Exploring how hospitality artisans operationalise sustainability: “How do they do it?”
Stansfield, Maree Louise
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Throughout history, artisans have influenced societal, economic and political change (Cant, 2015; Hansen, 2009; Kristofferson, 2007; Morris, 2009; Pappano & Rice, 2013; Rock, 1998). Given the current global concern surrounding sustainability, and the resurgence of artisan production, this research looks to the hospitality artisan as a contemporary version of their historic namesake. It is hoped knowledge thus acquired will aid stakeholders and future hospitality operators in their quest for sustainability-focused change. Sustainability in hospitality is a growing area of interest for researchers. However, the transfer of theory into practice remains a problem for both industry and academia (Buckley, 2012). Much debate exists in scholarly literature about where sustainability solutions may exist to progress uptake in the industry. Exploring sustainability in practical environments, through the perspective of individuals, has been recommended for future research by some academics (Buckley, 2012; Jones, Hillier & Comfort, 2016; Willard, 2012). Recently Lim (2016) conceptualised an overlapping sustainability and creativity model as a mode of advancing sustainability stewardship in the hospitality industry. Lim’s (2016) accompanying discussion centres on the value that exists when hospitality actors creatively find solutions, overcome challenges and, take opportunities that produce pro-sustainability outcomes outside in-the-box thinking. With creativity in mind, a review of previous literature acknowledges that operators of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) and entrepreneurs share common opportunist, risk and creative destruction characteristics (Schaper & Volery, 2004; Schumpeter, 2003). SMEs have important roles to play in sustainability uptake according to some academics (Deucher, 2012; Lawrence, Collins, Pavlovich, & Arunachalam, 2006; Schaper, 2002). Similarly, entrepreneurs have been identified as valuable research subjects for sustainability-focused knowledge and positive change (Cohen & Winn, 2007; Hall, Daneke, Lenox, 2010; Parrish, 2010). Complementing this link, historic accounts posit artisans as entrepreneurial disrupters of the status quo, challengers of social problems and key actors who positively impact the well-being of society (British Library Board, 1841; Howell, 1996; Lucie-Smith, 1981). Given the world’s global concern with sustainability, artisans may be the future bottom-up disrupters of change. Therefore, the intersection of sustainability, SMEs, entrepreneurs and hospitality artisans provided a pertinent research nexus to explore how sustainability is operationalised, thereby contributing to knowledge that helps solve the problem of putting theory into practice. The aim of the research was to explore how hospitality owner/managers operationalise sustainability through their unique perspectives as contemporary artisans. The research addressed the important question: “How do artisans operationalise sustainability in their hospitality SME?” or essentially, “how do they do it?” The experiences and perspectives of the artisan participants were investigated using an interpretivist paradigm, qualitative methods and thematic analysis. The research findings show that all eight New Zealand hospitality artisan participants demonstrated high levels of perseverance, innovation and like-minded network building when faced with obstacles specific to their sustainable business model. The future of hospitality lies in an operator’s ability to understand, generate, and embed a mindset in the business that insists on environmental stewardship, social well-being and economic success. The findings revealed the potency of the artisans, small-producers, movers, shakers, radical thinkers and ultimately, concerned individuals as the fuel that can disrupt the current traditional business model. The starting point on a hospitality operators’ sustainable journey has recently been suggested as a research area that little is known about according to Font, Garay, and Jones (2016). The artisans’ sustainability consciousness is significant and illustrated as a critical starting point on the sustainable journey using the Golden Circle perspective (see Chapter 5). The lack of sustainability is a threat to our common future and there is a need to explore every avenue where positive change is sought. The participants, as artisans in this research, are disrupting the status quo. Appropriately, an artisan gets the first word: If you want to create a dynamic food supply you need to encourage its small, artisan producers which are on the cutting edge that influence the major cultural values of a country. It’s not the Goodman Fielders and frozen Watties peas and corn that make a country like France great. It’s individual farmers doing wonderful products that people go away and think of for the rest of their lives (Pat).