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Act now: How hotels can help provide local solutions to a global issue

By Giles Fuchs, owner at the Burgh Island Hotel

On 21 February, Burgh Island Hotel hosted a conference on climate change in partnership with local environmental campaign group Bigbury Net Zero. One month on from that Bigbury Net Zero Island Assembly, it is worth reflecting on the lessons that hospitality businesses can learn as the threat of climate change grows ever greater.
Climate change is an issue that affects us all. For that reason, it is a truly global issue. However, for the same reason, it is also vital to enact change at a local level, ensuring that communities do their best to combat climate change and complement the net-zero targets set by policymakers across industries and in Government.

Burgh Island’s collaboration with Bigbury Net Zero was therefore born of a shared desire to achieve these green goals for our local area: Bigbury-on-Sea in South Devon. This partnership provides a blueprint for hotels the world over looking to strengthen their ties to their locality and create a more sustainable future.

A global issue

Hospitality businesses are under more pressure than ever to place sustainability at the heart of their operations. “Doing their bit” probably does not adequately reflect the scale of the task the industry faces. Hotels alone account for 1% of global carbon emissions – so it is only right that, in finding a solution to climate change, they shoulder a significant share of the effort.

Even hoteliers still somehow cynical about issues of sustainability will have to give it increasing consideration. Two thirds of travellers now anticipate the industry to offer more sustainable options, and fellow businesses will be reluctant to partner with those that do not share their ambitions for a more sustainable environment. It will, on way or another, become a question of cost and financial viability.

While turning around the fortunes of our planet – and its population – is a daunting task for even the most accomplished hotelier, it is worth being optimistic about the potential solutions which are, in many cases, much closer at hand than they may first realise.

A local solution?

In many ways, promoting sustainability and strengthening ties to the local community go hand in hand. At Burgh Island, for instance, we source 80% of our ingredients from within a 30-mile radius of the hotel, enabling us to give guests both a genuine taste of what South Devon has to offer, and a clearer conscience about the environmental impact of our cuisine.

Combining local and environmental interests is also possible through recycling, which should be central in any business’ sustainability drive. It is for this reason that local commercial recycling plants process all of Burgh Island’s waste paper, plastic, and glass, contributing to job creation as well as responsible waste disposal.

Initiatives such as these have contributed to Burgh Island’s reputation as one of the most environmentally friendly hotels in the South Devon area. We are proud to support both our local area and the planet.

Sharing values, pooling resources

This brings us back to the Bigbury Net Zero Island Assembly and Burgh Island’s decision to welcome more than 60 delegates through our doors, hosting discussions on sustainability initiatives for energy, transport, and farming in our corner of South Devon. We had representatives from local government in attendance, alongside local business owners and members of local community groups.

However, the event also featured keynote speeches from internationally renowned figures in the field of sustainability, including environmental lawyer Farhana Yamin and Nigel Toppings, who was appointed the UK’s High-Level Champion for Climate Action for last year’s COP26 conference. This was not the first time that Bigbury Net Zero – and Burgh Island – had drawn links to COP26, with the community coming together on Bigbury’s beach to show their support for the conference while it was held back in November.

Collaboration between Burgh Island and its neighbours has thus enabled both parties to have a say on issues that transcend their local area. Climate change is a global issue, and one that affects us all. By pooling our resources to promote our shared values, we have hopefully not only made our community more sustainable, but also provided a blueprint for how hospitality businesses the world over can partner with other organisations to deliver results for the greater good.

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