The ethical hotel room… a look at Fairtrade products

Hotels have to consider guests when it comes to hotel products, but how often do they consider those who produce, farm or manufacture the products in hotel kitchens, guest rooms and bathrooms? accomnews looked into Fairtrade products, and how they not only benefit workers around the globe, but also the guests in Australian and New Zealand hotels.

Fairtrade products are described as being “about better prices, decent working conditions, local sustainability, and fair terms of trade for farmers and workers in the developing world.” To many Australian and New Zealand consumers, the Fairtrade mark is a mark not only of ‘fairness’, but also of genuine quality.

According to research undertaken by Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand (AU & NZ), there are over 3,000 Fairtrade certified products found across Australia and New Zealand, with over 1,226 Fairtrade certified producer organisations across 74 countries worldwide. In a booklet aimed at hoteliers, Fairtrade recently stated that: “Everything in the room, from the cotton in the towels, linen and pillows to those friendly welcome chocolates, could carry the Fairtrade Certification Mark. A mark of fairness, of quality. With informed choices, everything is possible.”

Not only can these products change the way a guest experiences a hotel, but according to Fairtrade: “These small changes can make a big difference to the livelihood of someone on the other side of the world.”

Why should hotels consider using Fairtrade?

Guests appreciate Fairtrade. According to Fairtrade AU & NZ’s research, 78 percent of New Zealanders and 50 percent of Australians recognise the Fairtrade symbol when they see it on product packaging or menus. With more New Zealanders and Australians becoming globally and environmentally conscious, Fairtrade products are an important aspect of many people’s decision making when it comes to purchases, and could considerably set a hotel apart from the masses.

According to the report produced by Fairtrade for hoteliers: “Using Fairtrade-certified products will create a name for your hotel. Not the one that is now above the door of course, but one that is recognised in the hotelier world. A hotel that represents change. A hotel that says fairness is worth the extra effort, and this is something both you and your guests will feel better for.”

There are a range of premium products available at reasonable prices. It’s a common misconception that Fairtrade products are available at a premium, when in fact the opposite can often be true. Fairtrade products are often premium quality, but without a premium price-tag. Products can be purchased in bulk from reputable Fairtrade sources, making them more affordable to large establishments, and according to Fairtrade, their use is profitable for both hoteliers and those growing or manufacturing the products.

Hotels can continue using current suppliers. According to Fairtrade, hotels can consider using existing suppliers, as long as their suppliers ensure that the cotton or ingredients in products are Fairtrade-certified; however, changes can involve time and patience. Local Fairtrade foundations may be willing to assist both hotels and suppliers in the process of change, so it’s worth hotel owners, managers and decision makers doing their research.

It simply helps. In Australia and New Zealand, workers, farmers and manufacturers are fortunate enough to have standards of practice that ensure they work in healthy and sustainable conditions, with serious ramifications for businesses that do not operate in compliance with standards. By purchasing ethically made products, hotels can extend this privilege across the globe.

Where should hotels start?

Start a conversation with suppliers. Hotel owners, managers, or decision makers can pick up the phone and have a conversation with existing suppliers – they may be surprised to find out that a number of Fairtrade products are available at a similar cost.

Give guests a choice. The switch to Fairtrade doesn’t have to happen overnight, and the choice can be left to guests. By providing both Fairtrade and existing products to guests and noting which products are being used, a hotel may gage guests’ demand for Fairtrade products. According to the Fairtrade report for hoteliers, hotels have experienced overwhelming demand for Fairtrade products, which was only realised when the option was provided to guests.

What products can hotels switch?

Products hotels could consider trialling or converting include:

  • Cotton towels
  • Linen
  • Apparel
  • Welcome chocolates
  • Shower products
  • Mini bar items
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Restaurant ingredients.

Currently, only one percent of Australian and New Zealand Fairtrade product sales included cotton products, with the biggest Fairtrade categories being chocolate, coffee and tea. With hotels utilising so many cotton products, figures would suggest that cotton linen, towels and apparel would be an excellent starting point for hoteliers.

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