A shift from ‘caring to coping’ in Asia

We’re bringing Eric Ricaurte to Hong Kong at the end of the month to lead interactive seminars on hotel sustainability, CSR and green meetings. Here’s a conversation I had with Eric as we gear up for our seminars, which discuss the shift from buzzword to industry practice, and “caring to coping.” 

Yvette Jong: Is it true that corporate social responsibility and sustainability are among the few departments that actually grew during the recession?

Eric Ricaurte: Yes, sustainability has gone from unique practices of individual hotels and eco-lodges to something that’s approached strategically at corporate levels. Corporate responsibility and sustainability departments have grown in every company over the past years.

YJ: But we’ve been hearing buzzwords like ‘green’ and ‘sustainable’ for a decade now. Isn’t it getting kind of tiring?

ER: Yes, it’s getting tiring, but the circumstances definitely aren’t, as we’re now facing real challenges of climate change and resource scarcity. What’s happening now is what I call a move from caring to coping — it’s no longer a matter of whether you care or are committed to the environment and your people, it’s what you’re doing to identify, minimize or mitigate risks to your business.

YJ: So besides this big-picture piece, what’s new to the discussion?

ER: Every hotel company and property will tell you they’re sustainable and committed. Whether some businesses believe it or not, consumers don’t believe this type of rhetoric anymore, and neither do investors, large clients and other stakeholders. The focus of my work and one of the biggest trends today is the standardization of corporate responsibility and sustainability, and how green meetings are held. This involves the development of frameworks to standardize how hotels and venues approach the discussion, and more importantly, how they measure and report to their various stakeholders.

YJ: Many people still ask if the guest is willing to pay more for this. What are your thoughts?

ER: I’ll dodge that question for now, but really I want to point out that the transient leisure guest is actually only one part of a bigger picture of stakeholders that corporate responsibility and sustainability deal with on a day-to-day basis. Requests for information, commitments, et cetera come from all angles — employees, investors, owners, governments, local communities, corporate and group clients and more. That’s the aspect of mainstreaming that the industry should understand.

YJ: How did you get involved in this area?

ER: I like to say my story is analogous to the journey that sustainability itself has made from niche to mainstream. I started in ecotourism over 15 years ago, canoeing people through the rainforest, managing eco-lodge operations, et cetera. Then that went from smaller operations to large-scale nature and culture tourism operations within and around large hotel complexes. I then made the jump from operations to consulting, which led to larger projects for global hotel companies and associations. 

YJ: What will you share with us in Hong Kong?

ER: In the interactive training session on hotel sustainability and social responsibility I’ll will work with participants and help them understand the key trends and most common approaches to hotel sustainability and social responsibility. Some of the key findings and discussions that will be presented are:

  1. Why stakeholders such as investors and customers are beginning to demand more uniform systems of analysis and how hotels should respond.
  2. The sustainable development and social responsibility issues that present risks and opportunities for hotel companies.
  3. Understanding what types of information are gathered and how they may be communicated to stakeholders to increase credibility.
  4. Navigating the main certifications, reporting frameworks, ratings systems and formalized commitments, and how to apply these effectively.
  5. Where cooperation is useful for advancing sustainability within the industry, and how competition is enabled as a result.

In our green meetings seminar, we’ll conduct a comprehensive training session covering key aspects of green meetings and sustainable events where participants will be exposed to the conceptual knowledge, current trends and leading best practices of sustainability in meetings and events that they’ll be able to use in practical application. At the end of the workshop, they’ll have a better understanding of:

  1. The trends affecting meetings and events and how sustainability fits in.
  2. Key economic, environmental and social impacts of meetings and how to address them.
  3. Specific actions for how to conduct a green meeting and where to find the best resources for guidance.
  4. Various standards and guidelines for organizing, conducting and communicating a green meeting.

To learn more about these seminars supported by HOTELS, visit the below links or contact me at [email protected]

Jan 29, 2013 | Green Meetings: From Buzz to Industry Requirement

Jan 30, 2013 | Hotel Sustainability and Social Responsibility: Addressing Risks, Opportunities, and Stakeholder Interest 

Location: Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre