This article is sponsored by InterContinental Hotels Group.
Hospitality businesses have a special opportunity when it comes to driving positive change. Whether you’re a restaurant owner or run thousands of hotels like InterContinental Hotel Group, hospitality companies work in a connected, people industry and exist at the heart of communities — employing local people and operating with a network of partners and suppliers.
IHG is uniquely positioned to be able to make a difference because of its scale and, importantly, this is all underpinned by the company’s culture of doing business responsibly, which guides our decisions and how we work.
IHG has almost 6,000 hotels around the world and the vast majority — around 80 percent — are franchised, which presents a unique challenge when it comes to implementing change at scale. It means the IHG team is in constant dialogue with our hotel owners, who operate and finance these hotels, so that we can work with them to drive sustainable change. We also know that our guests and colleagues are hugely passionate about how we behave towards the planet and our communities, so this makes engagement, collaboration and partnership key to getting things done.
For example, when it comes to minimizing IHG’s waste footprint, our teams consider each stage of the hotel lifecycle to find solutions that can be amplified and rolled out at scale. We do this in a way that supports the hotel’s operational needs, while enhancing the guest experience wherever we can.
Today’s technology plays an important role in making such changes because it enables IHG to identify suppliers and partners that have developed innovative solutions to find new ways to embed sustainability into their products, and in turn create solutions that help us reduce our environmental footprint, drive a more circular approach and produce an even better experience for our guests.
IHG has around 400,000 colleagues around the world. Source: IHG.
One great supplier relationship that illustrates this at IHG is with The Fine Bedding Company, which is working with us to help minimize the global plastic waste footprint through our growing voco hotels brand.
The supplier takes single-use plastic bottles that have been discarded and repurposes them in its eco factory to become plush, cozy filling inside the duvets and pillows of our voco guest rooms all over the world. In fact, more than 3 million water bottles have been diverted from landfill and into our bedding to date. When you think of the scale this innovation ultimately can create over time, it’s a huge amount of waste that’s being repurposed and also helping to drive more circular operations for our hotels.
Filling is extruded and spun from recycled plastic bottles. Source: The Fine Bedding Co.
Since forming this partnership, we have received great feedback from our guests, who say that this initiative not only provides them with a great sleep experience, but knowing it is good for the planet brings extra value to their stay.
For us, it’s exciting that consumers are becoming more aware of sustainable innovations such as these, and we are seeing uptake grow across our hotels, with our owners showing increasing interest. It’s a great opportunity for the suppliers themselves, too. Claire Watkin, managing director at The Fine Bedding Company, says working with IHG has many benefits for her business.
"At The Fine Bedding Company, our aspiration is to find ways to recycle products at the end of their life so that they can be truly circular, and so this bedding was really exciting for us," Watkin said. "We worked in partnership with IHG to create something that had never been done before in the hospitality sector, and it achieved many firsts: It was fully traceable with Global Recycling Standard, it used more sustainable cotton and it was produced in our zero-waste factory that uses 100 percent renewable energy. A few years on, it’s great to see the positive feedback from the guests at voco hotels on both the quality and innovative nature of the product. For us, it has set a new standard in sustainability of bedding, which we look forward to seeing roll out across other brands as it becomes more mainstream."
The Fine Bedding Company’s Nimbus Smartdown collection. Source: The Fine Bedding Co.
As we begin to recover from the impact of COVID-19, the focus must remain on the long-term sustainability agenda, ensuring we adapt to a new normal in a way that continues to drive circular economy practices and protects environments and communities.
This makes partnerships such as the one we have with The Fine Bedding Company more important than ever. If we want to emerge from the events of this year in a stronger position that helps protect the planet, it’s important we share ideas and collaborate to find solutions. You can’t isolate a business from its value chain, so working together towards common goals becomes even more central to moving forward.