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Sustainability and consistency

Di Antonio Caneva, 4 Dicembre 2014

Already in 1987 sustainability was a topical issue, and the Brundtland Report from the World Commission on Environment and Development defined sustainable development as “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs."
This was discussed at a meeting organised by Airaveneto in Venice, at the Luna Hotel, where Annamaria Tuan of the State University of Milan disserted on the implications held for tourism by greater attention for sustainability and the environment.
One of the suggestions offered to hotels in order to optimise the return on sustainability actions is to involve their guests in staying experiences respectful of the environment. We should not deny, however, that many of the actions taken, in simple terms, are just cases of greenwashing, ostensibly showing customers that sustainability is being pursued, whereas it is not so in real fact.
From personal experience: the Hyatt Hotel in Bali used to support environmental friendliness with a whole number of actions, from recycled paper to lined efficiency strategies. The hotel brochure, however, explained that several hundred palm trees had been felled in order to build the complex. Involuntary irony.
Another example is Starwood’s new brand Aloft, defined as “a green choice” and claiming that “our objective is to allow every guest to make choices based on environmental awareness, and provide operators with all the necessary tools to reduce the total environmental impact”. On closer inspection, however, the actions promoted produce little of significance, apart from proclamations, and in a majority of cases they only lead to a cost reduction, such as soap and shampoo dosers or the reuse of towels.
Companies intending to pursue a sustainability path, appealing to travellers’ sensitivity, should have a real will to undertake a demanding and virtuous task, and be aware that guests are the best judges of their actions, which need to be consistent, lest they produce a boomerang effect.

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