Creating environmentally friendly hotels & restaurants

Part 3



What we learned from our visit to The Independent Hotel Show 2019.

Following on from part 2, we wanted to look deeper into brand purpose. Brand purpose is at the core of cause branding/marketing, which is all the rage these days. Climate change was the hot topic that came up time and time again at The Independent Hotel show. We’ll use this as an example of a social cause and how it affects the hospitality industry.

Cause branding

People respect companies that act on causes outside of themselves. And many causes have arisen in recent history; from female empowerment (#metoo), to climate change. When brands and businesses tap into these causes in an authentic way, it’s known as ‘cause branding’ or ‘cause marketing’.

The environmentally friendly cause; driven by climate change, has given rise to a new tide in responsible consumer culture. People are stepping away from the self-indulgent, empty mass consumerism of the past, towards an altruistic future.

Businesses need to keep up with this consumer behaviour, as they have, and continue to play, a key part in shaping the society we live in. You must contribute positively, and with responsibility, or become extinct.

The good, the bad and the plain offensive

It’s important to back up your cause with action. Consumers can, and will, call out companies on social media when their actions don’t align with their proclaimed cause.

To avoid embarrassing public apologies, and harming your brand’s reputation take a look at some brands who have done it well and others not so much…

Done Badly
• Pepsi and Kendall Jenner – cashing in on Black Lives Matter
• Mastercard charity advert – starving children get a meal when Messi scores
• Brewdog – gender pay gap hypocrisy

Done Better
• Patagonia and The North Face – environmentally friendly
• Lush – environmentally friendly
• Hey Girls – period poverty

Remember, your company needs to be authentic, and champion matters that are close to your customers’ hearts.

Not only is it obvious when companies jump on the ‘woke-washing’ bandwagon, it can harm your brand too.

“You can’t fool all the people, not even most of the time. And people once unfooled, talk about the experience.”

Seth Godin – American author and former dot com business executive

Your brand needs to show genuine commitment to a cause your customers support. You must show a consistency in your support through communication and action.

Climate change as a cause

Clearly climate change is not a dying fad. It’s a serious issue that has led to a rise in global environmental consciousness amongst consumers.

Unlike other causes, not only will consumers hold you to account, but global campaigners—who have international audiences, will too. The bigger the cause you attach yourself to, the bigger the call out will be. You don’t want to be accused of ‘all PR & no action’ , so make sure you do something about it.

“The biggest danger is not inaction. The real danger is when politicians and CEOs are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR.”

Greta Thunberg

Cause branding/marketing from other industries

Hotels and restaurants failing to adapt to the eco-friendly demand will be left behind; or worse, be out of business entirely. However we can look to other industries tackling climate change for inspiration.

H&M is an example from the fashion industry who has adapted to the climate change cause. They initially admitted to being worried about eco-conscious consumers being bad for fast fashion, but not admitting fast fashion is bad for the environment outright. They’ve now reacted to market demands by offering a rental clothing service for £28/week.

Here are two other examples that have been done very well:

Volvo “Volvo’s goal is that at least 25% of all plastics in their cars launched after 2025 will be made from recycled material. This is highlighted in their new campaign where a poster with the caption “Volvos are rubbish” draws attention to the fact that the brand is using recyclable plastic in its cars to reduce their environmental footprints.”

Patagonia“The brand is matching up to $10 million in donations to grassroots environmental organizations.”

Climate change & the hospitality Industry

The hospitality industry also needs to be conscious about meeting United Nations SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) to do their part in saving the environment.

Here are some key takeaways from The Independent Hotel Show regarding sustainability:

• When questioned, 76% of customers said they thought hotels could be greener, while 72% would like to see hotels create their own produce. The wrapping of laundry in a plastic wrap and its environmental impact was one such example raised as problematic.

• Hotels are centred on creating beautiful environments, but the process of producing them should also be ‘beautiful’ and not destructive to the environment.

• Hotel owners shouldn’t be shy of starting the conversation with suppliers to rethink their packaging and waste, it’s less damaging to the environment.

• It is easier to have an environmentally responsible process ‘baked into’ a hotel project from the start, than trying to adjust an established, long standing business afterwards. But that does not mean we shouldn’t try.


Climate change has challenged interior designers to be more cognisant of the impact their designs have on the environment, and think of new way to solve the same problems.

The Conscious Bedroom exhibit is a inspiring example of this innovation. The exhibit from Harris & Harris, at the Independent Hotel Show, demonstrated to hoteliers, how recycled and environmentally friendly materials can be used to create beautiful results.

Need some more inspiration of how to put some of these ideas into practice?

Have a look at how these boutique hotels are offering sustainability without sacrificing on the luxury element of their brand.

Environmental impact on Food & Drink trends

Food and drink, much like the wider hospitality industry has also been influenced by climate change.

Top trends in the food and drink industry mentioned at The Independent Hotel Show:

Meat-free Diets Influencing Menus

• Meat replacement options will be a major growth industry.
• Vegan options in restaurants are becoming an expectation, as the trend towards veganism continues upwards.
• Guests prefer physical menus. Restaurant owners should look into the eco-friendly menu options available.

Guests are looking for new experiences.
• Remember your brand story? Millennials have expectations of where food comes from. For example, where the cacao in their chocolate comes from, what the flavour profiles are; what is the story of the farmers? There is a story to be told here.

Restaurant Space
• When kitchens don’t have enough orders they tend to close at night. Using a delivery service can allow you to keep the kitchen open , maximising your sales as a result.
• More formal restaurants becoming more casual.

Eco-friendly Packaging

• Moving away from fizzy drinks because it’s not healthy for the body or the planet.
• Filtered water – move towards using glass bottles
• Bio degradable packaging is an innovation area

Sustainability in the Kitchen
Some of the key tips mentioned at The Independent Hotel Show were:

• Packaging and plastic replacements – don’t accept food wrapped in plastic. Packaging in general needs to be rethought. Think about plastic alternatives to reduce your carbon footprint. Edible pasta straws are a great example.

Eco bricks – collecting plastic waste and repurposing it into bricks, known as eco bricks, is one example of how we can re-use plastics. You can look for similar projects in your area.

• Suppliers – challenge them. What are the alternatives to Clingfilm and vac-pack bags?

• Food wastage – manage purchasing and food stock tightly so there is no excess stock.

• Guest/canteen wastage – share leftovers with staff. Look into projects like food waste used to make fuel. Create co-partnerships with charities who take food at the end of the day.

What impact does this have on branding?

Being eco-friendly becomes part of your brand story. As mentioned in part 2, people want authentic experiences. Informing them how your service aligns with their values will only strengthen your brand in their eyes.

In turn, winning over your customers by value alignment will not only create a positive reputation, it will create more referrals, leading to more long-term business.

“The purpose of branding is to get more people to buy more things for more years at a higher price.”

Marty Neumeier

If you need help championing a cause you are passionate about, but you’re not sure how to bring it into your business, get in touch with us.

Here's the first in a series of articles from our visit to the...

“If you change the way you look at things, the things you look...

Continuing in our series of articles from our visit to the Independent Hotel...