Sustainable Development Initiatives for the Hospitality Industry
Hong Kong, 02 December 2020 - G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality Hackathon & Innovation Night 2020 concluded on 21 November, with 25 participants forming into six teams to innovate solutions for the hospitality industry to tackle the challenges of waste segregation, waste reduction and circularity, and food waste. About 70% of the participants were university students, and the biggest cash prize (HK$5,000) went to the team behind the idea of a food waste marketplace, which they likened to an “online dating system for trash”.
Funded by the Sustainable Development Fund of Hong Kong, hosted by Soap Cycling in partnership with Foundation for Shared Impact and Carbonbase, and supported by the University of Hong Kong (HKU) Business School, the G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality Hackathon & Innovation Night is an event that offers creative minds in Hong Kong the opportunity to form teams and innovate solutions for the hospitality industry to address sustainability challenges.
Hacking for Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry
Two weeks prior to the Hackathon & Innovation Night, virtual preparatory workshops were held for registered participants to help them learn more about social innovation, design thinking, and pitching practices.
At the kick-off event on 20 November, held at The Garage, courtesy of Deloitte China, participants attended the panel discussion on innovation and sustainable hospitality. Sharing insights and advice on the needs of the hospitality industry and feasible sustainability solutions were: Carmen Ng, Director of Sustainability at Langham Hospitality Group; Ada Yip, Chief Empowerment Officer at Urban Spring; and Anushka Purohit, CEO & Co-founder of Breer Limited.
Photo: Carmen Ng - Director of Sustainability at Langham Hospitality Group, Anushka Purohit - CEO & Co-Founder of Breer Limited and Ada Yip - Chief Empowerment Officer at Urban Spring
“Be brave and think outside the box, because a lot of hotels now have the awareness and the motivation to tackle waste issues and climate change - they just need the solutions,” said Carmen Ng to the crowd of young innovators. And listening is key to creating good solutions that work, according to Ada Yip: “To create a great solution that works, you’ll need to listen to the needs and identify the pain points of the end users. You’ll also need to be able to articulate how your solution can help them address the problem.” But for the idea to be taken to the next level, the team’s attitude matters, added Anushka Purohit: “It is a recurring theme for people to forget about their idea after the hackathon, and the presentation just becomes another Google Slide that doesn’t get opened again. As my team and I at Breer began winning more competitions, we realized that we can potentially change the status quo with our idea. And that’s when we went from just participants of a school project to entrepreneurs.”
During the afternoon hacking session on Saturday, 21 November, at Explorium Hong Kong, sponsored by the Fung Group, participants received mentorship from hospitality and sustainability experts, entrepreneurs and innovators, and civil society and NGO representatives. Later that day, the hackathon teams took turns to present their solutions to a panel of judges, who applauded the motivation to tackle some of the greatest challenges faced by the hospitality industry, while also offering critical feedback, drawing from their own expertise from their respective fields.
Photo: Judges asking questions and providing feedback during the GREEN Hospitality Innovation Night 2020
The proposed solutions were judged on their positive impact, innovativeness, business feasibility, and the quality of the teams’ presentation by Denise Chen, Chief Sustainability Officer at Melco Resorts, Nigel Mattravers - Joint Venture Representative, New Life Plastics Ltd, Richard Ekkebus - Director of Culinary Operations and Food and Beverage, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group; Simon Ng - Director of Policy & Research, Business Environment Council and Lucia Loposova - Lead at GREEN Hospitality.
The three winning teams, awarded cash prizes of HK$5,000, HK$2,000, and HK$1,000 respectively, were:
1st Place - GroundsDown: Creating a food waste marketplace to connect hospitality businesses and waste recyclers and treatment service providers.
Photo: The winning team
2nd Place - Terre: Creating a WhatsApp business to connect local farmers with small and medium-sized restaurants to reduce post-harvest food loss.
Photo: Runner up
3rd Place - GrinBean: Creating a recycling bin that would automatically sort recyclables at hotels and F&B establishments.
Photo: Third place
An Event that Offers Solutions for a Better Future
“G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality Hackathon & Innovation Night is needed, timely, and fun!” said Tim Parker, Founder and Head of Product Design & Engineering of Circular City, also one of the mentors. “I think G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality should definitely run the hackathon next year. There are many pressing issues that need solutions, but there aren’t that many solutions in Hong Kong right now. It would be great if we can take some of the winning solutions from the hackathon and take them to a higher level.”
“G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality Hackathon & Innovation Night is great for the younger generation, but it is also great for people who don’t necessarily think about sustainability as an important factor in their life,” said Laura Offe, Co-founder and Owner of Meraki Hospitality. “There definitely should be more sustainability events like this one, as it gives people in the hospitality industry the opportunity to discuss with other game-changers on the market and learn more about what they do, so that you can see solutions to the problems that you thought had no solutions to.”
“The hospitality industry is among the hardest hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is heartening to see all these people, particularly the young generation, coming together to help the industry advance its sustainable development goals,” said Justen Li, Chairman of Soap Cycling. “The Hackathon couldn’t have happened without the indispensable support of our partners, mentors, sponsors, and student interns at the Impact Lab, under the great leadership of G.R.E.E.N. Hospitality’s Program Manager, Lucia Loposova. Soap Cycling was founded to create positive social and environmental impact, and we are excited about all the sustainability initiatives currently in the pipeline.”