We interview Motti Essakow, co-founder of Rythms by Design on Hotel sustainable procurement
by Aimee Rigby/Sept 5th 2021
Okay, so welcome to Zero Waste Kode. Thank you for joining us today- would you like to introduce yourself and your business, Rythms by Design?
I’m Motti Essakow, co-founder and, what I like to refer myself as, being the chief Imagineer at Rythms by Design.
Amazing. So, what is Rythms by Design? What do you do? What are the services that you offer?
So, Rythms by Design is a responsible or sustainable sourcing and procurement management company, targeting the hospitality, wellness, and superyacht sectors. Rythms by Design started, in theory, about two decades ago, when we were working more on projects, on the project side, in all areas of sustainable and eco and responsible travel tourism, mainly including hospitality at the global level. And way back then, when it was still a very small niche, we were recommending to the developers or the owners of what solutions to source, or procure, and most common response back then was: “well, we don’t know, we don’t know, can you help us do it?”
So, under the same umbrella as their projects, we’re doing all the sourcing and procurement until about seven years ago, we started noticing that sustainability was going into the mainstream, and the big global hotel groups were launching their own eco chic brands. And when we met with them, they said because sustainability is going into the mainstream and because everybody’s jumping on the bandwagon, and even though they had their own purchasing teams, it was kind of hard for them to identify one of these from the true naturals. So, they said would you do the sourcing and the procurement for us in whatever it was. So, we looked around, we saw there’s nobody doing this. So, we set up this company Rythms by Design, which focuses on responsible sourcing and procurement, but in all the four categories of which makes up sourcing and procurement for hotels, which means the BD&E, which is building design and equipment, the ID&E- interior design and equipment, the FF&E, which is fixtures, furnishings and equipment, and the OS&E, which is operating supplies and equipment.
So, across the board with responsible sourcing procurement. And one of the things we focus on is, not just looking at people, but also their business practices, and doing traceability analysis all the way down to the source. And if we can’t get to the source, we don’t do it.
Amazing. Yeah. So, in your opinion, do you feel that the hospitality industry needs a bit of a shake up when it comes to designing luxury, in order to source more sustainably? Sometimes, luxury and sustainability either go hand in hand or completely two separate things.
So, you’ve asked an interesting question, because the question and the answer goes back, I would say two or three decades ago. And it’s continued until today. And that, first of all, nobody really has a clear understanding of what sustainability means or is the definition.
Everybody has their own kind of interpretation in how they define and how they practice it. Now, yes, it used to be that when you talked about when you talked about luxury and sustainability, it was more perceived as being contradictory, that everything around sustainability was lower quality, higher priced, didn’t last, etc, etc. And what we’ve been able to do over the years is prove the exact opposite.
One of our main areas is organic textiles. So, we’ve been able to prove that organic textiles, it’s not as good as, but it could be better than the conventional. So, it all comes down to showing better, better performance, better quality, and in some cases, even cheaper prices. So, the second thing is that where the whole luxury end of the market has been defined for hospitality, because the consumers that care the most are the conscious consumers, and the conscious consumers are the ones that have high disposable incomes. So, by definition, they like to stay in hotels, not that are more eco, but that are shown to be doing the right thing.
Motti Essakow, co-founder and, what I like to refer myself as, being the chief Imagineer at Rythms by Design.
Amazing. Yeah, that’s really interesting. So, you said at the beginning there that everyone has their own definition of sustainability. In your experience, what’s your definition of what makes hospitality sustainable?
So, the actual official definition of the word sustainable, which is used a lot in finance and banking, is ‘keeping the balance’.
And what that means is keeping the balance between what? In the context of what we’re talking about it, it’s between destruction and restoration, and the whole idea is finding that balance, the yin, and the yang. So, it’s not about right or wrong, or good or bad. The whole idea of sustainability, it’s to find out where you are and what you’re doing. And then the whole guiding principles of sustainability, which everybody forgets about, it’s not based on the commitment and obligation to do everything at one time. Rather, it’s based on a commitment to do something and shows continuous improvement. Now, back in 1992, the summit in Rio, when the whole guiding principles of sustainability came out, it started off as the three pillars of sustainability: what we call people, planet, and profit, is the short version.
And what’s happened in reality is that at the global level, one of the reasons why sustainability as a movement has failed, is that while everybody’s recognised the three guiding pillars or principles, different regions have decided to focus on one component of it.
For example, in the UK, when people talk about sustainability, the focus is really on environmental sustainability.
In Asia when people talk about sustainability, it’s more around cultural and social sustainability. So, in my opinion, and what’s been proven worldwide is that, when you focus on all three elements, people, planet and profits, in every single question and every single answer, then it starts to succeed. And the only way to do that, another reason why sustainability hasn’t really succeeded is, especially at the decision-making level, is teaching people that sustainability means better efficiency, better ROI, return on investment. So, it’s basically showing people how to turn actions into numbers, and quantifying what you’re doing via numbers. And the more you can do that, the more buying you’ll start to get at the decision-making level. And this in the world of, in other words, how sustainability still being perceived today, it’s not so much showing the connection, but the contradiction between business and ideology instead of the other way around. So sustainability should be seen as the connection and not the contradiction between business and ideology.
That’s really interesting. Yeah. So, at Rythms by Design, do you focus on all three of those traditional sustainability pillars?
Correct. It is part of our DNA. Both in Rythms by Design and projects, whatever we do, in every angle, in every single question, no matter how small it is, we ask ourselves, does this particular product, or does this particular business, or this particular solution, address the three pillars? And if they don’t, we either work with them to introduce or implement it, or we just don’t continue with it. So, when focusing on environmental sustainability, or sustainability, a lot of organisations still look at sustainability from the angle of environmental sustainability and CSR. So, CSR means corporate social responsibility, and corporate social responsibility is one part of CR, which is corporate responsibility. They look at it as if CSR is a different component to sustainability. And it’s not, because CSR is one part of, or makes up the social and the cultural component of sustainability. So, when you’re looking at a theory of sustainability, CSR should be included in the social part or the cultural part, but not something as separate to sustainability, it’s part of sustainability.
So how is Zero waste management looked at and addressed at a global level in hospitality?
So, this is a very interesting question. And one of the main issues with zero waste management is first to understand what it all means. And when you go back to the guiding pillars of zero waste management; when we talk about reduce, reuse, recycle.
In the same way, as many people have their own definition of what sustainability means, the same way many people have their own definition of what Zero Waste management or recycling means.
For example, in the UK, when you talk about recycling, all that it means is, separation of garbage. That’s it, it doesn’t relate to Zero Waste Management in its entirety.
So, when we’re looking at the three pillars, there’s now a new pillar now, which is really the third one, the recycle part has been added on to upcycle. So, when we’re looking at zero waste management at the global level, it’s very interesting to see how different countries use waste as a way of also enhancing the local economies. So, having local people to come pick up waste.
For example, when we were working on projects in Thailand, we had local people coming by the hotel resorts, we’re picking up the waste and then reselling the waste, as a way of generating income for the families.
Another interesting project we did was in Vietnam, on Ha Long Bay, it was for the UNESCO, the World Heritage Site, we had these floating communities, and then how do you set up a waste management programme for a floating community? So, we literally set up these floating garbage dumps inside containers, and then how the communities all over the bay, the floating communities collectively came together. And in fact, it was very interesting, because you have different communities are fighting for a certain space of the of the water. And one of the things that kept them together was when they came to talk about how to dispose of waste. And one of the issues that they faced was, how waste was being ‘imported’ from the land to them. And then they were trying to figure out, “okay, how do we deal with this issue of waste that’s coming to us from the land, and which is a whole new thing for us, and how do we dispose of it?”
So, I guess it’s all about coming up with the answers on looking at waste in how it could relate to reduce, number one, reuse and recycle. And this is something which a lot of people don’t really know how to do. And after the recycle part, which means the upcycling part, the idea is to how do you keep it within the system that you can buy back or get back of whatever is that you throwing out?
So, for example, in the UK, there’s a company called Paper Round, and they’re the only waste management of their kind in the UK; where 100% of what they collect does not go to landfill, and is not shipped to other landfills offshore. It’s all separated and sent to other manufacturing facilities who then upcycle the waste, and then you can buy back in terms of other types of products, of what you actually throwing out. And I think if that happened on a greater global scale, you’ll have less and less waste in the industry.
Above images; Exterior image of the Plastic Free Larder. Below an image showing volunteers who help keep the community enterprise running! Their website which recently introduced a delivery service. https://packagefreelarder.uk
That’s amazing. Yeah. So, can you talk us through the three different types of technology and how they can help hospitality businesses operate more sustainably. And how important is tech in hospitality?
Well, on a general basis, I would say that the hospitality sector is about three to five years behind other global trends outside of hospitality, and oftentimes, especially when you’re talking around sustainability or technology, first of all, the most common response from decision makers is, “but how are we going to go to educate the consumer?” instead of realising that it’s not the consumer who needs educating, it’s the industry, because the consumer is already there, and they looking for whatever they’re looking for. So especially on the sustainability side. We try not so much to use the word sustainable, a) because nobody knows what it means, and our word for sustainable is more responsible, we use the word responsible. But in terms of technology, I would say the single biggest, in the context of sustainability, is raising the awareness levels technology wise, on the difference between green technology and clean technology. And this, I think, is the most fundamental thing to recognise, because when we’re talking about what is green technology, it’s any type of technology that does not bring a return on investment. And clean technology is any type of technology that does bring a return on investment.
So, for example, a light bulb can be considered more an example of green technology. Solar energy or something like that can be considered as an example of clean technology. So, I guess number one is to raise the awareness on what is, in general, the difference between clean and green technology.
Fantastic. Yes. So, out of interest, we have a lot of hospitality businesses who listen to the podcast- before if they wanted to come to you, what advice would you give them to operate more responsibly, as you say?
So, there are a couple of things. Number one, I think the single biggest change is happening right now is that it used to be the green thing, or the sustainable thing. And then your everyday operational thing. Now it’s all being integrated. It used to be you have sustainability best practice guidelines, and then your regular operational SRP’s and KPI’s which means standard operating procedures and key performance indicators. Now, it’s all being integrated. And the key to succeeding, the key to linking everything together is- and this is the biggest that way I see things happening the next year, two, three, four; is integrating sustainable or responsible best practice guidelines into regular SRP’s and KPI’s. So, in other words, you won’t have your green team as a separate entity. And your HOD’s or heads of department is another team. The HOD’s, by definition, will be the green team. Because what they’ll be doing as part of their everyday operations will include the whole sustainable and responsible component. That, I think, is number one, because still 99% of hotels, when they start off the whole sustainability thing, they’re still looking at it from the angle of ideology. The second is, more and more, if hotels want to get the decision makers on board, and I’m talking about the investors, the owners, developers, and even the hotel operators, it’s placing a much greater emphasis on the financial component. In other words, measuring what you’re doing, and then translating all of your actions every single Financial Actions into financial numbers. So, what that means in practical terms, in the same way every organisation puts together a financial statement, or their annual accounts, you also have almost like a responsible business financial statement, which will highlight, not just what you’re doing, but how you’ve been able to quantify it into numbers.
That’s fantastic. Yes. So, I’m sure they will love to, where can our listeners find out more about Rythms by design, and get in touch if they would like to hear more of your advice?
You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or they can call me at 07975584753
Fantastic. Well, thank you so much for joining us today and sharing your wealth of experience on the podcast.
No problem. Thank you.