Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry – gimmicks or real change?

The overload of information that we are currently fed about the environment and the negative impact that we are having on the planet is simply overwhelming. Dire forecasts about the subject abound. In order for the next generation to survive we need to be concerned with so many issues affecting the planet, from climate change, oceans full of whale-killing plastic, toxic consumer products, dying bees, extreme weather and so many more…

Every self-interest group, from major pollution causing corporations to right-wing extremists seems to want a say, but the challenge of sifting through what is real and what is ‘fake news’ is amazingly taxing and confusing. Do we really not care what happens to our future or does this avalanche of information lead to paralysis and a sense of powerlessness?


The blame game seems as important as finding solutions to these real (or apparently imagined problems) and seems to be the ‘trend du jour’ for politicians and people in authority.
Whilst blaming someone else for all our shortcomings is a very human trait, it would sometimes help to have a good look in the mirror and this does not only apply to individuals but also those in charge of multi-nationals, and in our case, the hotels or restaurant industry.

What steps is our industry taking to tackle these serious issues?

Are we satisfied with gimmicks or are we committed to lasting change?

Great news – “X” hotel chain is banning plastic straws by 2022! Are plastic straws a serious environmental issue? Sure, but what about all the other plastic used in the hotels?

On a recent hotel stay in a good quality property, I had to laugh in despair because my hotel had six plastic water bottles in my room – one on each bedside table, two in the bathroom and two in the mini-bar. Multiply that by 200 rooms and we have a staggering 1200 unnecessary plastic bottles, many of which will be used and replenished each day – hopefully at least some will end up in a recycling facility. Oh, but don’t worry sir, we have eliminated plastic straws from the bar!!

While some hotel companies are starting to replace the cute little bathroom amenity bottles with dispensers, it is hard to  imagine a luxury hotel that charges serious money for a night’s stay will ever go to that level and have their designer amenities in a dispenser – hopefully they prove me wrong…

Many hotels have started to change bedsheets or towels less frequently for the sake of water conservation/chemical reduction (or to cut expensive laundry costs as most insiders will tell you).

The hospitality industry has yet to come to a collective agreement about what can be done to save our planet – if you check the internet there is hardly anything that suggest hotels have done very much to cut greenhouse gas emissions or substantially help the environment.

There are of course some exceptions.

Frasers Hospitality has an initiative to reduce greenhouse emissions for every new building to net zero carbon by 2030 and for all existing buildings by 2050.
These ambitious targets are hopefully achievable and set a positive benchmark for others. But then again, we have had governments agree on carbon reducing targets in Paris some years ago and what has happened…very little with many nations failing to play their part.

Six Senses apparently asks its owners to allocate 0.5% of revenue to a sustainability fund to support property and community environmental initiatives and is believed to be the only hospitality company to insist on this in their management agreements (source:
This is very admirable, since no other hospitality company seems to be doing it, but is 0.5% a realistic figure or just a gimmick?

What about the rest of the hospitality industry?

Are we taking positive action, or as usual, waiting for someone to start the ball rolling and bring out initiatives before reluctantly having to fall in line?

They say, ‘a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step’, so something is better than nothing, but we want to ensure that we commence that journey with sufficient speed to ensure we do not run out of water, get roasted by bush fires or hit by a tsunami before we get half way there…

Surely, we could immediately remove single-use plastic in our operations with little effort and then use our newfound confidence to work towards some more ambitious targets.

I challenge the modern hotelier to start a “Save the Environment” committee in their hotels that identifies areas that could be improved and made environmentally friendly.  These committees should be given paid time and resources and can work miracles if taken seriously.

Lets hope our industry can progress from the gimmicks and PR spin to real action and positive change before it’s too late.

I welcome suggestions, ideas and inspirational quotes and will have some environmentally focused articles and follow up on this story in future editions.

About the author

rsz_karl_faux_ccKarl Faux is a veteran Hotelier and Managing Partner with Elite Search – a leading hospitality recruitment firm.
For more information about Karl and Elite Search visit and The Elite Hotelier

One comment

  1. I think there is more action in marketing than actually accomplishing meaningful action. Awareness exercise, plastic affinity and a lot more of other strategies. You cant achieve what you want to unless the alternative is viable or getting rid of practices that affect the environment completely and probably change consumer behaviour. Both are risky in terms of their implication on the business and do not think our current thinking process is going to contribute anything significantly.


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