The Iberostar Group takes a step forward in sustainable tourism through its Wave of Change movement. In front of its Sustainability Office, Megan Morikawa explains the keys to its policy of conservation of seas and oceans.
Sustainable Tourism with Megan Morikawa
You join the group as Head of the Sustainability Office, what great challenges do you face?
The Iberostar Group have more than 120 4- and 5-star hotels in 19 countries over 3 continents and is a leader in responsible tourism. We assume this leadership and encourage, inspire and sensitise those around us through our ‘Wave of Change’ movement.
What is the ‘Wave of Change’ movement that Iberostar is implementing?
‘Wave of Change’ was launched in 2017 aligned with Goal 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations, called Underwater Life. It has three lines of action: elimination of single-use plastics, promotion of responsible fish consumption and improvement of coastal health.
What are its implementation phases?
In 2018 we eliminated all single-use plastics in the rooms of our hotels in Spain and the corporate headquarters of the Group. They stopped generating 300 tons of plastic per year. In 2019 we will extend this commitment to the rooms of all the hotels of the group and in 2020, single-use plastics will have been completely eliminated from any of our spaces. Regarding the responsible consumption of fish, in 2018 we redesigned the menus of our restaurants eliminating the most endandgered species and putting value on local and seasonal fish. Iberostar became the first chain in Southern Europe with the MSC chain of custody certification. In 2019 the company, with the advice of WWF and FishWise, will evaluate the risk, sustainability and responsibility of its shopping cart. In coastal health, we started research on coral reefs and built the first coral nursery in the Dominican Republic. By 2019, we will build the second in the Caribbean and promote a mangrove restoration project also in the Dominican Republic.
How have consultations with experts been carried out?
Iberostar is committed to science and research, working rigorously together. We are developing an ambitious research project on coral reefs with the advice of a scientific team from the universities of Stanford and California Santa Barbara, and in Spain we have scientific advice from the UIB.
What are the biggest challenges for a sustainable hotel?
Above all, to be oriented towards a circular model. We have aligned ourselves with the Action Plan of the European Union for the Circular Economy by developing initiatives that promote the reduction of consumption, reuse and recycling.
What other steps and initiatives are you considering regarding environmental policy?
Along with the ‘Wave of Change’, we have projects that promote a circular economy, actions against climate change, improvements to reduce emissions and projects that encourage the use of renewable energies or the optimisation of water management. In addition, we work on improving management to achieve demanding international environmental certifications.
Are guests becoming increasingly aware and demanding of environmental causes?
Iberostar has consulted its customers. We know that 85% have acknowledged the company’s sustainability efforts and 88% positively value the replacement of single-use plastics. When choosing a hotel, 68% of people take into account its sustainability policy.
Do you plan on implementing a water management policy in sensitive environments such as the Balearic Islands?
We work to reduce consumption and promote, through communication with customers, a responsible consumption of water and materials, reducing the number of washes and the use of water and chemicals. We also install diffusers in our showers, flow limiters or aerators, as well as sensors in the taps of the common areas of the hotels. In addition, in 2018 we implemented energy efficiency measures to control, optimise and reuse consumption.
You have trained as a Researcher at Stanford University and have specialised in corals in addition to your plans for improving coastal health such as in coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds. What actions have you made for the oceanic posidonia, whose importance has now started to become known?
We have created the ‘Iberostar del Mar’ Committee with the UIB, whose objective is training in research, management and the conservation of the marine environment as well as the promotion of research in the field of Balearic marine ecology and the training of specialised research personnel.
Iberostar is developing projects with mangrove ecosystems in order to take advantage of its natural bio-filter characteristics for the purification of wastewater. What are your ambitions and goals?
The mangroves and marine trees protect the coast from storms, trap carbon and filter nutrients that constitute the natural and native vegetation of the Caribbean coast. In 2018, Iberostar initiated a pilot project to plant mangroves in Bávaro. In 2019, we will repeat the project in four other Iberostar locations in the area.
You have signed an agreement with WWF and FishWise as consultants to assess the risk, responsibility and sustainability of the shopping cart. Which other institutions are you talking to and what issues are they tackling?
We maintain dialogue and share our concerns with institutions such as the World Tourism Organisation, Global Compact, United Nations, European Commission, World Economic Forum, Zero Waste Europe, Coral Restoration Consortium and Oceans Conservancy among others. With them we deal with issues that are directly related to our movement and other major global challenges that are essential to develop our model of responsible tourism.
More information: www.iberostar.com