The Hospitality Industry: Sustainable Development

Subject: Environment
Pages: 20
Words: 5541
Reading time:
20 min
Study level: PhD

Introduction

The society that we are living in is dynamic in the sense that its values, practices, beliefs, and morals change with time to reflect the current norms and practices. These changes are essential especially in keeping up with the developments that are taking place at the level of an individual, the society, and the world at large (Brown, 1996). From a critical perspective, the changes that the world is currently experiencing have greatly affected the manner in which individuals, businesses, and governments operate. For instance, the management practices that many individuals and firms are currently putting in place to recognize the effects that humans have had on the environment in the past. Human activities have had detrimental effects on various aspects of our world, especially the environment (Adams, 2002). These effects can be felt either directly or indirectly. Examples of direct effects include the reduction in the size of water bodies, extinction of plant and animal species, environmental pollution, and a reduction in forest cover. On the other hand, examples of indirect effects include global warming, changes in weather patterns, and the depletion of the ozone layer (Brown, 1996).

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It is because of these activities that the United Nation Conference on the Environment and Development was held in 1992 in Rio de Janeiro (Adams, 2002). The main aim of this conference was to address the effects that humans have on the environment and to come up with measures that can be put in place to ensure that the environment is utilized in a manner that sustains the social and economic needs of individuals and at in an effective and efficient manner. Despite the challenges that were mentioned in the 2002 summit that was held in Johannesburg such as the increased level of global poverty, it was evident that many institutions had taken several measures to ensure that their operations are environmentally friendly, effective, and efficient.

These developments as well as the practices that managers in the hospitality industry have put in place have enabled them to achieve their set goals and objectives without compromising the status of the environment. Thus, the concept of sustainability or sustainable management is not a new managerial aspect in the hospitality industry. In the contemporary world, the managers in the hospitality industry are facing a lot of pressures that arise because of environmental degradation (Michaelis, 2003). It is thus essential for managers and the stakeholders of the hospitality industry to understand the various factors that affect the operations within this industry and whether the results of these factors are positive or negative. However, it is also essential to note at this point that tourists are also aware of the environmental changes that are currently being experienced in the world. Due to their high level of awareness, a huge proportion of tourists in the contemporary world have developed the attitude and perception that has led them to prefer using products or enjoy services that are eco-friendly. It is because of this development that many tourist destinations around the world have incorporated the concept of eco-management to ensure that their operations are not only sustainable but environmental friendly.

However, the hospitality industry can meet the meets and demands of their clients, achieve their mission, visions, goals, and objectives, and at the same time meet the environmental needs and demands. All these can be achieved through sustainable development and management (Michaelis, 2003). However, it is essential to not that sustainable management is a multifaceted discipline that comprises human, social, economic, and environmental sustainability (McMinn, 1997). This paper will however focus on the various factors that affect environmental sustainability, the resultant impacts, the current trends in environmental sustainability, and a focus on the future of sustainable development in the hospitality industry.

Sustainable Development

Over the last several decades, businesses have been facing a lot of pressure from scholars, the media, government agencies, and from consumer to adopt measures that enhance effective management of the environment (Duffy, 2002). Although firms in many industries adopted and incorporated these measures in their operations, most firms in the hospitality industry were reluctant to take these measures. However, after receiving a lot of pressure from their stakeholders, most firms in this industry have adopted and implemented the concept of sustainable development.

Choi and Chu (2001) defined sustainable development as the ability of a firm to be economically viable (profitable) in the short run and long run, to be environmental friendly, and to socially engage its stakeholders as measures of achieving long-term development goals. However, achieving sustainability is not an easy task since firms need to take a holistic approach that incorporates various strategies and techniques to ensure that the overall long-term goals are achieved. Thus, for a firm to be sustainable, it needs to consider three essential segments of its operations. These are:

  1. Its economic viability (profitability)
  2. Its stakeholders (the people)
  3. The environment (the platform in which it is operating on)

Thus, a firm needs to develop economic, social, and environmental goals and objectives that have to be achieved in the course of its normal operations. In the contemporary world, a firm is considered economically viable if it exhibits growth, operates in an effective and efficient manner, and maximizes its returns at the lowest operating costs (Hutchinson, 1996). Consequently, firms are considered to be socially stable it their internal staff society that is effective and efficient, engage its external stakeholders in the process of management (especially in decision making), empower the surrounding community (corporate social responsibility), and engage itself with institutional development within the community. Finally, firms in the contemporary world need to be environmentally sustainable. To achieve this goal, they need to improve their level of energy efficiency, reduce their consumption of water, limit their waste through recycling, and avoid emitting harmful substances to the environment (Hutchinson, 1996). Therefore, for a firm to be sustainable in the short run and in the long run, it needs to balance between its social, economic, and environmental objectives since their needs and requirements are interrelated hence they have a cause and effect on one another (Hutchinson, 1996).

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Environmental Sustainability

Although firms in the hospitality industry have incorporated the concept of sustainable development in their operations, it is essential for the managers of these organizations to pay a closer attention to environmental sustainability given the nature of their operations (Higgins, 2006). The United Nations defined sustainable development as the ability of meeting our present needs without compromising the ability of the future generations in meeting their environmental needs (Higgins, 2006). Given this definition therefore, it is evident that the aim of environmental development is to strike a balance between the economic and social needs of a given society, firm, or nation without compromising the status of the environment.

The hospitality industry highly relies on the viability of the environment to achieve its goals and objectives. Most hotels and resorts are located within protected areas or in scenic regions of the world. It is thus the duty of the management of these organizations to ensure that their operations are not only profitable but socially and environmentally sustainable (Higgins, 2006). As Ayuso (2006) stated, hotels and resorts should be considered as sources of economic resource that can be used to enhance the process of conservation. Consequently, the management of these organizations should come up with measures that empower and involve their consumers, the community, and the management in the process of conserving the environment through sustainable practices.

As it has been stated earlier, firms in the hospitality industry were reluctant to adopt and implement sustainable practices in their operations. However, this trend changed during the 1990s when several firms around the world realized the importance of sustainable development. It is perhaps due to the initiatives that were put in place and the nature of the hospitality industry that this initiative was converted into a global agenda under the Agenda 21, a program that is managed by the United Nations (Higgins, 2006). The main aim of this program is to address the issues that the world is currently facing because of global warming. Among the several initiatives that have been developed under Agenda 21, the Sustainable Salen program was highly influential in engaging firms in the hospitality industry to participate in the process of achieving environmental sustainability. The main aim of this program was to reduce the erosion of Salen slopes, and to develop effective waste management strategies within these regions (Brown, 1996). Through this initiative, several hotels and resorts around the world developed and incorporated several strategies that they would use as measures to achieve environmental sustainability in the process of their operations.

From humble beginnings, more and more hotels have joined the quest of conserving the environment through sustainable practices. In Europe for example, over 80% of the hotels have incorporated sustainable management strategies and are part of the Salen Slopes project (Brown, 1996). However, as it has been stated, it is essential for firms to balance between the various segments of sustainability. In Europe and USA for example, hotels are involved in activities such as the utilization of eco products, energy conservation initiatives, and waste management practices. Although these activities are very influential in reducing the negative effects that hotels have on the environment, the management of these hotels utilize these programs as avenues of reducing their costs (Bohdanowicz, 2006). For instance, the utilization of alternative sources of energy and the utilization of recycled products greatly reduces the costs that these firms would have otherwise incurred if they were operating in a normal manner. These benefits have motivated many hotels in the world to adopt and implement sustainable development practices in the normal operations of their hotels. However, these are just but external results that drive firms within the hospitality industry to be engaged in the process of achieving environmental sustainability.

Bohdanowicz (2006) asserted that it is essential for firms within the hospitality industry to come up with measures that enhance the internal participation of an organization. In his paper, Bohdanowicz (2006) suggested that firms should come up with measures and strategies that involve all employees regardless of the positions that they hold in an organization to take part in this process. Consequently, the management of these firms should identify key areas that can benefit from improvement and innovation to ensure that this practice becomes part of the organization culture. To achieve this goal, several managers have come up with measures that enhance the activities of various groups and the initiatives that certain individuals and departments might be involved. The aim of this practice is to ensure that resources such as power and water are utilized in an effective and efficient manner and sustainable practices are put into place to ensure that waste products are disposed or recycled appropriately (Bohdanowicz, 2006).

Factors that Affect Sustainable Development in the Hospitality Industry

From the discussions that have been presented in this paper, it has emerged that managers in the hospitality industry are motivated to adopt and implement environmental sustainable practices by several factors. Economic reasons are perhaps one of the leading factors that influence the decisions of these managers to adopt the environmental sustainability approach. However, managers in the contemporary world are facing a lot of pressure from the government, their stakeholders, and the communities in which they operate in. Thus, factors such as corporate social responsibility and meeting the wishes and directives of the shareholders also play a significant role in motivating the management of firms within the hospitality industry to adopt and implements environmental sustainability techniques.

From the studies that have been conducted, it has emerged that cost saving is the leading factor that motivates firms in the hospitality industry to adopt and implement environmental sustainability measures in their normal operations. From the results of these studies, it has been found that hotels and resorts spend a lot of money especially in meeting their energy costs (Michaelis, 2003). Thus, through sustainable environmental practices, these firms have been successful in increasing their power consumption efficiency. The use of light saving energy systems and the utilization of alternative sources of power such as solar and wind power have greatly reduced the amount of money that these firms spend on power. Thus, the application of low-cost and no-cost power strategies have become significant tools in the optimization process of reducing the operating costs of firms within the hospitality industry. The decline in operating costs greatly increases the margins that these firms earn from their revenues. As a result, these strategies are thus essential in ensuring that firms are profitable and sustainable in the long run.

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Fiscal and economic incentives are the main motives that have encouraged the managers in the hospitality industry to adopt environmental sustainability measures. These incentives mainly come from government agencies and non-governmental organizations that are involved in the process of conserving the environment. The main aim of these incentives is to encourage firms within the hospitality industry to be involved in projects that aim at enhancing the positive utilization of the environment. In the United States for example, the government has encouraged hotels and resorts to build buildings that are environment friendly (McMinn, 1997). The construction of these buildings utilize materials that have mainly been recycled or obtained from sources that had minimal effects on the environment. Consequently, these buildings utilize alternative sources of energy such as solar and wind energy to power up various systems. In the process of constructing such buildings and complying with the resultant laws, firms within the hospitality industry might enjoy benefits such as tax write-offs, discounts on insurance rates, and grants. These incentives not only enhance firms within the hospitality industry to be involved in the process of environmental conservation but greatly reduce their operating costs and enhance their investments.

The incentives that firms in the hospitality industry would gain from adhering to the government rules and regulations with regards to environmental sustainability are diverse. Font (2002) stated that the environmental regulations that are currently in place in the United States are mainly concerned with the specific processes within the operations of hotels and resorts. Wastewater management, handling of hazardous materials, and the overall safety of individuals are some of the processes that the current regulations are mainly involved in. However, it is expected that the future legislations that various governments will pass will concern on a wide array of activities and processes within the operations of hotels and resorts. For instance, it is expected that these legislations will focus on and influence the design, construction, and operations of firms within the hospitality industry. In this respect, it is expected that these legislations will propose the use of energy saving designs and techniques (e.g. energy saving bulbs and solar panels). However, the firms that will not comply with these regulations will suffer stiff penalties. These measures will thus encourage more firms to be involved in the sustainable management of the environment (Font, 2002).

Other than enjoying low operating costs, environmental sustainability measures give the practitioners in the field of hospitality the chance to develop tools and equipments that are more efficient and capable of offering higher levels of utility at a lower price. This strategy has enabled many hotels from all around the world to use simple tools to develop their buildings and furniture (Font, 2002). Despite their simplicity, such products greatly reduce the costs that such firms might have otherwise incurred given the fact that the cost of living is expected to rise. Thus, saving the operating costs at the present moment puts such firms at an advantage in additional to enabling them achieve their sustainability goals.

On the other hand, there are firms within the hospitality industry that have adopted environmental sustainability measures as a strategy to enhance their brand reputation. Using this concept as a marketing strategy, such firms are usually involved in several projects and processes that aim at enhancing the overall wellness of the environment (McMinn, 1997). The main aim of adopting and implementing this concept in their operations is to attract a segment of the market that comprise of individuals who are conscious about the environment and the society. Given the numerous environmental challenges that the world is currently facing, the number of individuals who are involved in conservation practices is always increasing. In this respect, firms that are regarded as environmentally friendly stand high chances of attracting and maintaining the emerging group. Therefore, environmental suitability has become an effective tool that firms in the hospitality industry utilize for marketing and differential purposes (McMinn, 1997).

There have been reports that several firms in the hospitality industry are motivated to adopt and implement modern environmental technology that conforms to the directives of sustainable environmental practices to improve the experiences of their guests (Porter, 2006). This concept is mainly applied in the hotels and resorts that are found in regions that experience extreme climatic conditions. For instance, most of the hotels that are located along the Spanish coastal strip have been engaged in programs that aim at enhancing the quality of the services that are offered by their facilities and equipments. To be in particular, many hotels that are found within this region have installed the latest versions of HVAC systems along with other effective energy management equipments as measures of improving the atmospheric quality within their facilities. Other than providing a calm internal atmosphere, these equipments are also friendly to the environment since they help in regulating partial atmospheric conditions without emitting harmful radiations and substances into the atmosphere (Porter, 2006). With such systems in place, these hotels stand a higher chance of attracting a lot of customers who want to enjoy their time at these destinations while enjoying favorable environmental conditions that are characterized by thermal comfort ability and high quality indoor air.

As it has been stated, the world is currently experiencing a lot of environmental challenges. This phenomenon has increased the awareness and participation of many individuals from all around the world in the activities and initiatives that aim at conserving the environment. It is due to this fact that firms in the hospitality industry have adopted and incorporated environmental sustainable practices as part of their corporate culture, not only as a measure of conserving the environment but also as a measure of attracting and retaining talented individuals who believe in this course (Porter, 2006). Firms spend a lot of money in the process of selecting, recruiting, and inducting its employees. Consequently, it is difficult for firms to find the right personnel for a specific job. Thus, it is advisable for the management to come up with practices that will aim at retaining its personnel. This strategy is effective especially in the processes of career development and attaining the long-term goals and objectives of an organization. According to a study that was conducted in the United States in 2008, it was found that over 80% of the employees from the new generation were involved either directly or indirectly in environmental conservation activities (Porter, 2006). Consequently, it was found that 92% of these individuals would prefer to be employed in an organization that was regarded as being friendly to the environment. From these figures, it is evident that firms within the hospitality industry will greatly benefit if they incorporate environmental sustainability measures in its operations.

The needs and requirements of the shareholders also play a significant role in motivating firms within the hospitality industry to adopt and implement environmental sustainability measures in their operations. For the last several decades, sustainability has become an integral part of management. In this respect, investors in the hospitality industry are always seeking for quantifiable indicators within their firms that act as signs of sustainable development (Porter, 2006). It is as a result of these requirements that many firms around the world have adopted and implemented various sustainable measures as a means of meeting the needs and requirements of their shareholders. For instance, companies such as IBM and Wal-Mart have developed effective environmental sustainability measures that have performance indicators. These indicators play a significant role in examining the level of efficiency that a firm is operating in. From practice, it is evident that firms that operate at high levels of efficiency are highly sustainable hence capable of gathering long-term support from their shareholders. This support is essential especially in enhancing the overall operations of a firm and in the development and marketing of the products and services that it is offering.

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At this point, it is essential to note that the factors that affect sustainable development in the hospitality industry originates from the needs that these firms are facing in the course of their normal operations. These needs also determine the resources that firms within the hospitality industry will require to achieve their environmental, social, and economic sustainable goals and objectives. If these firms are not capable of meeting these needs, it will thus be difficult for them to adopt and effectively implement environment sustainable measures in the course of their normal operations.

Access to finance is an essential factor that determines whether a firm in the hospitality community will adopt and implement sustainable environmental practices (Porter, 2006). Hotels and resorts require money to purchase the equipments and facilities that are required to implement environmental sustainable practices in an effective and efficient manner. However, it is a challenge for most of these firms to raise enough revenue that is required to achieve this goal. For instance, it will be very costly for a hotel to install equipments energy efficient as a means of conserving the environment. However, if such projects are partly financed by external bodies and organizations such as the government or non-governmental agencies, then the level of participation by firms within the hospitality industry will greatly increase. It is thus as a result of this fact that many firms in the hospitality industry view cost efficiency as one of their key motivation to be involved in environmental sustainability.

The last two decades has also seen massive advancements in the field of science and technology in a bid to enhance the process of environmental sustainability. To achieve this goal, several companies have come up with new products and equipments that utilize state of the art technology. The aim of these products is to enhance efficiency (with regards, to power, water, and waste management) and reduce the level of harmful emissions into the atmosphere (Porter, 2006). However, it is difficult for firms in the hospitality industry to determine which products and equipments are best suitable given their nature of operations, their practices, and the environmental sustainability goals that they want to achieve. Thus, the owners of hotels, restaurants, and resorts need these new technologies to be vetted to ensure that their operation and application conform to their mission, vision, goals and objectives of operations.

Firms within the hospitality industry have developed the need to be involved in environmental management initiatives as a result of the outcomes that they receive from benchmarking and auditing exercises. In the normal operation of these firms, it is essential for the management to ascertain the effectiveness and efficiency of the operations of the firms that he is managing with that of other firms within the same industry. In the process, the management will determine the strengths and weaknesses of their firms as well as the opportunities and threats that they are facing (Duffy, 2002). In the contemporary world, a lot of firms in the hospitality industry are highly engaged in environmental initiatives. This realization gives other firm the need to also be involved in these initiatives as a strategy of enhancing their operations to increase their level of competitiveness. To achieve this goal, these firms adopt and implement environmental sustainable practices as a measure of improving their operations to keep up with the trends that are present in the hospitality industry.

Operational training is an essential factor that the managers in the hospitality industry require to ensure that environmental sustainable measures are implemented in an effective and efficient manner. Although a firm might be provided with the most suitable policies, guidelines, equipments, and technologies, it is essential to ensure that the firm has qualified personnel who are capable of utilizing these resources to achieve the desirable outcomes. Thus, meet this need, firms in the hospitality industry have collaborated amongst themselves and with other external bodies to develop training exercises that will increase the knowledge and skills of the personnel in the hospitality industry with regards to environmental management and measures that they can put in place to achieve this goal.

Currently, the world is facing a lot of environmental challenges that range from global warming to the decline in biodiversity. These challenges have come about because of the poor practices that man has been involved with for several centuries now that have had detrimental effects on the environment. If precautionary measures are not taken, it is expected that this phenomenon will become worse hence threatening the existence of humanity in the world. It is due to this fact that several measures have been put in place to ensure that individuals and organizations are involved in sustainable environmental practices.

To keep up with this trend, firms within the hospitality industry are involved in several activities that have been incorporated as part of their daily practices to reduce the negative effects that man had on the environment. Consequently, for these practices to be sustainable in the short run as well as in the long run, these firms have designed these practices to ensure that the social and economic goals of sustainability are met as well. Thus, these practices mainly affect the facility practices and daily operations that firms in the hospitality community are involved in on a daily basis. The aim of these practices is to enhance efficiency while reducing their operating costs. Thus, these practices focus on three prime areas that have a lot of impact on the daily operations of hospitality firms. These are:

  1. Energy
  2. Water
  3. Waste management

Currently, many firms in the hospitality industry are involved in practices that aim at optimizing their means through which they consumer power (Adams, 2002). Normally, hotels, restaurants, resorts, and other businesses in the hospitality industry consume a lot of energy through several activities. Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) forms one of the main processes that consume a lot of energy. Thus, firms within the hospitality industry strive to ensure that their clients achieve maximum satisfaction given the amount of money that they have spent. To achieve this goal, these firms strive to provide their clients with the best internal and external environments at all costs. Provision of desirable internal temperatures and clean air is one of the main requirements that firms within the hospitality industry aim at delivering to their customers (Choi and Chu, 2001). However, the devices and equipments that have been regularly used to achieve this goal are highly inefficient. In this respect, they tend to utilize a lot of power at the expense of other resources. From a critical point of view, it is evident that due to their inefficiencies, these devices tend to increase the operating costs of firms as well as having a lot of negative impact on the environment in the form of pollution and radiation. However, the advancement in technology has provided firms in the hospitality community with a solution to this problem. The latest HVAC systems provide even better quality services at a reduced cost. These systems are highly efficient given the fact that they have the capability of utilizing alternative sources of energy (Adams, 2002).

Consequently, firms within the hospitality industry have developed a more effective practice that is referred to as commissioning (Michaelis, 2003). Being an engineering based approach, this system also aims at optimizing the power consumption within a given facility. With this program, firms within the hospitality industry are involved in activities such as light retrofitting, initiatives that aim at reducing overloading at sources and various power outlets within a given facility, and sealing of the envelope of the facility. Furthermore, these firms have improved their ventilation systems, their heating and cooling processes within their facilities to avoid simultaneous operations, proper calibration of tools and equipments to ensure that they function in a precise manner and most importantly, adoption of power management strategies that are consistent with the environmental sustainability measures. These activities aim at reducing the power consumption of firms within the hospitality industry while optimizing their performance.

Firms within the hospitality industry also spend a lot of water in their normal operations. Given the fact that water is a limited resource, it is essential for these firms to come up with measures that ensure that it is used in an effective and efficient manner. In the hotel industry for instance, water is mainly used for domestic purposes and auxiliary purposes. Domestic uses of water include drinking, cooking, in the bathrooms, and for laundry. On the other hand, the auxiliary uses of water include activities such as irrigation, cleaning and maintenance of plants and machinery, the operation of the HVAC system and so on.

In accordance to the environmental sustainable measures, it is essential for firms to utilize this limited resource in a manner that is deemed as effective and efficient. To achieve this goal, firms within the hotel industry are currently involved in several practices that aim at optimizing the consumption of water. For instance, many hotels in the United States and in Europe are now collecting the water that is generated from domestic activities such as laundry (grey water) and black water that mainly arises from the sewage. The water that is collected from these activities is treated and re-used in the auxiliary activities within the hotel. Consequently, these firms are involved in activities such as improvements of their plumbing systems, towel recycling programs, and water harvesting exercises as a means of optimizing the usage of water. These strategies are very effective since they not only reduce the cost of water but also ensure that it is used in a sustainable manner.

Finally, firms within the hospitality industry general a lot of waste in their normal operations. These waste and waste products usually arise from construction activities, normal consumables such as paper, plastic bags, food garbage, toners, batteries, and plastic bottles. Consequently, the assets, plant, and machineries in these facilities also act as potential sources of waste. Examples in this respect include worn out furniture and fitting, office equipments, and appliances and machinery. Hotels and other facilities that operate in the hospitality industry also have waste products that are hazardous in nature. Examples of these substances include solvents and detergents that are used for cleaning and maintenance, and petroleum oil.

Waste products are one of the main factors that result in environmental degradation. Currently, many hotels and restaurants around the world are involved in practices that aim at encouraging the use, re-use and recycling of waste products (Porter, 2006). The aim of these strategies is to ensure that waste products are utilized to reduce the overall operating costs of these firms and at the same time ensuring that they are disposed in a manner that is friendly to the environment. For instance, there are hotels that recycle their waste products and convert them in alternative sources of energy such as biogas. This form of energy is utilized within these facilities. Consequently, there are firms in the hospitality industry that sell this form of energy to third party organizations at a reduced price.

The Future of Environmental Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry

Given the current trends in the hospitality industry and the increasing in global concern on the conservation of the environment, it is expected that further development that will enhance the participation of firms within the hospitality industry will take place. As Adams (2002) asserted, it is expected that a lot of development will take place in the procurement activities of firms within this industry and the improvement of the quality of their indoor environment. For this goal to be realized, firms in the hospitality industry will have to implement processes that enhance the quality of air and optimize the use of chemicals and other products for cleaning activities. It is also expected that there will be an increase in staff training and community empowerment exercises. The aim of these initiatives will be to enhance the participation of the personnel within the hospitality industry and the public in initiatives that aim at enhancing the conservation processes within the world. These activities will give these individuals the skills and techniques to implement environmental sustainable measures in an effective and efficient manner.

Conclusion

Sustainability is a core concept in the running and management of organizations in the contemporary world. However, firms in the hospitality industry have paid a lot of attention to the concept of environmental sustainability. To achieve this goal, these firms have come up with measures that ensure the wise utilization of environmental resources as a measure of guaranteeing that the present and future generations will benefit from them. It is thus expected that these practices and initiatives will be further developed in the future to optimize the utilization of the limited resources from the environment that these firms are enjoying.

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