How a short, vague ‘environmental policy’ won’t impress Millennial customers

Our managing director, David Midgley, was asked by Hotel Owner magazine to share his knowledge and insight on why the hospitality sector must raise its low carbon aspirations. Here’s the piece he wrote, in full:

Are the promises and pledges in your hotel’s environmental policy as SMART – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound – as your wider business objectives?

If not, perhaps they should be. Too often, for many hospitality venues, an ‘environmental policy’ has amounted to a single, neglected web page, populated with a few lines of vague assurances and guarantees.

However, in 2019, this will not suffice – and the need to demonstrate a robust mission and vision in this respect will only grow in importance.

Forward-thinking hotel brands are increasingly realising that doing the right thing by the environment is not only sound ethical practice but good for business, too.

One recent survey by global measurement and analytics company Nielsen found 66% of consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable brands – up from 50% in 2013 – and this extends to hotels as well as consumer goods.

This figure rises to three quarters among Millennials – those customers in their 20s and 30s, with disposable income, and decades of hotel stays ahead of them.

Suddenly, establishments that go no further than putting a ‘please consider the environment’ notice regarding towels in the ensuite bathroom, seem very behind our times.

For any business, truly shrinking a carbon footprint – not just appearing to do so, for appearance’s sake – is hard work.

Making changes, such as banishing single-use plastics from the breakfast buffet, is certainly worthwhile, but can create extra work and additional cost.

More ambitious plans, for example, adding solar panels to the roof, harvesting rainwater, or introducing new composting systems, may require remodelling of buildings, and significant capital outlay.

However, being more careful with hotel linen can provide a significant step in the right direction, a quick and easy win, that needs very little forward planning – and will save money, as well as carbon.

Textile waste is very much in the public eye. The impact of ‘fast fashion’ on our planet is now up there with the devastation of single-use plastics.

A few months ago, the public had little comprehension that every pair of jeans they purchased required 3,400 gallons of water to manufacture.

But presenter Stacey Dooley’s BBC investigation into the environmental cost of the cotton industry saw jaws dropping across the country in December 2018.

Despite its modest billing on BBC 3, Fashion’s Dirty Secrets created a huge talking point and singlehandedly started to widen the focus of outrage at plastic in our oceans to the impact of fast fashion.

For the moment, the spotlight is firmly on consumer clothing. But it’s only a matter of time before the questionable textile habits of the hospitality sector come under more scrutiny.

Savvy players in the industry are now trying hard to make much-needed improvements – as part and parcel of making their whole environmental policies more meaningful – before this happens.

Hotel laundries, inhouse or external, are the place where decisions regarding the fate of textiles are usually taken. Every establishment throws a lot of linen away – and spends significant amounts of money replacing it.

For commercial laundries, this outlay accounts for 10% of their whole turnover, on average.

Some of that cotton and poly cotton is truly worn out – but a significant proportion has been carelessly condemned too soon in its life cycle, because of marks or discolouration.

This is linen that would be serviceable for many washes to come, were it not for the stains. And the environmental cost of this ‘early exit’ – textiles ragged or sent to landfill, long before the end of their potentially serviceable life – is staggering.

Particularly so, when it’s considered that 70% of the carbon footprint of an item of linen is taken up in its manufacture. All the washing, ironing and transportation that comes after accounts for only 30%.

Advances in technology mean it is now possible for 75% to 80% of such items could be cleaned – or re-dyed – and returned to stock for many months or even years to come, meaning much linen waste is needless.

If you outsource your laundry, have you asked your supplier about their attitude to waste? Perhaps it’s time to. Though off site, their habits – good or not so good – reflect on your organisation.

Taking care and attention to making the most of every textile item is one way that hotels and laundries can very easily – and without cash outlay – make a real dent to their carbon footprint.

It can also provide something positive and tangible to shout about – complete with facts and figures – on your revamped and newly-meaningful environmental policy.

Regenex is offering a FREE trial of 400 kilos of linen to any new customer. Contact us today to discuss your requirements.

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