Steve Newman, chief sustainability officer of Banyan Tree Hotels & Resorts, has left the hospitality group after more than eight years to join EarthCheck, a benchmarking certification and advisory firm for the travel sector.
As CSO of EarthCheck, he has launched the firm’s new environmental, social and governance (ESG) division. The unit will support businesses in areas such as sustainability reporting, science-based targets setting, and integrating sustainability within business operations.
Banyan Tree is looking to appoint a successor to Newman, Eco-Business understands, although the company has not confirmed the new appointment.
Newman is currently based in Bintan, Indonesia, but will be relocating to Brisbane, EarthCheck’s headquarters, later in the year. Besides certification, EarthCheck helps companies measure their environmental footprint, develop decarbonisation or sustainability strategies, and upskill teams with ESG capabilities.
Newman told Eco-Business that that his new role gave him the opportunity to help more hospitality businesses in Asia Pacific work towards their sustainability goals.
Commenting on the challenges facing chief sustainability officers in the sector, Newman said companies are too often scrambling to demonstrate all of the things they’re doing in sustainability, and lack focus on the issues that are material to their business.
“Particularly in the early stages, organisations want to show the world that sustainability means something to them, and a lot of the things they’re doing tick boxes. But increasingly, companies are being challenged over their sustainability claims – which can leave them exposed,” Newman said, pointing to the rise in legal challenges to corporate sustainability claims over the past year.
“It’s often a case of misdirection – companies want people to pay attention to all of their achievements, and forget about the really difficult things they’re struggling with,” he said.
However, Newman noted that the sustainability sector is starting to mature, with standardisation in sustainability reporting helping chief sustainability officers navigate the “alphabet soup” of jargon in the industry. “But it’s still very confusing, particularly for people who are new to the industry,” he said.
Despite travel and tourism accounting for approximately 10 per cent of global employment before the pandemic hit in 2020, there are no real standards for sustainability reporting in the sector, he noted.
Newman, who has a PhD in marine ecology, joined Banyan Tree as group director of conservation in 2015, based in the Maldives. He has worked for the group in a variety of roles in Singapore and Phuket, and was managing director of the Banyan Tree Global Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm.
At Banyan Tree, he oversaw the development of the company’s sustainability brand standards and policies, developed its materiality, strategy and roadmap to 2030 and implemented a supplier code of conduct covering over US$65m in purchases, and calculated adjusted and unadjusted gender pay gaps.
Newman also implemented a plastic reduction initiative that led to a 51 per cent reduction in single-use plastic and through the Banyan Tree Foundation funded numerous environmental and social projects, notably in the group’s 25th anniversary building libraries and classrooms in 25 schools around the world.