They say the customer is always right but as consumers become increasingly aware of social and environmental issues that influence their buying habits, how is this impacting the hospitality industry?
Here, procurement director at Valor Hospitality Europe, Nick Moore who is responsible for purchasing decisions across 17 hotels, discusses why waste is firmly top of Valor’s agenda.
A changing world, a change in hospitality
In today’s world, consumers are growing increasingly aware of how what they buy and where they buy it from can directly affect the environment, not just in their local areas but much further away from home too. Ethics are becoming increasingly influential on consumer behaviour and we’ve seen the impact of that in the hospitality industry. Looking for sustainable, cost effective products has always been a part of my job but it’s now an even bigger priority for us.
Take plastic straws for example, one of the industry’s biggest hot topics of the year. Although some people may have already been aware of the serious issue of plastic pollution in oceans across the world, sometimes it takes a visual display of a problem to shock the world into making a change. Within 36 hours of the BBC’s Blue Planet programme airing earlier this year, with its harrowing images of sea life tangled in plastic, we’d removed plastic straws from each of our 17 hotels across the U.K. It’s not always easy to make a change that quickly, but it was a no brainer as we knew it was an issue we couldn’t ignore.
But it’s not just the call to reduce plastic usage that’s impacting the hospitality sector, for a few years now there has been mounting interest in where food and drinks are sourced too. Once the reserve of the more expensive and exclusive restaurants, the provenance and sustainability of what we eat and drink has extended to the high street and customers expect higher quality and ethically sourced produce. The challenge for many is getting the balance right between sustainability and being cost effective, something that we’re constantly reviewing.
On a mission to recycle
As procurement director at Valor Hospitality Europe, I’m responsible for overseeing how we source pretty much everything, from TV screens and toiletries, to who trains our chefs. With a say in the choice of so many products across our hospitality operation, our procurement team is the perfect place to start a search for sustainability, and we’re currently on a mission to reduce waste.
Aside from getting rid of every single plastic straw in our hotels, we are also reviewing our use of paper. From coffee cups to toilet paper, there is a surprising amount of paper products in our sector, and we need to ensure that this is not only sourced responsibly but can be recycled too. We’re also exploring how we can drive down single-use products, such as plastic water bottles and paper coffee cups, and encourage the use of reusable alternatives.
But if we want to contribute to greater change, we need to go further than just coffee cups, water bottles and plastic straws. Our procurement team is looking at ways in which we can recycle every single one of the products used in our hotels at the end of its current life cycle. Right now, we’re working on the possibility of recycling around 48 products we procure.
As well as the environmental impact of our products, it’s also about being sustainable as a business too. In order to save time and money, procurement teams need to look at the key details of each and every item we use, and their impact on our wider business. For example, we’d been using a toilet paper in a few of our hotels that was causing drains to block repeatedly. Having engineers coming out time and again to sort the problem was a costly exercise but a simple change of paper has had a big impact and solved the issue.
Extending our responsibility
By sourcing the majority of products that are used in our hotels and consumed by our guests, we of course have a pivotal role to play in our corporate responsibility for sustainability and waste. But as a business, we can also extend this responsibility far beyond our internal team.
Often, a great deal of our waste comes from our suppliers. Excess packaging is a real bugbear of mine and part of our product review into waste has seen us consider alternative suppliers if they do not do something about the issue. By letting suppliers know that this is the case, we can hope to drive further change and encourage a shared vision with external companies when it comes to sustainability, who may then make a change in order to retain business.
As with our customers, our environmental impact has become increasingly important to the people that work for Valor, and that is something we want to continue and encourage. We welcome suggestions from our staff on how we can limit our impact on the environment, whatever level or department.
For Valor, our teams and the all-important customer, it’s no longer about the quick and easy. Of course, recyclable goods may sometimes be more expensive, but procurement has the opportunity to respond to this customer driven movement and lead the charge in ethical product sourcing. We’re committed to a morally better way of doing business.