Supply chain sustainability is based on the principle that socially responsible products and practices are not only good for the environment but are important for long-term profitability. Companies that have implemented a sustainable procurement strategy and managed to implement projects successfully know that it offers a significant competitive advantage. It is about what you do and how well you do it.
Why is sustainability important in the hospitality industry? Changing consumer expectations and a growing environmental awareness across the globe are making implementing sustainable solutions in this industry a priority. Considering whether to incorporate sustainability into your business strategy is no longer an option. Three reasons why you should:
There is a growing awareness of the provenance and traceability of products
Guests care about sustainable sourcing and expect transparency which will mitigate risks that could damage your brand
Sourcing items locally (even as small as art or handicrafts) will benefit local communities while providing a special and unique experience for guests
More architects, interior designers, project managers and hotel owners are looking for ways to make their projects more sustainable when specifying furniture, fixtures, and equipment (FF&E) and operating supplies and equipment (OS&E). They are shifting towards more eco-friendly raw materials such as reclaimed and sustainable woods and other natural resources. They are also concerned about ethical work practices in manufacturing, reducing energy use, and eliminating waste.
Guests care about sustainability In the hospitality business, being able to advertise sustainability efforts to potential guests can bring rewards in this challenging travel market. Guests of all ages are looking for ‘greener’ options. Most hotel guests say sustainable practices are important when choosing where to stay. Addressing these expectations will lower the risk of losing customers to other more progressive properties. But beware of “greenwashing”, there must be clear evidence to back up eco-friendly claims or reputations may suffer.
What exactly is sustainable furniture? Sustainable wooden furniture involves the full lifecycle of the product, where it is made and where its parts and pieces come from, through to its disposal. It is furniture made from wood that is legally and ethically sourced from well-managed forests, both within the USA and from other parts of the world. Timber sourcing is authenticated through third-party certification programs. One of the most well-known is The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that promotes managing the world’s forests responsibly. Companies that achieve certification are those that commit to being open about their sourcing and manufacturing processes and emphasize continuous improvement in their business practices.
What types of wood are sustainable? Importing sustainable wood for furniture is a common practice although there is a cost both in dollars and the impact on the environment. Some of the FSC preferred sustainable woods are:
Oak A light-colored, durable hardwood
Acacia A robust and forgiving wood often used for outdoor furniture, often in place of teak
Bamboo (officially a grass, not wood) from Asia is one of the fastest-growing plants in the world.
Closer to home, suitable and sustainable US-sourced woods are:
Pine Fast growing and freely available
White Ash Strong and heavy
Maple A strong wood and hard-wearing
Unsustainable woods to say NO to are ebony, Burmese teak, Brazilian mahogany, Merbau and wenge.
A few current trends Indoor/outdoor space definition is becoming blurred meaning the need for natural and earthy materials such as hardwoods will grow. More space-efficient and scaled-down designs mean less emphasis on bulky and heavy pieces. There is a trend towards using reclaimed wood from decommissioned harbours and railways for furniture-making and up-recycling some items you already have.
Embracing sustainability It may be that furniture made from sustainable wood and manufactured ethically may have a higher initial purchase price. However, the benefits outweigh the additional cost when observed over its full life cycle. Industry leaders are leaning towards locally sourced products, partly because of environmental concerns and shipping costs. Developing a strategy to embrace sustainability is favourable to hospitality manufacturers, guests, and owners long-term.