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“The hospitality industry has a vital role in shaping sustainable imaginaries”

Delve into the future of hospitality with Brune Poirson, Chief Sustainability Officer at Accor.

In a rapidly evolving world where environmental concerns are taking center stage, the hospitality industry faces significant challenges. From sustainability to redefining luxury, and the need to rethink customer experiences, these complex issues require innovative and committed approaches.
Let’s delve into the future of hospitality with Brune Poirson, Chief Sustainability Officer at Accor. With experience spanning both public and private sectors, including roles in French Parliament and as Secretary of State for the Ecological Transition, Brune offers valuable insights into the hospitality industry's challenges and opportunities.

Through the lens of a net zero emissions agenda, what are some of the key sustainability challenges facing the hospitality industry today? 

The sustainability challenges in the hospitality sector are multifaceted and interconnected. One of the primary challenges lies in reimagining the way we travel. Currently, there's a trend of traveling farther, with more people, and for shorter durations, all facilitated by an aviation industry that isn't aligned with planetary boundaries. To address this, we need to offer alternative travel experiences that are closer to home, longer in duration, and blend business with leisure, thereby reducing the carbon footprint associated with long-distance travel. 

Additionally, there's a need to tackle the carbon footprint of hospitality buildings, which contribute significantly to global CO2 emissions. This involves rethinking the design and operation of buildings to minimize energy consumption and emissions. 

Furthermore, the agriculture sector paradoxically plays a significant role in hospitality due to the large volume of meals served - 150 million meals a year. Our choices regarding food sourcing, menu construction, and culinary practices directly impact biodiversity and environmental sustainability. Therefore, promoting sustainable agriculture practices and sourcing locally can mitigate these impacts. 

Ultimately, social responsibility is also a crucial aspect. With a vast workforce in the hospitality industry, it's essential to provide opportunities for employment and skill development while ensuring fair labor practices and inclusivity. 

Redefining luxury experiences has become intertwined with promoting sustainability. How do you see this shift as an opportunity to elevate customers on more sustainable practices? 

The shift towards redefining luxury experiences as sustainable presents a unique opportunity to educate customers about responsible travel practices. True luxury today lies in experiences or products that enhance well-being without causing harm to the planet or society. I don’t see how something can be deemed luxurious if it creates more problems than it solves. By aligning luxury with sustainability, we can challenge the notion that ecological responsibility equates to deprivation. Which in return helps create new imaginaries and desires for more sustainable products and experiences. 

Luxury hospitality brands have the platform and resources to lead by example and showcase how sustainability can enhance the overall travel experience. Through storytelling and immersive experiences, customers can learn about the environmental and social impacts of their choices while still indulging in luxury. For instance, offering tours of local farms that supply the hotel's cuisine allows guests to connect with the source of their food and understand the importance of sustainable agriculture. 

 

Transforming ambition into concrete initiatives on the ground is crucial for the future of hospitality. How Accor is innovating and implementing new practices at the local level? 

At Accor we are dedicated to translating this ambition into tangible actions at the local level to advance sustainable hospitality practices. Obviously, we tackle material issues mentioned in question 1. And one significant initiative involves revamping dining experiences by shifting from buffet-style meals, known for their high food waste, to à la carte options featuring locally sourced ingredients. This not only about reducing waste but more broadly, to rethink our experience by creating a virtuous circle that also includes supporting local farmers and protecting biodiversity. Additionally, we prioritize offering experiential gifts to guests, such as guided tours of sustainable attractions or visits to local artisans, promoting cultural exchange and environmental awareness. Moreover, we empower employees to lead sustainability efforts through training and recognition programs, ensuring sustainability remains a central focus in our daily operations. 

 

Finally, what makes you optimistic about the future, and how would you define your reason for loving it? 

I find optimism in the face of unprecedented challenges. We're at a pivotal moment where the digital and environmental revolutions intersect, offering significant opportunities. It's a chance for individuals and society to reflect on our responsibilities and shape our collective trajectory. Do we actively engage in guiding these changes, or do we remain passive observers? Personally, I believe in the power of individuals to impact society and shape the course of humanity. Despite the enormity of the task, I remain convinced that we hold the reins of our destiny and have the capacity to influence it significantly. As Camus said, “one must imagine Sisyphus happy”.