Green issues

Sustainability de-prioritised

The drive to sustainability was likely to take a back seat to the need for liquidity in the short term, last week’s episode of In Focus heard.

There was hope that measures which offered benefits to the bottom line would continue to be adopted.

David Kellett, senior director hotel transactions, Invesco Real Estate, said: “In the short term sustainability will be much lower down the priority list because people will be much more focused on cashflow health, and liquidity, but in the medium term it will be back in focus.

“It’s a big thing on the institutional investor side.  Hotels are usually cashflow multiple driven so the only tangible benefit would be if you had changed something on the energy side which came down to the cashflow.”

A number of companies were continuing to highlight their sustainability goals, using Earth Day as their hook. At Anantara Hotels Resorts and Spas, the group has been producing video content during the outbreak, with the company commenting: “Now more than ever it’s time to look after ourselves and the world we live in and sustainable tourism has long been a key pillar of the Anantara ethos. The month of April will be devoted to Earth Month, with a series of nature stories highlighting some of the projects and the incredible team members and Anantara Experts that protect and support the communities which our properties are thankful to call home.”

The group uses sustainability as a key selling point for its luxury brand, but for others, including the large global operators, there are more moving parts to consider.

Catherine Dolton, VP, global corporate responsibility, InterContinental Hotels Group, said: “Momentum was building for 2020 to be a year of pivotal collective action on sustainability, with business and governments coming together to tackle the climate emergency. The Covid-19 outbreak has emphasised more than ever, the importance of future-proofing business for growth and resilience within the context of climate change.

“It will also provide some of the most important lessons for a generation, and it is a crisis that we're all facing here and now. As we work through the many unknowns of this pandemic and consider global and local responses to issues, it has brought a stark reminder of how important it is to act quickly to tackle global risks and to do this collaboratively – both within and outside of our industry.  

“At IHG the primary focus, rightly so, is on supporting our people, our owners and our business to tackle the economic and operational impacts. The natural comparisons of this crisis to the climate emergency are obvious, and I anticipate that a key lesson from this will be the shift in focus to our longer-term health, and how a company responds by doing what is right – and that includes by the environment. And so, while the phasing and roll-out of specific sustainability projects may change, we must continue to plan and be ready as we recover.”

Last week saw the World Tourism Organisation release a set of recommendations to help global tourism “grow back better”. These included a number of sustainable strategies, with the group commenting that the crisis was “an opportunity for transformation”.

The Recommendations said: “Embracing sustainability more fully will help tourism as the sector establishes closer links with the wider United Nations system. A resilient sector is vital if tourism is to become a key partner of UN agencies, international organisations and international finance institutions as the global community works to realise the 2030 agenda”.

The UN 2030 agenda looks at a plan of action for “people, planet and prosperity”. The organisation said: “We recognise that eradicating poverty in all its forms and dimensions, including extreme poverty, is the greatest global challenge and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development.”


Insight: Time was at, say, the beginning of the year, a time which we can barely recall, when issues around the environment were still in the realms of a nice-to-have. Greta was making us all feel bad and easyJet helped those of us who used budget airlines like buses feel a bit better. There was a lot of talk - some plastic straws got banned - but sustainability was largely in the hobby stage. It was agreed that Extinction Rebellion were a bit trying when they attacked the electric scooters in Paris.

We are now in the middle of one of the most spectacular Springs many of us can recall; deafened by birds, blinded by blossoms. Reports of dolphins swimming through the blue waters around Venice. Nature doesn’t need us to show off to, it is doing very well without our daily chug chug through it.

The bad news for the planet is that, as soon as we can get out and about, we will be out and about. Not in the same volumes at once, but with aspirations to return to the ways things were. And the unfortunate aspect of that is that this time, we won’t have cash swilling around for campaigning on the planet. For those who want to keep the dolphins in new and interesting swimming holes, the message on the money-saving attributes of sustainable hotels must be shouted all the louder, or be lost in the search for cash.