Last week I attended a lecture by Lawrence Bloom that he titled “Water and Economic Sustainability: How do we affect the cause rather than cause the effect”. When I first got to the lecture I didn’t know what to expect, and I wasn’t entirely sure who Lawrence Bloom was, but after listening to his lecture I realized this man changed the world one towel at a time.
Lawrence Bloom is the Secretary General of the Be Earth Foundation. This foundation is a part of the United Nations and their job is to advise other countries and agencies on how to meet the Sustainable Development Goals that were put into place by the UN in 2016. Bloom was also on the executive committee for InterContinental Hotels. This position, coupled with his knowledge of systems thinking and sustainability allowed him to come up with a revolutionary idea for hotels in the early 1990’s. His idea was simple, give guests the option to have their towels washed every night, or just once a week. This idea seems small, but in reality, it was a huge success. InterContinental Hotels has saved literally cubic miles of water and literal tons of detergent from this process.
This idea sparked a whole new path for the hotel business. Bloom then went on to form an environmental manual that set guidelines to help make their hotels more sustainable. This manual had so much success that the Prince of Wales saw it, and decided to make all five star hotels adopt it and use it. Mr. Bloom talked about the importance of this because it set many more sustainable ideas in motion, such as another hotel company planting a tree for every five towels that they didn’t wash. This might also seem small, but then I sat back and I thought about how many guests come in and out of hotels on a daily basis, and how many trees could be planted if everyone treated their towels at hotels normally and only washed them once or twice a week.
After his lecture, the event had a question and answer portion. One person asked Mr. Bloom about the triple bottom line and how his company was helping in other areas like socially and economically. He responded by saying that he believes the biggest opportunities for businesses to acquire wealth in the future is going to come from serving humanity. He then cited an example of InterContinental resort hotels, where they no longer get food shipped from overseas. In these resort hotels, they employ locals, mostly women, to cook. He then went on to explain that the women had the responsibility of gathering the food and they could make as much as they wanted to sell to make their own profit or eat if they wish. This empowers these women by giving them control over their own finances, while also supporting the local community by buying local foods. Bloom also said that the resorts helped to build schools in these areas so the workers’ children could get an education. This shows that Mr. Bloom and his company are striving to not only be sustainable environmentally, but also socially and economically by these initiatives that will continue to grow and gain popularity.