The anticipated State of Nature report will show us just how much of Britain’s iconic wildlife is in steep decline. This accelerating catastrophe is changing the world in which we all grew up. As a child, did you ever imagine that the cuckoo will most probably become extinct as a British bird in your lifetime? Or that the dormouse would become Alice’s fantasy companion not a local in the trees you climbed? These locals have no welcome here anymore.
Sad for sure, but what has that got to do with the world of hospitality when most of our countryside is farmed? Surely the farmers and those that manage the system of subsidies that support them should be addressing this? Well yes, but we all know the value and momentum of making incremental gains, so maybe we can play our part too and it might just be good for business.
I’m not talking about leave your towel on the rack if you don’t want it washed and save the planet. Our customers are too intelligent for that and see it for the greenwash that it certainly is. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it as it saves a little money and probably does make the smallest of those incremental gains referred to above. But if we believe that making a meaningful difference can be worthwhile, fun and profitable, maybe we have to raise the bar a little and shout a little louder.
There are, of course, many practical steps we can take with energy conservation, efficiencies and recycling. These are the least which our customers expect and the industry must play its part.
The decline of the hedgerow has nearly wiped out the sounds of our childhood already. Remember the last time you heard the trill phone ring of a turtle dove? Or the explosive staccato of a nightingale? Both common birds just a couple of decades ago. Do we really have no room for a hedgerow on our manicured lawns that would make a difference and give us a great story for our guests of extending our hospitality to the locals? Or a pond that we can share with the community’s children and host a few school visits for the colleagues and customers of the future? When you were a child a butterfly was a common sight, in all too much of our barren land now a sighting is a thing of note.
There is a significant movement in the western world already to reduce food miles and to understand the provenance of our food and drink for laudable reasons. The industry can and should catch this wave and ride it for all its worth. The Millennial generation expect nothing less and that means our teams too. ‘Free range’, ‘red tractor’, ‘sustainably sourced’ and all the other trendy, recognisable words have a real place in the future to which our customers will surely respond.
Just look at the buzz (sorry!) about rooftop beehives and the honey beers and other products produced so locally you can touch it. And is that going to change the ways of those farmers with most of our land in their stewardship to produce our food when they see that the customer will pay a premium? You bet it is!
Maybe we can’t copy the resorts of the Caribbean or sub-Continent that boast turtle hatcheries or their own wetland, but our locals are pretty spectacular too and need a little help. We surely can host a butterfly and bee garden for little cost and a lot of fun and engagement with our guests. And an herb garden makes sense in every way except the lazy way we’ve always sourced.
Do we wait for our customers and teams to demand it or do we provide something small but highly visible as our very own local welcome? And to gain a competitive edge while doing what is right?
The locals will thank us!