A short interview with our core-team members, Lucia Loposova, Camille Fabre, and Alice Shütt.
Impressed with the great work of G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality? Read our interview with our core team members to learn about their respective experience with G.R.E.E.N., their take on changes in sustainability in the hospitality sector, and their favourite part of their work.
Q1: What compelled you to join the G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality Team?
Lucia: Sustainable tourism was my major at university and despite the fact that I have never worked in the field, I had always been drawn towards the topic. When I came to Hong Kong, an opportunity arose to take a lead and organise the G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality Conference in 2019 and so I took that chance. I had previously worked in marketing and event management and was able to utilise my skills and passion through this project.
Camille: Settling down in Hong Kong with my husband was supposed to be a two-year adventure for both of us. So I started looking for a job that would also be new and exciting! Very quickly, I met people from the sustainability circles. It’s a great community! There, I discovered that G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality was looking for a research assistant and started to look into the issue of waste management, which I find really fascinating, especially in Hong Kong.
Alice: In a previous life I used to be a restaurant manager, a career I thoroughly enjoyed but decided to leave behind to focus my attention on innovation and entrepreneurship. After about six years in that industry I came to realise that my passion, and therefore my future, was in sustainability and innovation. When we adopted our daughter, I took 10 months off and as I was thinking about returning to work, I came across a job offer with G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality that was literally written for me. A mission that would combine my passion for hospitality and sustainability and innovation was clearly made for me.
Q2: What is your scope of work at G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality? Are you currently working on a particular project?
Camille: My work was to conduct research and write reports. I started digging into the issue of waste in February, but six months and four reports later, I feel like we have barely scraped the surface. Waste is the other side of the coin of consumerism. Wherever there is consumption, there is waste. So there are many intertwined issues on very different levels (waste management infrastructures, sociological, policies, economical…) which makes the issue of waste way less trivial than what is sometimes depicted. So the team would brainstorm which topics are most urgent and most relevant, and I would draft and write the reports, sometimes I would design them too. Our last report, which is still under review, is about bioplastics, and why it’s not (and nothing is) a magical solution to replace single-use plastics. The team is also working on a booklet on the case studies of Hong Kong restaurants, hotels, and F&B businesses.
Alice: My mission is to foster the exchange of knowledge and I do this through strategic partnerships as well as bi-monthly Think Tanks. There, we focus on finding innovative and collaborative solutions to the most pressing sustainability problems in the hospitality industry.
Lucia: I am in charge of managing all the aspects - from strategy to supervision of our HKU interns. I am enjoying it as I always have been an all-rounder and a person with entrepreneurial spirit. I am lucky to be working with a very motivated and talented team that keeps me busy with new ideas coming in on how we can make a greater impact for the hospitality industry in Hong Kong and in Asia.
Q3: What are some changes that you’ve witnessed in the hospitality industry ever since you’ve started working with G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality?
Alice: Since I started working with G.R.E.EN. Hospitality in February, the hospitality industry, which had already been hit hard by months of social unrest, has been suffocating under the consequences of COVID-19. Sadly, many outlets have had to close shop, creating unemployment and vulnerability, and many suppliers are struggling with shrinking orders from their struggling customers. It has been hard, but those businesses who are surviving have seemingly come to understand that this is the time to focus some efforts on becoming more green, fix broken supply systems, cut down on plastics, and be stronger as a collaborative community.
Lucia: Since I started working with G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality in late 2018, there have been lots of things going on for the industry. In 2019, everyone seemed very enthusiastic to do more for sustainability across the region. Many of the big chains had their programs already well-developed. However, last year, in summer, the social unrest started, followed by the current pandemic, and that had slowed down all that we are working on. The industry came to a standstill early this year. Although major companies have kept being committed to their sustainability goals, the times are tough. With decrease in travel demand by more than 90%, some businesses, such as hotels and airlines, are struggling. Restaurants have been impacted too, albeit differently. Reduced business hours, accelerated conversion to online and delivery services, have been demanding for many. Obviously, lots of stakeholders are going through job uncertainty. Besides adverse social impacts, there are also great environmental impacts, especially the increase in use of the single-use items with the aim to protect public health. It is interesting to see how the businesses are reacting to these changes, and I am looking forward to the innovation that will come out of this crisis.
Camille: Unfortunately, because of COVID-19, I had to go back to Europe for most of the year, so I couldn’t be in Hong Kong to witness the changes we are advocating for. However, I kept an eye on what was happening in the sustainability community, and there I could see very passionate individuals trying to impulse change for Hong Kong, and it is really inspiring to witness such positive energy, commitment, and solidarity. So, on a personal level, I definitely witnessed some changes, because I am now looking at my actions and my choices with a different lens. And I guess that’s a good start!
Q4: What is the most urgent sustainable practice that you think must be adopted by hospitality businesses?
Alice: Without a doubt, the most urgent topic is our use of plastic. We have spent a lot of time and resources on this topic, and are actively working on enabling change locally, but we have also come to understand that the problem and the solutions are more complex than we imagined. Many plastic items used in the hospitality industry can simply be avoided and replaced with reusable items, and some amazing companies have already started implementing this, to the absolute delight of their customers. My hope is that this will become the new norm soon and that we will think back to those plastic days like an old nonsensical memory.
Lucia: Based on our recent research that we have been conducting since the beginning of the year, I think the low hanging fruit on how to diminish the impact on the environment is really in improving waste management - especially waste reduction and segregation. It requires the implementation of new procedures and processes such as measuring waste. However, the benefits can be great and there is a potential for cost-saving while creating goodwill and storytelling that is important for customer engagement and loyalty.
Camille: The last report we published was about food waste, so I guess I’m a little bit biased, but I would say food waste (laugh)! During my research, I discovered that food waste was really the place to start when it comes to waste management, because it impacts many other streams, like recycling or incineration, for example. South Korea, which has an amazing waste management system, started with banning food waste from landfills in 1995. Also, from an environmental point of view, taking resources and releasing carbon and nitrous oxide in the atmosphere to grow food that we don’t eat doesn’t make sense.
So I would say the most urgent sustainable practice would be for hotels and restaurants to start changing their relationship with food: be more transparent, to source local and organic vegetables, and to waste less.
Q5: What is the one environmental concern that you are most passionate about?
Alice: A shift in mindset. I am very passionate about educating this generation and raising our next generation to be conscious and engaged when it comes to food waste, meat consumption, plastic usage, broken supply chains that lead to unnecessary carbon emissions, human trafficking, and the depletion of resources. A global shift in mindset and the willingness to give up some comfort for the well-being of the planet is needed and has luckily already begun.
Camille: Waste! Without hesitation. The waste we produce tells a lot about the kind of society we are in. It’s a bit like being an archeologist of today’s society! So I was very happy to have the chance to dive more into this topic and be able to connect the dots a bit more with the local context in Hong Kong, but also get a more global picture of what is happening globally. You wouldn’t believe the connections between, for example, the petro-chemical industry and plastic waste. It was eye-opening for me.
Lucia: Climate change. It is an umbrella that is overarching all of the issues we are facing today. Greenhouse gasses have an impact on not only on the environment but also on the economy and human wellbeing, and we should not forget that. Shifts in weather create crises around the world that result in wars, extreme migration patterns and eventually impact our global society. GHG are mainly produced by the global north while destroying habitats and greatly impacting people of the global south. This imbalance and inequality is what concerns me the most.
And what causes climate change? All of our behaviour - the waste we produce, the choices we make in our consumption and how we do business too.
I would like to see global change on a large scale that will give a chance to the next generation to experience the beauty of our planet while creating a fair and just opportunities for all.
Q6: What do you love most about your work at G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality?
Alice: The Think Tanks we organise are my favourite part. I love the honesty participants bring to the table and the willingness to openly discuss their setbacks and bottlenecks. The energy that emerges from such qualified experts who are willing and eager to invest time and effort into finding collaborative solutions to fix the status quo is inspiring.
Lucia: I experienced the conference in 2019 which was really a great event. However, for the most recent happenings, I really am happy that our Think Tanks managed to bring together true sustainability ambassadors, and we have started creating impactful partnerships to tackle various issues in Hong Kong, such as coordinated collection of food waste from restaurants (that is a project we are currently putting in motion).
Camille: I love the Report Briefs! It’s too bad that they were digital, because I would have loved to interact more with the people who attended, but it’s a great pleasure to be able to share your “knowledge” with people who are interested, especially when you have been working on a topic for a few weeks! It was also, for me, a chance to see the reaction of people who are actually working with sustainability, so I learned a lot myself.
G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality is a platform dedicated to facilitating connections and promoting dialogues between all related industries in the hospitality sector. In doing so, we help them to achieve their sustainability goals and become a catalyst for positive change.
As such, we are an organisation that is defined by its members. We are not an advocacy organisation, but an alliance of advocates. We are a network of individuals and companies that share similar sustainability goals, and who realise that achieving those goals is easier when you partner with individuals and companies that have similar passions and areas of expertise.