Le Magazine Accor Hotels
By Véronique Augier Nel

The Business of Sustainability

Now more than ever, there is a pressing need for businesses to actively integrate sustainable development goals into corporate strategy and governance.

At the 2014 United Nations (UN) Climate Change Summit, former US President Barack Obama made a call to action, saying, "We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last that can do something about it."

Sustainability is more than a trendy concept in todays context. Given the sad state of the environment and the fact that nearly half of the worlds population – that is more than three billion people  are living on less than US$2.50 a day, reducing the environmental footprint and giving back to local communities through a sound Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategy must be on every companys modus operandi.

We are the first generation to feel the impact of climate change, and the last that can do something about it.

- Former US President Barack Obama

Todays consumer behaviour trends show preferences towards more sustainable options. Consumers favour ethical businesses that make positive contributions to the local communities they operate in. Studies show that 70% of millennials adopt sustainable behaviours in their day-to-day life and concurrently, 73% are willing to pay extra for sustainable offerings, and especially so when they travel.

Driving Change

Since 1974, Accor, the worlds largest hospitality operator, has implemented a sustainability policy with the firm belief that the environment is tourisms vital raw material. This policy evolved into the groups Planet 21 programme in 2012, outlining 21 commitments under six pillars covering social, environmental and community involvement. 
Educating staff to be mindful of their natural surroundings and people is an inherent part of Planet 21. By 2018, this resulted in over 1000 Accor hotels fostering urban or organic vegetable gardens within their premises or in their vicinity, and almost all Accor properties engaging in a local community activity in aid of the less fortunate.
In Indonesia, the group works with A Tree For A Child, a community investment programme created in conjunction with the Yayasan Peduli Tunas Bangsa foundation in 2001, which focuses on alleviating poverty through education, health, nutrition and environmental protection. Through this endeavour, Accor properties in Indonesia help to provide access to education and healthcare for children, while offering an opportunity for staff to volunteer and engage with local communities. Since its first centre opened in 2001, Accor has benefitted over 200 children and their families, with several of the beneficiaries going on to work within the groups hotels in Indonesia.
This initiative is one example of the groups Planet 21 actions under the pillar of working with communities for a positive impact. The latter ties in perfectly with some of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) such as Quality Education and Good Health. 

Purpose And Profit

The year 2018 witnessed a slew of financial institutions, governments and companies from various industries putting greater commitment in their SDGs. In January 2018, the chief executive officer of BlackRock, an American global investment management corporation, wrote a letter to CEOs addressing the topic of achieving long-term financial performance, but also by making a positive contribution to society.
In July 2018, Accor signed an agreement with a consortium of 15 banks for a new €1.2 billion revolving credit facility. The margin will be notably dependent on the group's performance in terms of Environment, Social and Governance (ESG). Following the Paris Agreement on climate change, several major insurance and financial companies, including World bank, AXA, Société Générale and BNP Paribas, commited to greenify their investments, while rating agencies and investment funds progressively integrate contribution to sustainable development goals in their valuation model.
Not only has it become crucial for our planet that companies engage in sustainable development, doing so has also proven to contribute to long-term financial returns. Studies show that since 1990, companies with strong sustainability profiles have outperformed the S&P 500, with annualised returns of 11.2% versus 10.7%. 

Not only has it become crucial for our planet that companies engage in sustainable development, doing so has also proven to contribute to long-term financial returns.


Embracing CSR

Ultimately, sustainable actions through sound CSR commitments are a given for all businesses, wherever they are located and whatever areas they operate in. Companies wishing to design their sustainability strategy can simply start by aligning their intiatives around UNs 17 SDGs which aim to promote prosperity while protecting the planet.
By aligning around these 17 goals and their smaller targets, corporations can take on major sustainability initiatives specific to their respective company values. This generates more than just profit for the organisation, it also benefits the planet for generations to come. 
This article originally appeared on issue 51 of MillionaireAsia. Read an extract of the issue here.
Véronique Augier Nel, Director of CSR & Communications, Accor Asia Pacific

About the Author
Véronique Augier Nel has been part of Accor Asia Pacifics regional team in Singapore for the past eight years. In her current role, Veronique oversees communications for Accor hotels across Asia Pacific, for brands including Raffles, Fairmont, Sofitel, Swissotel, Pullman and MGallery. She also manages CSR projects and events benefitting local organisations such as the Community Chest of Singapore. A graduate of École hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland, Veronique has over 20 years of experience in hospitality. She was also part of the accommodation team for the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa. Born in Africa to French and Indonesian parents, Veronique has lived in the Seychelles, Indonesia, Switzerland, France, Singapore and the US. 

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