Editor checks in: ESG, let’s talk about it (consciously)

    730 565 Hamish Kilburn
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    Editor checks in: ESG, let’s talk about it (consciously)

    Are you discombobulated with the various buzzwords that are circulating conversations around sustainability? Why are we being advised to use the term ESG, and what does it even mean? Editor Hamish Kilburn attempts to answer these questions when trying desperately to encourage people to be more conscious when using terminology on the global design and hospitality scene… 

    Throughout my childhood, there was one saying over others that I remember most vividly. “Think before you speak,” my mother, teacher – even my gymnastics coach, would say. It’s been ingrained into my head ever since I received soap in my mouth after asking for the ‘effing’ marmalade at the breakfast table, when my grandparents were present.

    As I grew up, careless back-chatting advanced into opinions being formed. Later, this transformed, as luck would have it, into a career of journalism where I have always found comfort and passion in sticking up for the unpopular and ethically addressing the formally unsaid or underrepresented (or both at times).

    “ESG stands for Environmental, Social, Governance.”

    With that in mind – and in the risk of sounding overtly negative in this already challenging era of design and hospitality – I would like to address the greenwashing effects of buzzwords. The latest of which, surrounding the topic of sustainability, is ESG, which stands for Environmental, Social, Governance. The decision was made (by whom, I am still not entirely sure) to replace the over-used term of ‘sustainability’ with ‘ESG’ in the hope of encouraging people to think about the wider context. But in doing so, the problem has in fact escalated. I have waited until now, adhering to the unspoken rule of thinking before I speak, to put forward my views on this matter, but I’m afraid my frustration has boiled over.

    Lounge area at Inhabit queens park london with natural light filled interior and wooden crafted furniture

    Image caption: When it opens later this year, Inhabit Queen’s Gardens will shelter a conscious design narrative, which is sustainable and innovative. | Image credit: Inhabit Hotel / Tim Evan Cook

    “The truth is, I don’t care what words are use, so long as they are spoken or written with morality, understanding and meaning.” – Hamish Kilburn, Editor, Hotel Designs.

    Having watched friends, colleagues, clients and brands blurt out the term without fully comprehending it, enough is enough. And they are not alone, nor do I blame them. Many people, quite understandably, assume (making an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’ in the process) that the ‘S’ in ESG stands for ‘sustainability’, which voids the entire sentiment of using yet another acronym. Instead it stands for social; the social impacts of decisions.

    In addition, admittedly fuelled by passion and good will, eco-warriors – of which I say with sensitivity as I put myself in the same category – unintentionally have amplified the stigma around sustainability that heavily suggests that if you’re not using the right terminology then you’re on the wrong side of history against the wider issue of climate change.

    The truth is, I and many others who care deeper about the wider and devastating impacts of climate change, don’t care what words are use, so long as they are spoken or written with morality, understanding and meaning. I can get on board with ESG, but I do feel like there are other words that can be used that offer more clarity.

    coastal bedroom designed using net zero principles and sutainable materials

    Image caption: This month, Perkins&Will announced how it plans to go carbon neutral on its projects by 2030. | Image credit: Perkins&Will

    I also fear that the industry’s strive to say the right thing, instead of trying to do everything we can to live and work more consciously, will camouflage those who are proposing and delivering very good and innovative work behind the scenes, which is where the attention should really be focused on. This month, we shone the spotlight on several of these, including Perkins&Will’s mission to become Net Zero by 2030, Harrison Spinks’ on-going journey to become carbon-neutral by 2023 and two hotels that, when they open, will seriously disrupt and challenge the current hospitality landscape. In just a few weeks, I will have the pleasure of joining industry legends from Interior Design Matters on stage at the Surface Design Show to discuss the significance of sustainability and why we all should act now to become better working citizens.

    As we leave January behind – having explored hotel openings and smart tech – we move into investigating our upcoming features; surface design and lighting. 2022 is well and truly underway, folks and, during the next 11 months, I hope you will see how our committed team will discover the unsung heroes when finding those around us who are showing original and conscious concepts that will better people.

    If hotel designers, architects, hoteliers and brands developed themselves while being conscious to those around them as well as the environment they are in, then the hospitality and hotel design landscape, on a global level, would be a much cleaner and greener place to sleep, work, play and eat.

    Consciously yours (always),

    Editor, Hotel Designs

    Hamish Kilburn / 27.01.2022


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