Following a panel discussion with the Legal Sustainability Alliance around how businesses should be responding to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Steve Malkin, founder of The Planet Mark looks at how even small hotels can contribute to the Global Goals.
This year’s Green Hotelier Awards shone the spotlight of sustainable action for hotels firmly on the SDGs, also called the Global Goals. This followed a call to action to the hotel industry by the International Tourism Partnership to adopt four ITP Goals  as a focus for collaborative action in support of the SDGs. Steve Malkin looks at how hotels can navigate the Goals.
Narrowing the focus on the SDGs
With 17 goals, it can feel overwhelming for hotels deciding which ones they want to contribute to. Our advice is to look at where your business can make the biggest impact. If you’re part of a group of hotels, you may be geographically widespread so look at how to help in a specific region. For example, some regions are water stretched and that could be an area to focus on.
How small hotels can contribute to SDGs
It’s a common misconception that SDGs are just for big businesses. The point of the goals is to encourage everybody, regardless of size, to make a contribution. It can be a great way to align with larger businesses, as smaller hotels are often used by larger organisations; those that are more sustainable are more likely to win business from companies that have serious sustainability contracts. No matter what impact you expect your business’ contribution to have, we all have a part to play.
Making the business case for sustainability
There are many advantages to being sustainable, for example committing to reduce your hotel’s carbon emissions will result in a reduction in overall energy consumption and energy costs will be lower. It is a great way of generating new business as a wave of customers are actively seeking out hotels that are greener.
From an HR perspective, evidence suggests those businesses that are ‘doing the right thing’ find it easier to attract and retain talent. In fact, 76% of millennials consider a company’s social and environment commitments when deciding where to work. 
Measuring the impact of the SDGs
Understandably, small hotels don’t tend to have sustainability specialists on staff. This is where organisations like The Planet Mark™ can help. We act like an out-of-house sustainability team, helping to consolidate data to make it less of an admin burden and create an easier and simpler process for hotels. We take the heavy lifting away in terms of analysing data and give it back to hotels in a simple format. We also help hotels understand changing regulations and draw up manageable steps that will help them start achieving their goals.
How to engage customers in sustainability
To get customers on board, sustainability needs to be seen as much more than just a certificate on the door. It’s about ensuring customers see how hard you are working to achieve a sustainable future and how you would like them to work with you. This could be asking guests to do simple things like re-using towels and switching lights off when leaving rooms. It’s important that the messaging around this is carefully positioned to keep as positive as possible to really get your guests on side.
If you're a customer staying at a green hotel, you are buying into a philosophy and purpose. It becomes about your brand. It’s important that hotels show their guests they are fully committed by being an example of best practice. So, if you’re asking guests to consider their energy consumption, lights in corridors should also have automatic sensors to switch off when they’re not in use.
How individual hotels can have more impact when tackling the SDGs
For small hotels, it’s hard to do everything on your own. If hotels can agree together to minimum standards for the industry, company executives can come together to make massive strides forward for all. This is exactly the role of the International Tourism Partnership  – convening CSR execs who work together to achieve more, faster than they can working on their own.
Hotels need to work with their suppliers to look at how they can be more sustainable. Networking opportunities like those with The Planet Mark help hotel owners and managers come together collaboratively.
Why SDGs are the future
Critics may say SDGs are just a new-fangled way of talking about sustainability and are simply reinventing the wheel. But what these goals do is break down big sustainability issues in an understandable way. It's about outlining the part we all have to play in creating a cleaner, better planet for all of us. Tiny contributions across millions of people will have the desired effect, and the SDGs will harness the impact of that.
A revolution is underway, there are lots of people in it and if you're not involved then you're missing out.
For more information visit www.ThePlanetMark.com , or call 020 3751 8108.
  Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement Study, 2016