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Sustainability and the spa industry

From Seaspiracy to single use plastic, we’re all getting a little more aware about the sustainability of what we do, and the impact that our daily actions have on the environment.

We know that our own wellbeing is inextricably linked to that of the planet, but in many ways our own footprint is at the mercy of the companies and organisations that we buy from and interact with. The Sustainable Spa Association has been working with spas to help them make decisions that improve the long-term sustainability of individual destinations and the spa industry as a whole.

We spoke to Co-Founder and Director of The Sustainable Spa Association, Lucy Brialey, who highlighted that sustainability in spas, much like it is in general, starts with education. Here she explains what the spa industry has been doing for the health of guests, communities, business, and the planet.

sustainable spa - Whatley Manor

What does sustainability in spas look like?

We did a big survey last year around sustainability and in the initial instance it’s really about getting people to understand what ‘sustainability’ means. We all immediately jump to recycling and single use plastic but it’s really about the greater understanding of business sustainability, which we define as ‘people, profit, and planet.’

Those pillars are based on a combination of factors including the United Nations sustainable development goals and principles from the circular economy. It’s thinking about the local community and the global community as well as the health of the business.

It’s not about having one or two sustainable elements; it’s about values. When you lift the proverbial bonnet of the business you need to be able to see that straight down the value chain, the environment is considered, not just in the end product but with everyone and everything behind it.

Is it possible for a spa to be sustainable and profitable?

When companies pay attention to those three things - people, profit, and planet - they will eventually be able to generate a greater profit as they have better buy in from clients when they meet their value track. Customers generally want to support sustainability, but they are vulnerable to the decisions of those they’re buying from. When you really commit to sustainability, those decisions become a set of business values rather than simply paying lip service to corporate social responsibility.

Do consumers seek out sustainable values at hotels and spas?

Around 98% of consumers want to have sustainable options but rely on the businesses they buy from to provide that. So, they are looking for these options and it’s important for spas to communicate what they do. However, what’s communicated has to be factual and genuine. I think it’s important to highlight that sustainability should never feel like a chore, it should be celebrated within businesses and be a source of inspiration. Sustainability goals are something to be proud and it’s a journey you can take customers on with you.

How have you been encouraging spas to make sustainable decisions?

We work with spas to support them. One of the fun things we have done, which has had great uptake, has been our Spa Waste Not Challenge. We encouraged spas to address one waste stream in their business and think about what they could do with it to keep it out of landfill. Spas globally have taken it up and have been really creative. Whatley Manor incinerated waste to produce energy and put it back into the National Grid, while the Six Senses group were more rustic in their approach, using old linens to make tote bags for guests to take away, grinding coffee beans to make scrubs for the spa and making sure they have a circular economy model in their business.

Our real aim is to create change and bring education. Our accreditation is not just a tick box process where you get a pass or fail, it’s progressive and it’s audited. What we uncover leads to education, which leads to change. It’s about giving people the tools to make meaningful change, by providing access to everything they need. Everything from staff travel plans to water use - making actionable change and having policies in place to reflect those changes.

This ultimately comes together to form a sustainable business plan so actions and achievements can be evidenced and shared to help consumers make responsible choices. It isn’t about being right or wrong and it isn’t about being perfect today. It’s about showing where you were and what you achieved or didn’t, so it can be shared, celebrated and rewarded. It’s about that big shift change in attitude to make continuous improvement. In that spirit, we will also update our own information as time goes on.

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Look for the sustainability ‘at a glance’ to book a sustainable spa break.


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