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Sustainability and the modern hospitality manager

By: Darragh Brennan, Australia-New Zealand (ANZ) sustainability manager for Solaris Paper
25 January, 2013

There are many things which need to be considered when deciding which products to stock in a venue.

And while historically a product's price and quality were the main issues, the number of factors which now affect purchasing decisions is greater than ever.

One consideration which has certainly moved from being a mere 'luxury' to a vital business consideration is the environmental and social sustainability of the products you stock.

Consumers, patrons and users of all types of venues are becoming more aware of the need for sustainability in all aspects of a venue, and they are willing to show their displeasure with their feet if any establishment does not live up to their environmental standards.

Strong environmental standards need to start being considered as a 'ticket' onto the floor of your establishment.

This is undeniably a positive step – not only for the hospitality industry but also for suppliers of tissue, packaging and paper products.

The increased scrutiny means purchasers need to be more conscious and demanding of the products they buy, and in turn suppliers need to ensure all of their items live up to the highest sustainability principles and standards.

However identifying the protections and regimes which best ensure responsible environmental practices can often be confusing, especially if you are not necessarily aware of the various legality and sustainability programs which are currently in place around the world.

Luckily, the recent push toward sustainable forestry has made it easier for everyone to identify which tissue suppliers abide by the highest international standards.

In the sustainable forestry sector, there are two major ways for facility managers and tissue purchasers to be assured products come from responsible sources – namely wood legality regimes and sustainable forestry programs.

Both of these have an important role to play in ensuring the products you stock abide by the highest standards of environmental and social sustainability.

Wood legality regimes

The first way to be assured the tissue products you stock are produced through truly sustainable means is to make sure the wood used, whether in pulp, paper or timber form, has not been sourced through any illegal means. 

A way in which many nations are ensuring tissue and paper products produced through their country are produced responsibly is through the creation of internationally recognised timber legality regimes.

Luckily for the Australian hospitality industry, one nation which has enacted a world leading regime is surprisingly close to home – Indonesia. The recently introduced legality standard, referred to as SVLK and developed in conjunction with the European Union, helps ensure that all pulp and paper products have been sourced through legal processes and adhere to international standards.

These regulations, which cover licensing, harvesting, transporting and processing, are among the strongest in the world and have been developed to put other nations at ease when importing supplies from Indonesia.

Importantly for facility managers, this means that no illegally sourced pulp will be in any tissue, paper or packaging products from the nation.

Ensuring you are purchasing products which fulfil the requirements of a legality regime such as SVLK is one of the key ways to be assured you are using items which are sourced both legally responsibly. 

Sustainable forestry certification

The second major way to be assured the tissue products you are using is sustainable is to make sure they are certified by one of the two globally recognised forestry schemes – PEFC or FSC.

Forestry certifications primarily aim to guarantee a country has sound management practices in place to support environmentally responsible businesses.  While the amount of forest currently certified is more than double what it was only five years ago, less than 10% of the world's forestry is certified. 

This is a key reason why it is so important to purchase paper and tissue products which carry a certification logo as it ensures products come from sustainably managed sources.

Importantly, these certification standards don't only examine the methods used to source timber, tissue and paper products – they monitor the overall health of the forests from which these products are sourced. A key element of certification systems is ensuring that biodiversity within the forest is maintained or enhanced, and that the ecosystems present within the forest are sustained.

Some schemes, most notably PEFC, go a step further assessing the social impact of a company, to ensure the supplier is also acting in a socially sustainable fashion. This includes ensuring employers are providing competitive pay, safe working conditions and comprehensive benefits to employees.

The attractiveness to facility managers and purchasers of applying a global standard to facilities which are commonly outside of Australia ensures that all parts within a global supply chain, no matter where in the world, are abiding by standards which all Australian purchasers and consumers would call sustainable.

Firsthand experience visiting the facilities of suppliers (Asia Pulp and Paper in Indonesia) numerous times shows that these measures are not only stringent but they are the best assurance anyone in the hospitality industry can have when looking to purchase environmentally responsible tissue and paper products. 

Understandably, ensuring all products you stock and offer tick all of the sustainability boxes is of growing importance within the hospitality industry. And while the issue has definitely garnered greater attention over the past year, it has also helped purchasers in all venues better realise the global programs which provide a legitimate assurance as to the environmental and social sustainability of select products.

By looking for these two stamps of approval, purchasers and customers alike can rest assured that the products in your venue are sourced through responsible means.