with urgency. We can’t only wait

for guest behaviors to change or wait for them to put pressure on us. Instead, we are constantly rethinking Accor’s model and working on ensuring that our operations are net positive. To create the hospitality of tomorrow, we need to make sure that every stay at one of our hotels is a true contribution to local communities, people and Nature. This will only be achieved by investing in the power of people and through industry collaboration. Future-proofing the hospitality industry is not an option, it is essential.