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Ask a sommelier about the origins of a wine, and they’ll tell you about the individual grape varieties and soil conditions of the vineyards of origin. But in many hotels, cafés and restaurants could the same be said for the coffee and tea being served? How about the fish, meat and vegetables on the menu, beyond that it came from a local wholesaler or market?
Media horror stories linked to our food have helped create an ever-increasing demand from the public – your customers - to know where and how our food is sourced. Dialogue between customers, hoteliers and farmers has never been more important.
Combine this with the fact that the Earth’s resources are rapidly depleting, and issues of the carbon footprint of food are coming to the fore, hoteliers too have their role to play in helping consumers to make informed choices.
By offering a sustainable option on the beverage menu or complimentary in-room coffee, tea or hot chocolate - such as those sourced from Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM farms – hoteliers are not only addressing their own social responsibilities; learning about how, where and why sustainable farming and a sustainable supply chain is important, but also taking this responsibility through to their customers and the choices they are able to make.
We know more and more hotel guests are looking for the sustainable option – be it recycling projects, reduced water consumption or sustainable value chains - and choosing hotels that will satisfy their demands. In terms of sustainable sourcing of food and beverages, it is becoming business critical to be able to tell customers about the difference their choice has just made to the environment and to the farmers who grow the products. That takes the hotel experience to an entirely different level. Not only do guests feel satisfied with their meal or beverage, they also feel good about themselves, and will patronise again.
By using more fresh water and destroying more forests than any other activity, agriculture is top of the list when it comes to harming the planet and contributing to global environmental problems.
This is where the Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTM scheme can make a drastic difference; big enough to change industries, allowing businesses to prosper at the same time as the environment is protected and the rights of workers and their families are ensured.
When consumers see the little green frog seal that represents the Rainforest Alliance certification programme, they can be assured that the coffee, tea or cocoa they are drinking has been grown on a farm where forests are protected, rivers, soils and wildlife are conserved; and workers are treated with respect, paid decent wages, properly equipped and have access to schools and health centres.
The Rainforest Alliance also works with tourism businesses, offering training to hotels and lodges to provide them with the tools and techniques they need to run efficiently and sustainably. Businesses that have completed the Rainforest Alliance programme earn the right to use the Rainforest Alliance Verified mark. Guests staying in a hotel that displays the Rainforest Alliance VerifiedTM seal can be assured that their trip is having a positive impact on the environment and the local community.
Ultimately it is about education - right across the supply chain - from farmer to consumer. Each component has its part to play in ensuring that we create a more sustainable global economy. From educating the farmer to smarter farming methods, to engaging with businesses to examine their green credentials, to influencing consumers to make the right choices.
Sustainability is becoming more mainstream, but if the planet is to survive, we need to be working a lot harder and a lot faster. If hoteliers can engage their guests by providing a sustainable option and explaining why, then demand will continue to grow, and in turn the environment and the farmers and their families whose livelihoods depend on it, will benefit.
The will to make this needed change is out there. Farmers want to ensure that their children have a future livelihood and clean water, and consumers are thinking more about how the food they consume affects the planet’s health. Businesses play an important role in bringing the two together.
Sustainability is a journey, and making sustainability a part of everyday business is a mammoth task. But, we should be safe in the knowledge that we can change entire industries.
And so, with knowledge comes power. Power to make a difference: to the environment, the farmer and the consumer; and power to increase your bottom line. Ultimately it makes good business sense to truly understand the importance of providing the sustainable option and in turn giving customers something they really want.