Corporate Social Responsibility and the Eco Hotel

The term "Corporate Social Responsibility" is as the first word in the term suggests usually pertains to the world of commerce.  For most people the term would most likely to be used in relation to a large corporation that is keen to show that it is not just about generating profits for its shareholders and also wants to help the environment and the community.  In the hospitality industry the concept of Corporate Social Responsibility has been a little slow to catch on, although that has changed over the last few years, to such an extent that certain hotel chains are now providing what are comprehensive blueprints for a 

Elements of Corporate Social Responsibility

The major elements of most hospitality related CSR include the environment, employee health, giving to charity (including encouraging guests to give to charity), sponsoring community campaigns, settling up their own charities or foundations, sourcing produce from local suppliers and using fair trade products, providing additional support to disabled guests.  In summary then there are plenty of options for hotels to opt into the concept of CSR.  And although the environment is usually seen as being important in relation to CSR it is quite possible for a hotel to not be a "green hotel" at all and instead focus only community and charitable efforts which do not relate to the environment.  

The two industry leaders within European CSR are the Scandinavian Scandic chain and Accor.  In the case of the Scandic have not just decided to make an environmental commitment, they have also made an impressive commitment and their operational policies adhere to just about every possible element of hospitality based CSR mentioned above, including their creation of their own "Sustainability Fund" which offers grants to individuals and organisations for development of their environmental initiatives.  The efforts of Accor and Scandic put them into the top four of eco hotel chains in the world, the other two being perhaps termed "green hotels" in their native land of the US, namely the Kimpton hotel chain and the Californian based Joie de Vivre chain.  In terms of independent eco hotels in Europe there are a growing number which are developing their CSR programs and commitments beyond the environment.  On one level they have an advantage over large hotel chains in that due to their size it maybe easier for them to implement a CSR policy which unlike the chain hotels be far more time consuming and potientally face far more challenges in terms of operations and logistics.  The problem the independents face is that the chains have more working capital and bigger budgets and so they can larger margins to potentially off-set the setting up of a CSR program.  

As the term CSR is primarily a corporate term it is almost never used by independent accommodation providers.  They title what would be their CSR policies instead as their environmental, sustainability, community or green policies primarily because they are business to consumer operations.  Many consumers are unaware of what a CSR program or policy is.  But they would know what an environmental or green policy is.  A perfect example of this is the The Primrose Hotel in St.Ives, Cornwall in the UK.  On the hotel website under the heading "Environmentally Friendly" there are a number of elements which are CSR initiatives, as opposed to purely environmental policy elements.  This blurring of the lines between environmental policies and wider CSR within the independent hospitality sector means it is very hard to accurately assess the current commitment of independent eco hotels to CSR above their environmental dimension.