Sustainability is a hot topic these days, and for good reason. Is the spa and wellness industry doing its part? Yes and no. Of course there are many amazing businesses out there working hard to limit their impact on the planet, but we could all do better.
We spoke with Bonnie Baker, co-founder of Green Spa Network and Satteva Spa & Wellness Concepts, about why we should, and how we can, improve our sustainability in spas and across the sector.
“Climate change is at critical mass,” says Baker, “To reverse course, we must take swift action to keep fossil fuels in the ground. Failure to stop both production and consumption will cause untold human suffering and condemn polar bears, coral, and other species to extinction.
“It’s everyone’s obligation to do something about it. Every business is responsible for the future of our environment and planet.”
Green is good for business
It isn’t just about our shared responsibility, however. Going green can also be great for business and have long-term cost benefits. It’s a common perception that sustainable practices are expensive or will bring less to bottom line income, but the reality is that unsustainable practices can cost you more in the long run and actively live up to their name by being just that: unsustainable.
Younger consumers have big buying power and high expectations, Baker points out. And consumers in general are more aware of the impact of their purchasing decisions now than we have been in the past.
“Consumers are showing increased interest in not only product features, but in business operations and company values as well,” says Baker. “More and more, people want to buy from businesses they trust. Most prominently, millennials have the highest expectations for environmental and social responsibility in businesses, they also are reported to be becoming the heaviest buyers in beauty and skincare industries.”
That means going green is about staying competitive and “not adopting green practices means missing out on a key strategy for growth,” says Baker, “as renewable energy and resources become the norm.”
Investors also want sustainable businesses
Moreover, Baker adds, “Investors, not just consumers, are targeting green-minded, socially responsible companies and shying away from companies with bad practices.”
In the United States, sustainable businesses can also benefit by taking advantage of State and Federal tax programs for companies that invest in renewable energy and green technology. These tax-related benefits are in the form of credits or deductions.
Reusing and recycling also save money, as does cutting energy costs.
“In 2016, 190 of the Fortune 500 companies together saved about $3 billion through their collective renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives.”
What are the barriers?
The connection between spa and wellness with sustainability seems like a natural one to make, but that doesn’t mean everyone is on board.
Baker says, “Not nearly enough spas and companies have decided to make a deep commitment to sustainable practices and conservation efforts,” says Baker. “Many recognize it is a worthwhile message that can have a positive impact, but only a select few are willing to make sustainability a core value or practice upon which their lifestyle or business is based.”
Start with the basics
When asked where businesses can begin, Baker says there are many starting points, but a good place to focus is on reducing waste and opting for renewable materials and energies.
“Reduce harmful ingredients along the whole chain of interactions, including nutrition, beauty, and cleaning products. Also of great importance is spending time with nature. This is one of the most fundamental ways to promote personal health and, as a byproduct, begin to understand how important the natural environment is for all wellbeing.”
Single-use plastics are one of the biggest issues. Each year, more than eight million tons of plastic is dumped into our oceans and approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide. Spas contribute to the problem with product packaging, water bottles, plastic cups and more.
Moving towards recycled paper and plastic, and reusable containers, is going to become not just good practice, but a necessity, as more places move towards implementing bans on single-use plastics.
It’s just better for everyone
In the end, going sustainable is going to become a necessity to stay competitive.
Grace Farraj, senior vice president, Public Development & Sustainability, at Nielsen said in 2015, “Consumers are starting to consider sustainable practices a basic cost of entry, rather than a market differentiator.”
It’s also better for you, your business, your clients, and the world.
Baker says, “Wellness businesses must take a long term approach to heralding the environment as a source for health, and to protecting communities and ecosystems as part of their stakeholders.
“The industry will benefit by beginning to invest in the future as part of the present.”
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