With nearly 20 years of experience working in the hospitality industry in her home country of Canada, and 25 years of educating the next generation of hospitality leaders, Susan Landtwing has a wealth of experience behind her. Currently teaching Business Ethics at B.H.M.S. Business & Hotel Management School, she recently took on a new and exciting role: Sustainability Champion. We met with her to get find out more about how she views sustainability and discover how she plans on getting B.H.M.S. certified as a Swisstainble school.
Looking after the planet means looking after people
Sustainability is a buzzword that gets thrown around a lot but what exactly does it mean?
People tend to assume that sustainability begins and ends with environmentalism, but it’s much more holistic than that. Companies should always consider the three dimensions of planet, profit, and people, meaning that in addition to profitability, companies should also measure their social and environmental impacts.
I used to think it was all about the customer — and they are important — especially when you consider how much more they expect nowadays when it comes to sustainability. But social sustainability also means looking after employees — ensuring they get paid decent wages, making equal opportunities a priority, and celebrating diversity.
Another dimension of social sustainability is caring for the community in which a business is an active participant. And this kind of sustainability, caring for employees and the community, is good for business; if employees are treated well, they stay and go on to become managers. If companies take care of the communities where they do business, business will come back to them.
This is especially true of places where the appeal is the natural landscape. By caring for nature, companies ensure that people keep coming back. A great example of a business that adopts this sustainability approach is a hotel I know of in Newfoundland (Canada), where all of the in-house furnishings are locally produced, and food is sourced locally to generate revenue for people living on the island.
Introducing a shift toward social sustainability
When did you start developing an interest in sustainability and why?
In the 90s, sustainability became increasingly important as we became more aware of our effect on the environment, and of our social responsibility. At first, we started putting more sustainable practices into place simply because it was good for business—reducing our water consumption and minimising food waste meant that we were saving money. At some point however, the penny dropped and I realised that all these efforts weren’t just helping the business, they were also helping the whole community.
I started introducing the concept of social responsibility at the various hotels I worked at. For example, the staff of one hotel where I worked was made up of people from all over the world, speaking many different languages. This made it especially important that we foster cultural awareness and learn how to communicate effectively with one another. We decided to hire language teachers for those who were struggling with English.
When I moved to Switzerland, I started teaching and integrated sustainability into my curriculum, explaining how it ties into every aspect of a hotel business, from housekeeping to HR to the front office. The father of one of my students worked for the UN, and it was through them that I was first introduced to the Millennial Goals, a series of goals aimed towards reducing poverty worldwide.
In 2015, these were renamed the Sustainable Development Goals (SGDs). These 17 goals are essentially a blueprint to achieve a better world for all by 2030. In my business ethics class, we take acloser look at the SDGs and explore what companies can do when they have certification or compliance goals.
The students we teach either want to be employed by successful companies or start their own businesses, and we as their teachers have a moral responsibility to ensure that they are informed about the impact that the hospitality sector has on the environment and know how to find the most sustainable way to function within it.
What is Swisstainable, and what does it mean for B.H.M.S.
Although most people don’t know this, Switzerland is one of the countries leading the way in achieving the SDGs and has won many sustainable awards. Swisstainable is a campaign launched by Switzerland Tourism to raise awareness about sustainable tourism and help people experience it by involving tourism providers and other segments of the hospitality industry. The hope is that it will make Switzerland more appealing as the shift towards becoming more sustainable trickles through to the customer experience.
At B.H.M.S., we have signed a commitment to become a Swisstainble establishment which means that we commit to sustainable business management and to further developing B.H.M.S. continuously towards sustainability. We want to equip our students with the skills and knowledge on how to best live sustainably, and run sustainable businesses, as sustainability becomes more and more of a selling point for companies.
But we aim to do more than simply foster knowledge; we want to provide students with the tools to be able to adequately address future challenges to sustainable living that will continue to arise. Being Swisstainable at B.H.M.S. will mean being able to use skills and experience to think outside the box, with an awareness of every facet of sustainability.
What can we expect from B.H.M.S.’s move towards sustainability in the next few months?
In September, we will formally launch measures in view of being certified a Swisstainable establishment. Students will be able to get involved by leading various initiatives, from learning opportunities to getting involved directly in the community. There are also going to be competitions where students from around the world can take part.
I am excited about the students actioning their own initiatives, and to have this platform from which we can launch sustainability at B.H.M.S.! The certification is student-led but the whole community is involved, teachers and staff included. It’s something that can bring us together. Our school has an opportunity here to get involved in the community and show that we care. This will hopefully lead to people thinking of us as a valuable contributor.
This is a wonderful time for B.H.M.S. students; they will have the opportunity to put forward their particular, sustainable interests and participate in the development and/or implementation stages. But more importantly, they’ll have the chance to be a part of a community that takes heed of every aspect of sustainability - people, profit, and planet. They’ll get to observe first-hand the benefits and flourishing this kind of approach begets, and gather these seeds of knowledge to plant in their own businesses, lending towards a more sustainable world.