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#WorldEnvironmentDay2022 : Sustainability As A Catalyst For Business Innovation

Shruti Shibulal, Director, Tamara Leisure Experiences, and Co-Lead on World Economic Forum's Sustainable Destinations chapter on what it takes to build for a forward-thinking, purpose driven organisation that is both agile enough to evolve inventively and resilient enough to navigate change

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Building a comprehensively sustainable business model requires designing novel systems of operation that will not only function efficiently but remain resilient and self-sufficient. While specific practices of sustainability and their measured results may vary from industry to industry, experimentation remains central to the process of establishing successful, purpose-driven companies.

This requirea testing and innovating routine functions to ensure conservation, eco-responsive adaptation and community engagement.

Delineation of team goals and working backwards become integral in this process. First, pan-industry consumption patterns and assessing must be studied and compared to particular operations and functions. Research must be directed primarly focus on reducing waste of basic resources such as water and energy.

The process of finding viable solutions requires intensive cost rationalisation and experimentation. This exercise not only makes a business environmentally sustainable, but also serves to innovate operations across the board by optimising financial planning, informing employee training and inspiring unique service offerings.

We were able to do this at Tamara Leisure Experiences to reduce the use of freshwater, for instance, by employing various tactics ranging from constructing a 800,000 litre capacity rainwater harvesting tank and reverse-osmosis center at the property in Coorg, establishing a state-of-the-art water treatment facility in Trivandrum and employing water conserving plumbing fixtures that reduced consumption by 10,000 litres per day at a single property.

To ensure that we are energy efficient our design and building processes include the use of studied green practices. The O Café at our upscale business hotel in Trivandrum, O by Tamara, was designed to be energy conserving. The café has solar heat-absorbing glass panels, that leverage Trivandrum’s largely sunny climate to provide natural thermal insulation and lighting. A protective film placed over the glass also prevents overheating while still transmitting high visual lighting. Roller blinds featuring breathable fabric will be placed over the glass to act as harsh-light protectors and ventilation regulators. Together these elements moderate temperature and light in the space, which significantly reduce our use of artificial cooling and lighting systems throughout the year.

A consequence of thoughtful green design is a ripple effect of innovation and creative service offerings. In Coorg for instance, harvested rainwater allows us to sustainably landscape the 180-acre estate and maintain a 40-acre organic farm that includes a coffee plantation as well as a variety of fruits, vegetables, spices and other native produce. Along with supplying our kitchens with fresh, locally sourced ingredients, the farm allows guests to partake in sourcing their own coffee beans and to even plant a tree as a momento of their stay with us.

In addition to catalysing inventive operational models, the compounding cost savings from these practices contribute to a reserve of resources that we could be redirected towards important initiatives that benefit employees and surrounding communities.

During the COVID-19 lockdowns last year, we did not lay off a single employee and instead were able to invest in providing over 100 hours of training and upskilling. We also ensured that everyone had access to mental health care and curated recreational events to ease the stress of a challenging time.

As a team, we also regularly participate in supporting local schools, non-profit organisations, small businesses and even providing relief in climate related emergencies such as the Kodagu floods in 2018.

Over the course of setting up environmentally sensitive practices, we learned a great deal about the important interconnections between local landscape and local culture. To ensure our operations are socially responsible and cohesive with native traditions we hired over 50 percent of pan-organisation staff from local and regional communities. Additionally, we regularly collaborate with local residents. Their invaluable generational knowledge of the area helps to inspire and inform the authentic local dishes on our menus, sustainable landscaping and farming processes, bird watching and nature tours, and wildlife-sensitive practices (such as the use of non disruptive night lighting and policies to limit sound pollution).

Planet-centric and people-focused policies such as these interweave to establish a fundamentally thoughtful culture; one that incubates diverse ideas, healthy experimentation and continuous improvement. This ultimately builds a forward-thinking, purpose driven organisation that is both agile enough to evolve inventively and resilient enough to navigate change.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Shruti Shibulal

Director, Tamara Leisure Experiences

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