Laura Garrido (ético): “Environmental management also brings economic benefits for hotels”.

With more than ten years’ experience in the travel industry, Laura has always remained in contact with the hotel sector with a view to boosting their sales.

Her passion for nature and her surroundings led her to create ético: a company that helps tourist organisations to improve their results via environmental management and green marketing. Through ético, Laura helps organisations in their journey towards sustainable development.

Tourism contributes to approximately 5 % of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions*, a figure which is expected to grow by 130 % by 2035. What is the environmental impact of hotels, and how significant is it?

According to the International Tourism Partnership, the hotel sector is responsible for 1 % of emissions. It is estimated that 75 % of the environmental impact of hotels is directly related to excessive consumption. This means that we’re wasting resources, which translates into unnecessary costs for organisations.

On an environmental level, hotels are having an aesthetic, cultural, ecological and social impact. It’s important for hotels to consider each of these aspects when measuring their impact. To implement good management practices, organisations must strike a balance between the three cornerstones of sustainable development: economy, society and the environment. With this in mind, organisations must endeavour to have a positive impact and strive to meet the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The World Tourism Organisation advises that, for the hotel sector to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, it will need to reduce its emissions per room and per year by 90 % by 2050. So, how can a hotel start to be more sustainable?

The indiscriminate use of resources has a huge environmental impact. On 29 July, the Global Footprint Network warned that the entire planet’s resource capacity for the year 2019 had already been exhausted. 

It’s important to consider that all forms of consumption leave their corresponding carbon footprint 

The first thing that hotels should do to take sustainable measures is ascertaining their current impact, gathering all the necessary information about each environmental aspect of the hotel: energy, water, waste, purchases and suppliers. Only by gathering this information will it be possible to detect areas for improvement, helping to devise a roadmap towards attaining its environmental objectives.

What are the keys to the successful integration of sustainable measures in hotels?

When implementing sustainable measures in hotels, said integration must be transversal and involve each of the hotel’s departments. While it sounds obvious, these policies never materialise in many sustainability plans. Rather, they remain as action protocols and visions that fail to involve all stakeholders. Transmitting the hotel’s environmental commitment to the internal client (employees) doesn’t mean merely informing them of the actions to be carried out but involving them in it.

At ético, we develop environmental education plans that are conceived to involve the entire organisation, structured in 3 separate phases: knowledge, awareness and action. By objectively providing all agents with knowledge about the environmental impact of our actions, we are able to raise awareness and promote the internalisation of the issue. This, in turn, will lead to increased participation and more actions being taken with a view to attaining our environmental targets.

At ético, we strongly believe that environmental education is the key to sustainable development

What are the benefits of environmental management for a tourist company such as a hotel?

Besides the positive impact it has on our surroundings, environmental management also brings economic benefits for hotels. By making good use of resources and optimising processes, this can lead to significant savings in a hotel’s operation costs.

Furthermore, by considering that the adoption of environmental actions will improve the brand’s image, we can take these measures to develop green marketing campaigns that attract tourists who are more likely to be interested in this type of trip.

In short, environmental management improves the hotel’s relationship with its entire surroundings—including employees, society, guests, suppliers and investors—while improving the hotel’s results due to greater savings and better brand reputation.

Is environmental protection at odds with economic viability?

Part of the problem lies in viewing environmental measures as an expense, rather than as an investment

To see the true value of environmental protection, you need to examine the value chain of each action that we undertake.

For example, by purchasing locally-sourced products to offer to hotel guests, we will boost the local economy, reduce our carbon footprint due to the short shipping distances, use less water by opting for seasonal products and implement good resource management in which the environment benefits from sustainable management. Each of these benefits have a positive economic impact, opening our eyes to the fact that it is in our interest to protect the environment.

Also, sustainability is synonymous with quality. Tourists visit our destination for the surroundings, comprising everything from its natural features to its climate, culture and gastronomy. Protecting these aspects is fundamental if we wish to create attractive destinations that are appealing to a high-quality tourist.

What is the biggest problem faced by a hotel when implementing sustainable measures?

In my experience, the main problems faced by hotels when implementing sustainable measures are misconceptions or a lack of information when acquiring new materials. We’re in a situation in which various “ecological” alternatives may be more harmful than the original. As such, we recommend hotel owners to draw up a list of the pros and cons of applying these sustainable measures, stressing the importance of considering the useful life of the product.

To be more sustainable, we need to consider that the most important thing is to avoid excesses and reduce waste. There’s no reason why this should have a negative impact on the guest’s experience. Rather, quite the opposite is the case. By involving the guest and explaining the reason behind these environmental measures, they will enjoy a better understanding of their surroundings. This, in turn, will lead to greater satisfaction. When travelling, we all experience new things and learning about the history and characteristics of the destination.

What role does technology play in a hotel’s implementation of sustainable measures?

Technology is a synonym for efficiency. The Internet of Things (IoT) allows the hotel to automate its processes, ranging from the monitoring of supplies to measuring and decision making. The information provided to us by this technology allows us to carry out predictive maintenance of specific hotel facilities, allowing us to foresee a problem or incident before it becomes severe.

The hotel’s automation systems lead to improved energy efficiency and greater comfort for guests and employees. Water cycle management technologies and renewable energies are key to reducing the amount of resources used by a hotel. In turn, these also improve a hotel’s sustainability.

Should stricter environmental laws be introduced?

As far as I’m concerned, the problem doesn’t reside in the environmental laws themselves but the way in which they are executed, and the lack of support given to organisations when implementing them. In the Balearic Islands, for example, single-use plastics are due to be completely prohibited in 2021. The challenge, therefore, lies in getting organisations to properly adhere to this law as part of their management strategy, and to do so on time.

We currently have environmental laws that protect the integrity of the environment. In my opinion, the biggest problem is integrating these laws into our day-to-day life. I don’t think the solution is to make the laws stricter, but to ensure that there is collaboration between the public and private spheres and making sure that we are capable of adhering to said laws.

At ético, you lend support to tourist companies wanting to shift towards a more environmentally friendly management. Is there any case which has left a notable impression on you?

It’s easy to fall into the trap of viewing sustainability as an issue that only concerns hotel chains, high-end hotels or rural hotels.  This belief, however, is not rooted in reality, with all hotels able to take sustainable measures. One clear example of this is the Hotel Rupit, which is located in the popular Mallorcan tourist resort of Cala d’Or. I like to use this case as an example, as it’s a hotel that breaks the mould. Despite being located in a typical beach holiday resort, this hotel shows its commitment to environmental management to provide added value to its guests. The hotel’s environmental management comprises energy-efficient facilities, exterior insulation and locally sourced food, while also funding a local apiary.

*Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership