As increasing numbers of travellers become more environmentally and socially aware, accommodation providers are finding they need to meet the growing demand from guests for room amenities that are ethically sourced and sustainably produced.
Accommodation providers are able to access ethically sourced products thanks to the activities of Fairtrade International that runs a unique certification system that includes minimum prices ensuring the costs of sustainable production are covered. The system helps to reduce poverty and empower producers in developing countries which is a full and active member of FLO, told AMG the unique, independent Fairtrade system benefits more than six million people from 77 countries – farmers, producers, workers and their families. Fairtrade provides farmers and others in these developing countries with a fair price (the Fairtrade price) for their produce, helping to protect them from fluctuations in world market prices. The farmers also receive a sum of money, known as the Fairtrade Premium that they are able to invest in various community development projects such as educational and medical facilities.
By using Fairtrade products, accommodation industry operators are providing a new and developing supply channel for the farmers that, in turn, expands the market for the products and the benefits their sale provides. The benefits to operators of using Fairtrade products is that it provides them with a credible way to ensure their trade and the consumers purchasing their services will have a positive impact for farmers and workers in developing countries, the Fairtrade ANZ spokesperson said.
The range of product categories has increased in Australia and New Zealand and now covers 19 product categories, and recognition of the Fairtrade mark has continued to grow since its implementation in Australia and New Zealand 10 years ago.
As the principles of Fairtrade become more widely understood and accepted, operators across the accommodation sector have access to an increasing selection of ethically sourced and sustainable products. New Zealand-based company Health Pak Ltd, for example, produces a full range of Fairtrade beverage sachets as well as guest hair and body care products that create a revenue stream for NGOs in the area of conservation and work with indigenous youth. According to Health Pak’s Jimi Kennedy-Grant, it is currently the only manufacturer that produces a full range of Fairtrade products.
“We have been producing our One Fairtrade range for almost three years; however, we have been developing ethical products for well over a decade in the form of organic and locally sourced products. Likewise, our boxed items, shower caps etc are all made using 100 per cent recycled cardboard and have been for over a decade now. When you make one million products a day, like we do, you have a responsibility to ensure you do everything within your power to minimise the impact that has on the environment.”
Mr Kennedy-Grant said the One Fairtrade range had proved extremely popular as it offered accommodation providers the opportunity to get Fairtrade certified products into their rooms at a very low unit cost.
“One Fairtrade started out with motels and hotels taking one or two Fairtrade items to add to their existing beverage offering to be seen to have something Fairtrade in the room but more and more we are seeing properties making a stand and ditching the non-Fairtrade products and going exclusively with the One Fairtrade range.”
The increase in guest demand for such products has dramatically raised awareness of ethical and environmental issues in the supply chain for hoteliers, Mr Kennedy-Grant said.
“Guests are very aware of the issues around child labour and the carbon footprint of products shipped from overseas and are looking more and more for a locally made alternative.”
|Forest & Bird body care products|
In New Zealand, Health Pak’s Forest & Bird range of guest hair and body care products have seen unprecedented growth since they were launched just over two years ago, Mr Kennedy-Grant said.
The popularity of these products with guests has an environmental spin-off as well, with 5 per cent of all sales going to the Royal New Zealand Forest & Bird Society. The society’s development manager David Bellamy said like most charities in New Zealand, F&B had to work hard to fundraise for the income it needed to protect the environment, support the conservation of endangered and vulnerable species and “to advocate on behalf of all that makes New Zealand such an amazing place to live”.
“We have a broad income base that includes support from a range of corporate partners that share our values. The income from Health Pak is really valuable as it helps to support our work across a range of issues, habitats and species,” Mr Bellamy said.
“I think relationships like the one we have with Health Pak are absolutely essential. Beyond the financial dimension, it is important that environmental and conservation organisations such as F&B work with the corporate world to support them to develop good corporate citizenship practices. It is also about educating the corporate sector that the pursuit of a healthy bottom line and good corporate environmental responsibility are mutually reinforcing concepts and not mutually exclusive.
“It is about educating the public as well that many businesses really do care about their impact on the environment and are actively taking steps to be as environmentally sustainable and sensitive as possible. Health Pak is an excellent example of this ethos and a great case study,” Mr Bellamy said.
One organisation that has opted to offer ethically sourced and sustainable products in its properties is Staywell Hospitality Management Ltd. When the company converted five hotels to its Park Regis and Leisure Inn brands, it approached Health Pak looking for locally manufactured products with an ethical focus. It chose to provide its guests exclusively with Health Pak’s One Fairtrade beverages and Forest & Bird hair and body care products.
Staywell’s sales and marketing director Melanie Ranoa told AMG that where the company had a choice when working with suppliers, it believed in promoting sustainability and supporting developing countries.
“It is giving back support to local communities and raising awareness in the global campaign of promoting good practice in international trade. Guests support and recognise our own contribution in this social responsibility program, with some corporate entities we partner with as clients requiring that we enlist with a similar certification of participation,” Ms Ranoa said.
Australian guest supply company Swisstrade has recently launched a range of hotel toiletries with Fairtrade ingredients, in response to what it saw as a discrepancy between the growing number of Fairtrade food and beverage products and the much more limited offering in toiletries, principal Roland Funk said.
|One provides a full range of Fairtrade beverage sachets|
“Fairtrade products in the food and beverage sector are becoming more and more popular. Interestingly, however, they do not yet have much of a presence in the hotel bathroom,” Mr Funk said.
The new Swisstrade body care range, branded as Fair Trade, was launched in Australia in November 2013. Mr Funk said his company had identified an increasing demand for ethically made products in the retail sector and wanted to expand this trend to the hotel industry.
“The fair treatment and provision of fair payment to farmers and workers in third world countries is a global issue, which filters down to many facets of our daily lives. Many consumers here in Australia as well as the rest of the first world want to consciously contribute to the fair treatment of disadvantaged people around the world, and rather than donate money that often never reaches the intended recipients, accommodation providers now have the choice of doing the right thing and contribute their part by using products with an emphasis on fair trade ingredients. “This commitment resonates strongly with today’s guests and reaps rewards in various ways, such as favourable feedback on travel websites, word-of-mouth recommendation as well as return guests,” Mr Funk said.
The company’s Fair Trade brand of toiletries contains ingredients with the focus on fair pay, social commitment and organic farming, he said. “The shower gel and shampoo contain raw sugar cane from Mauritius, the formulations of the body lotion and conditioner includes Brazil nut oil from Bolivia and the soap boasts avocado oil from Kenya.
“The production of the raw materials used in our Fair Trade toiletries range is guaranteed to comply with international standards. Furthermore, the farming families who grow these raw materials receive an assured minimum wage, irrespective of the world market price. The added value is then used to improve the local infrastructure, education and health.
“Thus, the new Fair Trade series is a true alternative for hotels whose top priority is quality while operating with economically and socially sustainable methods. Needless to say, we have also refrained from using colouring agents, parabens, silicone oils and formaldehyde releasers. Alcohols such as diethanolamine (DEA) and triethanolamine (TEA) with the potential for skin irritation are not used either. The pH-neutral formulations are very well suited for people with sensitive skin due to the natural composition, and it goes without saying, they are not subjected to animal testing.”
Health Pak Ltd has worked closely with Corporate Connect AB in Australia to develop Ritual Australia, a range of guest hair and body care products made from more than six different indigenous botanical ingredients – one each from different geographic locations around the country, the company’s Jimi Kennedy-Grant said.
“But most importantly, through a percentage of sales, the products will contribute directly to the work of Corporate Connect AB in linking the corporate sector to Aboriginal community projects, which seek to achieve economic independence at the local level.”
The company also produces a Ritual New Zealand range, which contains botanical ingredients from around New Zealand. “The Ritual ranges were introduced in early 2013 and we have found that hotel guests love having local products that contain ingredients that come from close to where they stayed,” Mr Kennedy-Grant said.
“This is true of both international and domestic guests. They just love the idea of using something from the region they have chosen to visit and the products invariably make up an integral part of their stay.”
Within the next few months Health Pak plans to launch a new range of Fairtrade bathroom amenities.
“Not only are these certified Fairtrade, but the plastic bottles are also 100 per cent made from milk bottles that are collected, ground up and then we produce brand-new cosmetic bottles out of them,” Mr Kennedy-Grant said.
Both Mr Funk and Mr Kennedy-Grant note that the Fairtrade and sustainable products offered by their respective companies are slightly more expensive than standard products but say the quality of the products, guest response and the ethical standards underpinning their production makes the extra cost worthwhile.
“If you are comparing them to the cheapest imported products, then yes they will be more expensive,” Mr Kennedy-Grant said. “If, however, you are comparing them to a quality product of similar features, advantages and benefits, then the cost differentials will be very small. There will always be a premium placed on these products by guests and the small increase in price actually represents outstanding value for money for the accommodation provider as the guest perception is far higher than the minimal increase in cost.”
Mr Funk said that like organically grown vegetables or eggs from free range chickens, Swisstrade’s Fair Trade toiletries carry a slightly higher price than standard amenities.
“However, with the inclusion of the Fairtrade ingredients and the German-based production of this range, the hotel guest is getting pampered not only with an absolutely top-quality product, but will also appreciate the ethically conscious attributes of this beautifully fragranced and presented amenities range.”