Aitken Spence Hotels’ unwavering commitment to sustainability
Despite the challenges facing the hospitality industry, Aitken Spence Hotels continues to focus on sustainability, says Stasshani Jayawardena, Head of Tourism and Leisure; Chairman, Aitken Spence Hotel Managements (Pvt) Limited; and Director, Aitken Spence PLC. “Sustainability is part of our philosophy at Aitken Spence Hotels, in line with the group’s strategy,” she says.
“Since our foray into the hospitality industry, we have been committed to maintaining growth metrics centered on sustainability – whether it is the sustainability of the planet, people or profit. Our hotels and resorts in four destinations and their operating models are testament to this, as are the many accolades we have received over the years from local and global awarding platforms.”
In this interview, Stasshani explains why sustainability matters.
Since 2019, the tourism industry has gone through difficult times. First came the Easter attacks, then the pandemic. In this context, what drives you to focus on sustainability?
The black swan events that have affected the nation have only prompted us to be firm on our sustainable path. We believe that our ability to stand firm in the midst of turmoil is precisely due to our system-embedded sustainable practices. Our commitment to sustainability is based on our realization from the start that it is an essential part of our business to improve the environment in which we work and the people we work with – whether through our network of suppliers, members of our staff or by organizing lifestyle experiences. for our guests.
It’s also important to note that the emphasis on sustainability and awareness is only growing around the world – sustainable spending choices have only grown in importance for consumers during tough times. A growing number of consumers say sustainability is more important today than it was before COVID-19. Concerns about environmental degradation and climate change, already at an all-time high in 2019, have actually increased over the past two years. We all have a role to play in the fight against climate change because it has a direct impact on businesses. This will allow businesses to build a more effective and comprehensive business case.
Sustainability reports focus on performance in key economic, environmental, social and governance areas. How does Aitken Spence Hotels incorporate these sustainability principles into its business processes?
Aitken Spence Hotels is a pioneer of the corporate sustainability movement in Sri Lanka. For us, sustainability is the foundational practice to ensure that our operations can be sustained over the long term. As part of a conglomerate, our strategy involves the operational priorities of all our subsidiaries in a single policy framework to guide them on the actions required.
Accordingly, we have stipulated action points as “must do” (essential action), “should do” (when specific subsidiaries are expected to take action beyond the essential, depending on the nature and magnitude of impacts) and “could do”. (exemplary action to create differentiation for our companies through sustainable development).
Thanks to this strategy, we have several environmental management systems and a pool of more than 30 employees trained as internal auditors, environmental management representatives, first aiders and firefighters. Our company maintains more than 20 diverse management systems certified to international standards for environment, quality, product responsibility and social sustainability.
Can you tell us about some of your sustainability initiatives, expected results and progress made so far?
At Aitken Spence Hotels, our efforts continue. For example, we focus on reducing, recycling and reusing solid waste through our 7R initiative with the ultimate goal of zero waste to landfill. We have successfully eliminated several single-use plastic waste streams over the past few years, and our goal is to continue to improve.
Other examples include reducing the use of harmful chemicals, focusing on strict standards on quality, environmental and health impacts and quantities used.
save energy and water; Energy efficiency and use of renewable and alternative energies, such as solar photovoltaic, replacement of diesel with grilicidia/cinnamon wood in biomass gasifiers and innovative technologies.
Improve our local employment (more than 40% of employees come from the immediate neighborhoods and villages in which we operate) and increase the opportunities offered to our female employees to access management through training and skills development.
How hard is it to be sustainable when you have other pressing demands for the business?
Changing business practices to be more environmentally friendly and sustainable can be costly, at least in terms of upfront costs, making companies reluctant to make changes. Calculating the savings from switching to renewables is relatively easy, but not all sustainability solutions are that simple. Changing an entire corporate supply chain to use more sustainable raw materials will likely require a costly upfront investment, even if it would pay off years later.
Overall, however, we believe it is our sustainable business model that has helped us navigate our business through the uncertain and unprecedented times of recent years. Therefore, it is essential to understand and appreciate that while investments are required to maintain a company’s sustainability position, the benefits are long-term and the stability it creates through best practices in place.
Sustainable development reporting is gradually evolving. Professional organizations encourage companies to reflect and act on sustainable development reporting. How important is that to a company like Aitken Spence Hotels? How important is it to be recognized by a professional body like the ACCA?
One of the immediate benefits of being recognized by a professional body like the ACCA is that it enhances the credibility of our organization, our various stakeholders, including investors and customers. It builds goodwill through transparency. It also helps us as an organization to improve through constructive feedback and raise the industry benchmark. These accreditations and the focus on sustainable reporting will further encourage other companies and organizations to follow these methods, which will improve overall business efficiency and transparency.