Be in it for the long haul
– Sustainability and Good Corporate Governance –
Adopting sustainable business practices involves a strategic and sometimes also a cultural change, driven by effective leadership, employee buy-in and a good framework of policies.
The process does not happen overnight. And it can be overwhelming when you do not set realistic and incremental goals.
As indicated in a recent survey conducted by the Sustainable Spa Association in the UK:
“one of the greatest challenges for spa owners is not knowing where to start in their sustainability journey and a lack of education around implementation strategies.”
Consequently, and as we feel compelled to practice sustainability, we end up adopting once-off, ad hoc greening projects. Unfortunately, these once-off and ad hoc projects tend to stay just that.
This is where good corporate governance plays a critical role. The term refers to the efforts made to ensure that a business is managed well, that effective processes, procedures and policies are implemented in a way that is accountable, and transparent.
So what are the benefits of a good corporate governance system to a spa business that is committed to sustainability?
- Underpinnbed by clearly defined sustainability strategies and supporting policies, spa’s can achieve long term business success and economic growth;
- Effective stakeholder engagement ensures that spa owners, managers and their support teams understand and are committed to the sustainability goals of the spa;
- There is better control of management and information systems;
- Inefficiencies and mismanagement are minimised;
- A strong brand reputation around green is created and
- The spa business becomes more resilient.
While there are many corporate governance models that would work well in the spa and wellness industry, the following aspects are key ingredients in all of them and would serve spa’s well when they adopt sustainability as a business objective.
Set an explicit business strategy immediately when you have made the decision to go green.
This strategy, or plan of action, describes the process that will be followed to achieve long-term sustainability. For example, your spa team might first conduct research to identify which aspects of sustainability should be focussed on initially and when consideration should be given to the remaining ones. Then create a specific plan and supporting policies to meet these goals and lastly, devise a methodology to test its performance over the set goals. At each stage, knowing the overall strategy helps spa teams stay focused on the intended outcomes.
The next step along the sustainability journey is to involve spa employees in the decision-making process, armed with appropriate knowledge of sustainable business practices and an understanding of the challenges and benefits that the proposed new green strategy will have for the spa business. This transparency with spa employees helps unify the business. When they understand the spa’s business strategies and are allowed to monitor its performance, they understand their roles within the larger organisation and ultimately deliver an improved performance.
Appoint a Sustainability team (with a good mix of people across the executive and non- executive spectrum) to take ownership of the new strategy, to set clear goals and to manage implementation.
Do not forget to engage with your clients, the public and also importantly your suppliers, all of whom are important stakeholders in this process and who will be directly affected by the practices that you will implement to achieve your sustainability objectives. For example, when you decide to implement packaging reduction practices, your suppliers will have to consider changes within their own businesses too and your clients will need to know that they will have to supply their own bags or that there will be an additional cost around purchasing sustainable bags or packaging.
Create good policies to provide a framework within which the Sustainability team can work.
Start with an over-arching Sustainability policy and expand to supporting policies such as waste management, green procurement and green cleaning policies, for example. Of course, you should also have in place all the important human resource policies around issues such as performance management, grievances, training, discipline, retrenchment and the like.
Business policies are only as effective as their implementation.
You can spend years developing a strategy and supporting policies and business practices, but if you do not mobilize your spa team to implement the policies and practices, your sustainability initiative will fail.
Good corporate governance requires of us to exercise discipline and commitment to implement policies, resolutions and strategies.
Reporting and Evaluation
An integral part of the work performed by the Sustainability team is to measure the spa’s sustainability performance on a regular basis and to recommend changes and improvements where necessary.
Mistakes will be made, no matter how well you manage your spa, but it is only through regular evaluation that the mistakes will be identified and mitigated. Spa employee and client feedback can supply vital feedback about the effectiveness of your sustainability policies. Using audit tools such as GSN Planet’s Greenspa Calculator or involving external advisors to analyse your operations also can help identify ways to improve your spa’s sustainability efficiency and performance.
Lastly, report your sustainability goals, challenges and especially your achievements to your stakeholders, at least annually. If you have made the decision to go green, your clients, potential employees, investors and suppliers will all be interested in your progress. You can notify your progress on your website as part of an annual sustainability report or in regular newsletters. Reporting is a way to track your sustainability progress and development and will improve your decision making in the future.
Set a benchmark, and be an inspiration for your industry as a whole.