In recent years we have seen the need for sustainability take over – with businesses having to change their business models to adapt to their customers’ changing needs and behaviours.

With our knowledge of climate change increasing, and the effects becoming evident, people are far more conscious about the effects their own actions are having on the environment.

So, people are now looking for plastic-free alternatives, re-usable products, and choosing businesses that are giving back to the environment over those that are disregarding the topic.

One industry that needs to take charge, and make changes to help the environment is the hospitality industry. The hospitality industry has huge effects on the environment, from the foods they chose to use in their restaurants, to the carbon emissions reduced by hotels. So, what can be done to make the hospitality industry more sustainably responsible?

The latest roundtable hosted by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, and haysmacintyre, saw a group of hospitality professionals discuss this topic, providing their expert opinions and industry knowledge, on how we can make a more sustainable hospitality industry, and what the future looks like. 

Discussing her own business’s journey toward becoming more sustainable, Mercedes Gales, founder of 4yaparty explained how she has made changes to do better.

“We used to supply balloons and a lot of single-use plastic and supply events with decorations that would just end up in the bin the next day. And then at the beginning of 2019, I watched a documentary, and there was a turtle that had a straw stuck in its mouth – and it changed my perspective,” she said. 

“I heard a quote that weddings accumulate a bigger carbon footprint than a family’s carbon footprint for a whole year. And that was the last nail in the coffin for me – I completely rebranded my whole business and I stopped supplying single-use plastic. I stopped supplying single-use decorations, and I stopped supplying balloons to help cut down on plastic waste.” 

Celia Gaze, founder of The Wellbeing Farm, who also hosts weddings and parties year-round, discussed how they have become a fully B-corp certified business for their efforts in sustainability – which all hospitality businesses could take inspiration from.

“The Wellbeing Farm was a run-down neglected farm, which we’ve transformed into a wedding and events venue. We had no gas on the farm, so had to power the farm renewably, and to do so I installed wind turbines – so the whole farm is now powered by a wind turbine, and that set off the scene for sustainability” she said. 

“We have a zero-waste mentality. We look at everything through a sustainability lens, from purchasing through to the end product. We have something called the prop shed on-site, so instead of getting couples to hire, rent and buy things brand new, they can go to the prop shed and get everything that they need to decorate the venue. And then all of these things get reused, over and over again at other weddings.

“We also offer couples a big discount if they adopt our Sustainable Wedding Package. This package encourages couples to not use single-use items. Like flip-flops, balloons, even venue, and table decorations”.

Lorraine Arnold, founder of Pier Point, added to this by discussing how the food and drinks sector of the hospitality industry can become more sustainable, telling us some of the ways in which they have done so themselves.

“When I first opened the fish and chip shop down here on the coast I found out about the work of the Marine Stewardship Council, which protects the fish of tomorrow if you like – they help to eliminate overfishing, so once they have fished certain waters, they move on to the next waters etc. They were something I got involved with straight away as I think it is so important as an industry, to protect our product and ensure it continues for tomorrow,” she said.  

“I had the blue MSC labels everywhere in the shop, which was great because customers would ask what it meant, so we could educate the locals and also get them to spread the word.” 

Lorraine also explained how their restaurant is looking to do more local fishing, which will help lower their carbon footprint massively, and though making these changes can be hard for a business, they are worth it in the long run.

“I think some businesses think it’s expensive to go to be sustainable, and whilst the raw product, maybe slightly more expensive, the customer will inevitably pay more if it’s a good quality product,” she said. 

“We’re also members of the Sustainable Restaurant Association. I think that’s a really crucial thing, whatever industry you’re in, get involved with the sustainable associations.”

David Navaro Vera, founder of Master Taag, explained that another way that businesses can become more sustainable, is by introducing more digital functions – which can help cut down on waste, help reduce carbon emissions, and help you stay on top of things that are changing, and their solutions.

“The cloud solution can really help you not only to be super-efficient but be more aware of things, like finding ways you can reduce food waste. Making sure that you stay connected in order to really improve and save the hospitality industry is vital. Think, how can we digitise? How can I be fully aware of what’s going on? And how can we solve these issues? Because this is not a local issue. This is a global issue,” he said. 

Celia Gaze, founder of The Wellbeing Farm, added by focusing on the fact that sustainability is more than just the products or manufacturing you do within your business, it goes as far as the people you have within your business, and the community you’re building.

“ Being a B-Corp for me takes sustainability to a much better dimension, instead of just focusing on the planet, you focus your impact on the community and your staff. I feel that’s a much better definition of sustainability than just focusing on the planet because I think it’s all intertwined. And with these focuses, it moves the whole business and all of its staff, suppliers and community into a general direction of sustainability. Now, when I have customers coming, or I need staff, I am inundated with applications because of the B Corp status – They see it as a badge of a good business to work for and, and a business that they can trust.” 

Emma Bernardez, hospitality partner at haysmacintyre said, “Sustainability is an increasing priority for business owners and it was fascinating to hear from the group how they are constantly evolving to become more sustainable.

There are certainly challenges in doing this, however, in sharing ideas and experiences, it is clear to see how businesses can work together to succeed in this mission.”

To conclude, it is clear that many businesses in the hospitality industry are making important changes to do better, and be more environmentally friendly – which is what we should all be doing.

One of the most important factors of becoming more sustainable all around is to educate and show its importance, whether it be to your employees, your customers, or a wider audience. Leading by example, and showing ways we can all be more sustainable will hopefully create a fuller future for us all.