Sustainability Data Management Solution for Tourism and Hospitality Businesses: Weeva Case Study
(Head Office) London, United Kingdom
- Don’t wait to take the first step. Many travel providers—particularly SMEs—find it difficult to know where and how to start their sustainability journeys. But you don’t need to know everything or have a dedicated sustainability team to start making progress. The important thing is to just start—and there are accessible, affordable tools that can guide and support you in gathering and tracking your data and measuring progress.
- Make sustainability an integral part of your business operations. Rather than thinking of sustainability management as a one-time exercise or check-list assessment, incorporating more sustainable practices can ensure your business’ long-term success and resilience.
- Facilitate staff engagement. A key part of effective sustainability management is task sharing across all members of your team, empowering them through education, upskilling, and awareness-building, and distributing responsibilities for data collection, tracking and reporting.
- Promote behaviour change. The whole point of measuring and managing your sustainability performance is to achieve progress over time. To ensure continuous improvement, the sustainability management tools and solutions you use must support your aim of promoting and incentivising positive behaviour change.
- Prioritise ease of use while understanding complexity. While sustainability management can be a complex challenge with many variables, it’s important to keep your processes and approaches simple, so that all your team members—including those who are new to sustainability—can be part of your efforts.
Why Sustainability Management?
The travel sector employs 10% of the world’s working population and contributes nearly US$6 trillion to the global economy each year. However, it is also responsible for up to 11% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Given this, the industry has a responsibility to improve its impact—and fast. The dangers of a rapidly heating world are becoming ever more apparent and only serve to exacerbate the challenges already faced by the travel industry.
At the same time, consumers are increasingly considering sustainability when making choices about where to travel, how to get there, and where to stay. According to Booking.com's 2023 Sustainable Travel Report, 76% of travellers say they want to travel more sustainably over the coming 12 months. Tourism businesses that don’t prioritise sustainability are now at risk of being left behind.
So, what can they do about it? For a long time, sustainability management was only accessible to large companies that could afford to employ chief sustainability officers or have large operational teams to support them. That meant that you only saw the big hotel chains and travel operators making gains in this space.
But by leveraging technology, it is now possible to make science-based, and data-driven sustainability management tools accessible to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which make up 80% of all tourism businesses. This is what has driven the development of Weeva.
Key Priorities for Sustainability Management Solutions
Weeva began as a think tank of industry experts volunteering their time and expertise. In 2020, Julie Cheetham, with her Weeva co-founder, Lindsey Walter (Nianova Advisors), brought together a group including Dr. Delphine Malleret-King (The Long Run), Dr. Hando Hain, and Saúl Blanco Sosa (Preferred by Nature), Dr. Andrea Ferry (sustainability consultant), and Juliet Kinsman (Conde Nast Traveller UK), to name a few.
The experts assessed the landscape of sustainability solutions for hospitality providers and identified the need for a platform that would be accessible to businesses of all sizes, providing them with a holistic view of their impacts, and the practical steps they can take to improve their practices.
Some of the key findings include:
- Beyond assessment: Many existing sustainability tools focused on one-off assessments. While assessing one’s performance is of course important, such tools only provide a snapshot in time, and as such, are limited as tools for guiding businesses on a sustainability journey and finding opportunities to improve.
- Certification as a means to an end: While certifications are important—particularly for helping consumers make informed decisions—businesses need management solutions that support continuous improvement, towards and beyond securing a certification.
- Nudging for sustainability: To guide businesses on a sustainability journey, a technology-led platform needs to ‘nudge’ them towards setting targets and achieving goals, since research showed that this is often a barrier for SMEs. This means offering tools to measure a business’ initial baseline; spot inefficiencies; and increase productivity.
- Engaging the whole team: It’s also important for tourism businesses to have a sustainability management platform that enables various individuals across the organisation to manage tasks and data capture, which improves productivity, as well as keeping employees engaged and driving towards common goals.
Partnerships to Bring Vision to Life
Building on this vision, Weeva co-founders Julie and Lindsey collaborated closely with partners at The Long Run as well as with specialist experts in the fields of carbon emissions, social justice, organisational culture, business viability, and cultural appreciation to develop Weeva’s 360° Framework.
Weeva's 360˚ Framework
Drawing on The Long Run 4C’s – Conservation, Commerce, Culture and Community – it includes 18 interconnected sustainability parameters that can be tracked and managed. Julie and Lindsey selected this methodology because of their belief that sustainable operations go beyond environmental considerations, and must incorporate social development aspects to ensure resilience and long-term success.
Weeva is advised by a steering committee made up of members of Nianova, a diverse community of people-centric, innovative businesses aligned in values, embedded in sustainable business practice, net positive impact and job creation.
Critical Business Needs for Effective Sustainability Management
Based on the feedback received from Weeva’s users across the tourism and hospitality sector, here are some of the key themes that comes to light.
- Data collection, tracking and reporting: Businesses value understanding how they align with global sustainability standards—both to track their own progress and to support them to pursue certifications. Reporting on their progress is also important as a way to engage their stakeholders—whether that’s investors, guests, or local communities.
- Staff training and engagement: Businesses need sustainability management tools that help them educate and up-skill their staff, and make the process accessible and easy to understand, even for sustainability beginners.
- Behaviour change and accountability: Technology and data management solutions should help encourage users to form healthy new sustainability habits—and break old ones.
- Employee engagement: One of the key benefits of having a data-driven sustainability management platform is to make it easy to share and delegate tasks to colleagues. This helps ensure that sustainability is a company-wide journey, not just the responsibility of one person or department.
- Ongoing commitment: Getting started with sustainability is actually relatively easy – consistency is the hard part. So a tool designed to help teams manage their sustainability efforts must also help keep team members invested in sustainability initiatives for the long run.
What It Takes to Build a Viable Tool
Weeva sits at the intersection of sustainability, tourism and technology. As such, the development of the tool has required team members with distinct experience and skills in each of those sectors. Even with a team of experts, the development process involved a sharp learning curve and the path has not always been straightforward, including several pivots.
Some of the factors that have so far contributed to the success of the tool include:
- Focusing on in-house development of the platform, working with a cross-functional team of sustainability experts and developers that now work hand-in-glove to address the complexity of the challenges around sustainability management in tourism.
- Bringing together a global team of experts representing different aspects of the tourism sector and a wealth of sustainability knowledge and expertise.
- Striking a balance between building a sustainability tool that is as comprehensive as possible and addressing the need to promote behaviour change through an easy-to-use-and-grasp system of tools and educational material. There needs to be a good product-market fit that reflects the reality of the travel sector, where sustainability management as a practice is still largely nascent.
A sample view of the Weeva sustainability management platform dashboard