Will sustainability still be relevant after COVID-19?

In a recent article published in Time Magazine, Christina Figueres, one of the key negotiators and architects of the Paris Climate Agreement at COP21, posed the following question:

“Could the devastating impact of the new coronavirus pandemic destroy the momentum that the climate movement has built up over the last year? Some say so, fearing that the economic fallout will push climate down the list of priorities for governments… That can’t happen because what brought us to this point of unprecedented interest in taking climate action is climate change itself. We have witnessed huge, record-breaking fires and floods, from California to Siberia, all in the space of one year. Sadly those negative impacts will continue, both in frequency and intensity. If we thought we could forget about it, I’m sad to say, nature will remind us.”

Yes, the skies over China have been cleaner in past months than they have been in many years, the waters more transparent in the canals of Venice and the environment overall has been granted a couple of months of respite due to the economic turndown of the current crisis.

However, this will not be enough to stop global warming due to the Co2 emissions related to human activities of the past 50-plus years.

Getty Images
Getty Images

Investors are still holding conversations with companies on decarbonization. While emissions have fallen due to reduced economic activity, investors still want to see companies have a long-term plan beyond any temporary reductions.

COVID-19, like climate change, knows no boundaries, respects no borders. It has become clear that nations cannot retreat to their bunkers and fight the virus alone. As with the battle against climate change, international action and cooperation are vital.

The great news on that front is that the hospitality sector is truly global and perfectly used to international action as well as cooperation, so it is well positioned for this battle.

A lot of hotel companies have already shown that they can act quickly in the face of a global crisis, with many of them, such as Hilton or IHG having stepped up their humanitarian and social engagements during COVID-19, offering beds and meals to health workers across the globe.

Others such as such as Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas or the Oetker Collection also are using this time to communicate messages about health and wellbeing to their guests who need to stay at home. Yoga sessions, recipes on healthy eating, snippets on mental wellbeing, these are all part of sustainability and those offerings will only just get more.

Aman, Banyan Tree Hotels & Heckfield Place are using this time to promote their sustainability offerings, such as organic vegetable gardens, news on their conservation projects, podcasts and other positive stories around how the hotels are actively engaging with the environment to protect it.

Going forward, many destinations will be keen to be able to offer fresh air and unpolluted environments at their locations post-COVID-19, given that air pollution increases the strains on lungs, too. It is therefore key for those hotels and resorts to ensure this is a reality and not just a myth in order to draw followers on social media.

So for those of hotels with staff still working, use the time and resources, prepare and ensure that sustainability is firmly part of our strategy so that we can avert another crisis like the one we are currently still in.