After a video of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nose went viral, the anti-plastic straw movement was born and has ever since become the “go to” CSR. From Starbucks’ plan to eliminate plastic straws to hotel groups’ pledge to end single-use plastic products, the plastic ban has caught on in many businesses, becoming a trendy CSR option.
However, while it is impressive to see companies becoming more aware of social and environmental issues, the impacts of this fashionable effort remain unclear.
“A few years ago when the straw movement was just starting, it was all new and exciting. I received press releases on plastic straws every week, if not every single day,” explained Hotelintel.co’s Editor in Chief, Wimintra Raj. “But when I asked if this really made an impact on society, the bottom line is that nobody could really justify the results of this plastic ban. So it’s time for hotels to talk about new CSR ideas.”
Moreover, implementing strict plastic bans in hotels may stir unwanted responses from guests, possibly compromising their overall experience at the hotels. So here comes the big question: How can a CSR project give back to society, make sound business sense, while not lowering guests’ satisfaction? Though the idea of win-win CSR might sound difficult, it has already been done, many times.
Bees have been described as pivotal pollinators, accounting for 80% of all pollination activity, but beekeepers have been observing a decline in bee populations since the late 1990s. Luckily, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts recognized the severity of the issue and have welcomed over two million honeybees at their properties worldwide, while maximizing global hotel occupancy. The luxury hotel brand has launched Fairmont Bee Sustainable, providing a platform featuring live hive monitoring and in-depth analysis of honey to increase awareness of global bee health. Moreover, Fairmont Bee Sustainable not only improves the ecosystem but also allows farmers to enjoy the benefits of bee pollination. Being the first luxury hotel brand to develop onsite bee programming, Fairmont is an example of what a successful CSR can be like.
Along with the bee programming, Fairmont guests have the opportunity to experience interactive onsite activities. Fairmont’s property in China has introduced a Be a Beekeeper package, featuring set honey-inspired menus, bee amenities, and mini beekeeper courses. For almost 30 years, Fairmont has been committed to protecting local environments through Fairmont Sustainability Partnership. Clearly, this creative CSR is not only raising awareness on bee health, but is also enhancing their guests’ experience through their not-so-conventional effort.
Another notable CSR is Grand Hyatt Erawan’s pioneer plant-based food options for guests. Instead of imposing all vegetarian/vegan menus, Grand Hyatt Erawan provides diners with both meat and plant-based options. The hotel has launched its pork analogue OmniMince, created by Green Monday, a social venture from Hong Kong that promotes sustainability. OmniMince is now incorporated in the hotel’s restaurant You & Mee Thai dishes such as the famous stir-fried spicy basil with minced pork, where the meat content is replaced by OmniMince.
In Asia, pork is by far the most widely consumed meat, and it is estimated that the pork industry alone in China creates an estimated 1.29 billion metric tons of waste per year. The effort to reduce meat consumption will lower the carbon footprint and water usage in the process of meat production. However, meat-lovers may rest assured the hotel is not trying to convert guests into going absolutely vegan, but rather provides diners with creative alternatives. Customers do not feel forced to give up their meat, but are encouraged to become more adventurous with their tastes.
Another creative CSR lies in Sampran Riverside Hotel’s Sampran Model, a business model based on the organic agriculture social movement and fair trade. This CSR project assists local farmers with their expertise in organic farming, opening more market channels to the farmers while providing freshly grown organic produce to their hotel guests. Through the hotel’s efforts, the guests become aware of the advantages of organic agriculture. Furthermore, this CSR tackles health issues caused by traditional farming methods as well as addressing the imbalanced food system.
The three discussed CSR schemes have not only given something back to society, but have also benefited the hotels in one way or another. One thing that can be noted from studying these CSR projects is that each of them has a clear goal in mind; whether it is improving bee health or reducing carbon emissions, the hotels have carefully thought-out solutions. So our advice to hoteliers is first to pick an issue that truly concerns you, and then to be creative, not mainstream.