Lucia Loposova, founder of Green Hospitality tells us about sustainability in the industry.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Lucia Loposova: Considering that I am based in Hong Kong and my closest family is in Europe, it has been a challenging year for us all as we were not able to see each other in person. On the bright side, with not a single lock-down imposed on Hong Kong, I have not felt the impact of COVID-19 as much as my family did back in Europe.
Tell us about you, your career, and how you founded Green Hospitality
Lucia Loposova: It happened really by accident. I studied sustainable tourism during my uni times but later on went working across industries, roles, and countries until finally landing an opportunity at a university in Hong Kong. In my role at the University of Hong Kong, I was going to support social impact startups by placing undergraduate students to work with them on scaling organizations’ impact. One of our partner companies in this program, Soap Cycling, had at that time received funding to create thought leadership activities around sustainable hospitality but they lacked the right talent to move the project forward. Since my students were already involved in it, I took over the lead on this project and we delivered our first successful conference in April 2019. From that point onwards, I knew something was going on and the work that we started was timely and needed. In 2020 we then decided that once the funding is over, we will turn this project into a standalone entity as we organically started working on multiple projects and potential solutions for the industry. And here we are now, in 2021, we actually have become a legal entity that has multiple programs and projects in the pipeline.
How does Green Hospitality innovate?
Lucia Loposova: There are 3 elements we follow to bring about innovation: knowledge -> connections -> solutions. To break it down, first, we try to understand the issue at hand (e.g. food waste) through research, then we analyze the stakeholders around that topic and bring them together through our think tanks where we create alliances and identify low hanging fruits in order to promote systemic change through collaboration. Finally, these collaborations result in innovative projects that we co-create with our partners. We also host regular hackathons and creative jams to come up with ideas and involve youth and other startups to find solutions to problems that are beyond our current expertise.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Lucia Loposova: COVID-19 has put a lot of pressure on organizations with a very lean structure like ours. We have only a couple of employees and in this start-up stage, we were hoping to fundraise through different channels. However, with the grim situation everywhere, many organizations got to the point where they had to go look for additional resources to survive, and hence the competition for the funds has increased. Being a young organization, we are finding it difficult to achieve our financial needs. In a normal year, we would be supported by our industry stakeholders through sponsorship or membership schemes that we wanted to launch. However, given that the hospitality industry has been one of the worst-hit industries, it has made it impossible to rely on this source of income. Luckily, we have very low operational expenses as we have been working remotely since our inception and have built a system that allows us to benefit from the work of skilled-based volunteers and interns keeping our overheads low while continuing our mission.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources and what are the lessons learned?
Lucia Loposova: Contrary to most of the organizations, we did not need to cut anyone off. Actually, our team grew and this was partially thanks to the pandemic too. Many people started thinking about working for an organization with a deeper purpose or on environmental sustainability or, unfortunately, got laid off. Therefore, we have been approached by a number of individuals who wanted to shift their career focus or improve certain skills. That has been an opportunity for us to get extra hands to deliver what we set for ourselves while being on a stringent budget while providing space for our team members to upgrade their skills. We have grown from a couple of team members and interns to our current 25 employees, skilled-based volunteers, and interns.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Lucia Loposova: Since we have always been operating largely remotely (and actually have team members across geographies) we have been used to communicating over digital platforms even before COVID-19. We have started creating more online content which was welcome by our stakeholders and provided them the opportunity to connect with other leaders while staying safely at home. We made use of a lot of different digital tools available online and even ran our 300 person conference through my personal meeting room on Zoom. We had to be creative and pivot and I am proud to say that our team has embraced these challenges with an open mind and we have had a lot of success over the past year with our initiative and building the stakeholder base.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Lucia Loposova: We have been working closely with the University of Hong Kong and were lucky to receive a grant through their funding scheme that supported some of our headcount and key projects. Since we were in the transition of creating a new entity and separating the original project from the mother organization, we were not able to apply for any grants. We are currently working on several submissions not related to COVID-19 relief but rather focusing on our original mission.
Your final thoughts?
Lucia Loposova: I wish that COVID-19 will be a wake-up call for the industry and individuals to accelerate the transition to truly sustainable practices. GREEN Hospitality will certainly be there to help those who want to start or advance their journey by joining forces and co-creating lasting solutions.
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