This is an original article in collaboration with Banyan Tree Group.
COVID-19 has forced many businesses to take a long hard look at what they need to do to survive and support their employees and customers. This may not be all negative, however. There is much to look forward to in the near future, for businesses to recover and discover, and help in crafting a better future for all.
Since the global pandemic, many companies are reshaping business models, contingency measures and regulatory standards in preparation for the next normal. Among them is the concept of Regenerative Business.
In August of 2020, The New York Times wrote an issue on “regenerative travel”, which means to leave a place better than when you found it. This is a step further in sustainability, which focuses on slowing the degradation of nature and culture. Also, while sustainability is about the ability to sustain (i.e. continue into the future), regeneration suggests positive feedback and regrowth.
Bill Reed of design firm Regenesis Group, who pioneered the concept, said that regeneration means to transform and develop a collaborative relationship with nature. To do so, we have to understand nature on a deeper level. These are not simply buzzwords – with this shift in mindset, the tourism industry can no longer be satisfied with simply trying not to harm a place. Instead, hotels, agencies, operators and others in the industry should work actively to improve their area of operations, and move beyond communication to collaboration.
The case for regenerative businesses
Beyond the tourism industry, other organisations can apply the concept of regenerative businesses by protecting, restoring and replenishing both human capital and natural resources alike. In doing so, they can achieve greater financial performance and impact than their peers.
In today’s environment, companies who care about their environmental and social impact gain credibility, enhance brand loyalty and improve their bottom line. Leading this charge are the millennials and Generation Z, who want to see business take on an active role in sustainability while collaborating with the public sector, regulators and government bodies.
Millennials and Generation Z advocating for climate action. Source: Pixabay
A 2016 study found that 75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a responsible company, while 83% would be more loyal to a company that helps address social and environmental issues.
Increasingly, investors are also holding business leaders accountable for their environmental and social impact. In 2019, Harvard Business School published research that showed that companies with clearly articulated societal purpose and who prioritise environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues are more trusted, more profitable, and outperform in the stock market.
So where should companies, who are looking to respond to this trend of regenerative businesses, begin?
A return to purpose
One of the key characteristics of a regenerative business is having a clear social and environmental purpose. This purpose should be compatible with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and needs to shape the way the business is both designed and run, according to a 2017 report by Deloitte.
For Banyan Tree Group, the impact of COVID-19 on travel and tourism forced the hospitality group to go back to basics. Beyond ensuring survivability, it is building to thrive, grow in resilience, and adapt to future risks. As the Group’s Founder and Executive Chairman Mr Ho Kwon Ping shared recently in The Business Times, purpose guides the company’s evolution.
“It is easy to forget that the best businesses are vehicles for deeper value creation. Profit is the fuel that keeps it going. But in the end, the vehicle needs a destination, a roadmap, and a compass. This compass is purpose. Companies now need to shift from an adrenaline-fuelled crisis response mindset to a more strategic, methodical, purpose-driven approach,” said Mr Ho.
The Group returned to its corporate ethos of “Embracing the Environment, Empowering People” – one that advocates for the greater good, and for creating an environment where employees can be their best selves. Looking inward, this was followed by a slew of initiatives to strengthen the mental wellbeing of employees, including a complimentary tele-therapy service that collaborates with externally certified wellbeing practitioners; an internal learning revolution promoting resilience, self-awareness and self-care; and an organisational wellbeing index with a set of 64 questions on employees’ lifestyle practices, based on the Group’s eight pillars of wellbeing.
Banyan Tree Group recently introduced a slew of initiatives to strengthen the mental wellbeing of its employees.
Combining wellbeing and sustainability
Banyan Tree Group’s focus on wellbeing extends beyond its employees. Amidst the global pandemic, the Group continues to champion sustainably sourced food and responsible procurement in its commitment to improving the wellbeing of guests and maintaining a sustainable supply chain.
This involved the launch of the Group’s first gourmet organic farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand, which focuses on import substitution and reducing carbon footprint without sacrificing flavor. Other initiatives included a partnership with Grassroots Pantry to develop healthy, plant-based menus and sustainable kitchen practices, and implementing a 25% benchmark of sustainable seafood sourcing by 2025 from sustainable fisheries. You may read more about these initiatives in this article.
Banyan Tree Group is working with Grassroots Pantry to develop healthy, plant-based menus and sustainable kitchen practices.
Catalysing positive change
Addressing global challenges requires collective action. By shifting from a competitive to a collaborative mindset, regenerative businesses can work together on pressing issues facing our world tomorrow.
One way Banyan Tree Group is doing this is to open up its grant-giving Banyan Tree Global Foundation to external projects further afield from its immediate operating communities. In October of 2020, the Greater Good Grants was launched to support innovative and impactful projects across six areas that align to the SDGs as well as the Group’s core ethos.
Since inception, the Foundation has given project grants to over 150 partners in Banyan Tree Group’s operating locales. In the launch press release, Co-founder and Chairperson of Banyan Tree Global Foundation Ms Claire Chiang announced that: “This is our ecosystem of greater good, centred on our belief that our business is a vehicle for societal betterment and transformation. In this time where hope and optimism are needed more than ever, we hope to catalyse positive ripple effects and extend our support to more partners seeking to create positive, sustainable change.”
Not just survive, but thrive
By regenerating people, places, and the planet, businesses could enhance the wellbeing of countless people and revitalise communities, assisting in their recovery in the wake of COVID-19 and helping them thrive beyond that.
Now is the time to realise untapped opportunities during this crisis. We all have a choice to reimagine and regenerate – to leave behind a legacy that is focused on balancing profit with the greater good.