Interview with Xenia zu Hohenlohe - Considerate Group, Global Tourism Plastics Initiative
Interview with Xenia zu Hohenlohe, Co-founder of Considerate Group, on the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative
The Considerate Group consults hospitality businesses and hotels on how to integrate sustainability into their operations at all levels, following the UNSDGs as guiding principles. The Considerate Groupe supports the creation of strategies for hotels to reduce resource consumption, plastic, and other waste and advises on supply chain management, behavioural change, communication initiatives, reporting and measuring.
Q: Why is committing to tackle plastic pollution important to you?
A: We all know that plastic pollution is one of the major environmental challenges facing the world today. We have developed a much more instant and disposable way of life over the past 30-40 years, and just one consequence of that is the huge increase in the amount of single-use plastic which we buy, use once, and throw away. The hospitality and tourism sector has certainly been a part of the problem, with disposable mini toiletries, single-use water bottles and bedroom amenities being just a few areas where lots of single-use plastic has been generated. Whilst great progress has been made over the past few years, the changes in our behaviour due to the COVID-19 pandemic has seen an increase in some kinds of plastics – including extra plastic wrapping on some items, which was perceived as more hygienic, and of course an abundance of throwaway facemasks. With the worst of the pandemic (hopefully) over and people beginning to travel again, there is an excellent opportunity to review what plastics are still in use within our businesses and see where they can be removed.
Q: With which types of hotels are you working with?
A: Considerate Group works with all kinds of hotels – from corporate city centre hotels to resorts and rural locations. Some of our hotels are independent properties, some part of small groups, and some international brands.
Q: What is your strategy in guiding and advising hospitality businesses and hotels in tackling plastic pollution? Which axes do you focus on (procurement, measurement, etc.)?
A: The first step is always to understand the current situation. What single-use plastics exist within the business? Once there is an understanding of what is currently in use, decisions can be made about where items can be reduced. Some of these are obvious and easy to remove – the prevalence of mini bathroom toiletries is largely a thing of the past – but some require more thought and involve looking more into the guest experience. More and more guests and consumers are aware of the impact of throwaway plastic and are therefore likely to support decisions to reduce this within your operation.
Procurement decisions and actions are key when looking to reduce waste of any kind, including plastics. Plastics arrive in your business in the form of delivery packaging, individual product wrapping, and products themselves. Look at where simple reductions can be made.
Q: What benefits/ positive outcomes have been observed by your clients in implementing your strategies in reducing plastic consumption?
A: Reduction in waste = reduction in costs in most cases. So, reducing the amount of plastics to be thrown away or recycled should also reduce your waste disposal costs. Re-usable items will be more cost-effective than disposable ones over the long term. Communication is important to the effective implementation of any plastic reduction strategy – the most successful hotels have been those who have also engaged their guests in the programme through signage that explains the process and involving them in decision-making and feedback. Engaging staff in a sustainability programme has also improved engagement and loyalty for several of our clients, which is an excellent side effect.
Q: What challenges have you been confronted with in your implementation/promotion of a circular economy of plastics, and how did you manage to overcome them?
A: There will always be challenges in encouraging changes in behaviour and decision-making processes. Cost can be a prohibitive factor initially – for example, installing a water filtration system will have a higher initial outlay than your regular bottled water order. But over the long term, savings will be made – both in terms of direct costs and waste costs.
Concerns around hygiene and safety have definitely played a role since the impact of COVID-19 hit. There was an initial tendency to wrap everything in plastic and replace re-usable items with throwaway ones, in the belief that this would be safer. Science later showed that plastic was no safer than any other material, and regular cleaning was more important. Later developments indicate that the virus is predominantly airborne anyway. As more and more information has come to light, we have seen a steady reduction in such plastics used.
Q: What practices are you currently implementing that could be inspiring to other consulting groups in the tourism sector?
A: We have developed a series of our own tailor-made Toolkits for some of our clients to address the varying levels of plastic pollution in different regional areas. Some countries with fewer options for professional recycling need to address this challenge differently to hospitality businesses in Europe, for example. We also try and provide our clients with roadmaps with specific reduction targets to help them with the implementation of a plastic ban and indeed also with alternative solutions to replace some of the single-use items.
We also provide the teams in the hotels with communication kits to help engage their colleagues; these can include social media posts, infographics, and other internal communication messages
Considerate Group is a signatory of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative, and this interview has been conducted as part of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative newsletter in partnership with Sustainable First. Click here to read more about their commitments, and here to read and sign-up to the newsletter.