Working towards luxury with a soul has been a life-changing experience as a professional. ITC Hotels’ commitment to enumerate luxury with a responsible ethos has governed and inspired our business philosophy for the last decade and will continue to do so. Being planet-positive is the only way forward. In fact, it has instilled and reinforced in me the belief that luxury has to serve a larger purpose, a greater good. For me, luxury that co-ops me as a partner and reflects my aspirations for a better world, contributing meaningfully to those affected by its creations and consumption is true luxury.
The concept of luxury has advanced considerably over the last few decades, as has the consumer. In fact, the hospitality industry will soon be challenged to curate bespoke experiences to match the ever-evolving taste of the discerning luxury consumer. Brands need to create opportunities that go beyond the champagne-paired private dinners and prime seats at a concert. While we meet and exceed the needs of discerning guests, it is our responsibility as a busin ess and industry to curate experiences that enrich and enable a sense of purpose.
Our belief is guided by the philosophy that luxury brands must have sustainable practices embedded in them. True luxury cannot stand alone, it needs to embrace, harness the elements and at the same time give back to nature.
In a fast-paced ‘socially’ (I live on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn) evolving world, people are moving from a ‘me’ culture to a ‘we’ culture. Tribes and communities are sprouting up like never before, clustering together with like-minded people. These individuals believe that the evolution of the human race cannot be at the cost of the planet and its ‘natural capital’. I do believe that ‘responsible luxury’ is an ‘expression’ of the times. Our new consumer is among these people. Today, endorsements of products and brands are being viewed as a sign of individual expression. A shift from ‘conspicuous’ to ‘conscientious’ consumption. Fair practices are basic minimum threshold needs. So they are willing to go that extra mile and pay that extra dollar if the luxury brand they endorse can enrich them (people are today choosing to endorse brands that can enable this — be it Tiffany, Burberry, Montblanc and many others who are emphasising on the ‘responsible’ aspect of their business practice).
‘Responsible luxury’ is indeed the soul of ITC Hotels-exemplified by its own carbon, water and waste sensitive operations, and by its contributions to ITC’s large social investments in afforestation, water harvesting, waste recycling and providing sustainable livelihoods to many.
There have been many a learning as well allowing ITC to demonstrate how you could experience luxury and be planet-positive at the same time.
Another important learning was how a concept like this could motivate people; both within and outside the organisation. Our associates are charged up and they have a sense of purpose in the job that they do. Beyond our enterprise, it introduced a new approach — a thought leader — inducing in partners a sense of contribution. Be its local neighbourhoods, schools, municipal corporations, tourism bodies, our endeavour is a co-creative existence.
Looking ahead, by 2030, sustainability will be one of the pervasive drivers of change. Technology, people, business models, physical assets, operational practices and financial efficiencies will all need to be harnessed to address the long-term sustainability challenge from a 360 degree perspective.
Industry leaders today are engaged with the sustainability agenda and the transformational impact it will have on hospitality will be significant. Those who keep pace and effect change embedding sustainability across their business, from strategy to operations, from brand value to asset management will be prominently positioned right, without the risk of getting lost.
We have been sharing our learnings on industry platforms; both in India and abroad. We’ve leveraged global platforms such as the Responsible Business summit in London, worked with the World Green Building Council on a road shows in various countries, sharing our learnings in sustainable development. The benefits of sustainable tourism extend beyond promotion of local culture to generation of employment and enable a positive experience for visitors. Today, visitors are seeking unique, indigenous experiences that deviate from the mundane, everyday glimpses of life and facilitate enriching engagements with the local community and culture.
With growing awareness amongst consumers, business needs to be more resource sensitive. This will create new pressures in business, wherein the cost, quality and efficiency will no longer be the only factor determining the competitiveness, but the ability of businesses to adopt low-carbon operations and sustainable practices will assume central importance. The new paradigm of travel and tourism will not only require the creation of green business but also the generation of green livelihoods. With this growing awareness, the hospitality industry has started thinking in a very holistic manner by offering green and sustainable options. In the near future, resource-efficient hotels will not be the exception but the rule. Energy conservation and intelligent consumption of renewable energy sources are preconditions for sustainable development of tourism and the role of the hospitality industry is of utmost importance as it has to work towards reducing its energy needs by intelligent facility planning and design. It is up to each one of us to work towards a more sustainable future for all of us.