Coworking and the Climate

The Future of Travel? Selina is Tackling the Challenge of Sustainable Digital Nomad Hospitality - Part 1

Marc Navarro
Sep 17, 2019
The Future of Travel? Selina is Tackling the Challenge of Sustainable Digital Nomad Hospitality - Part 1

Puedes leer este artículo en español aquí.

We spoke with Eva Holt-Rushmore Global Director of CSR Impact of Selina and Maca Capocci Selina’s Global Public Relations Manager. So why did I want to talk to a hotel company if both my focus and Cobot’s is coworking? The truth is, on a personal level, I have been following with curiosity what Selina does both in the hospitality business and in coworking. Cobot for its part is a company in which values ​​are considered a fundamental asset and one of the fundamental values ​​for the team is ecology, which means promoting actions that help leave a habitable, healthly world behind.

For these reasons, and given that Selina can be considered a leader in the industry increasingly populated by professionals and digital nomads, we believe it was important to know Selina’s point of view and what measures it is taking at the environmental level.

Selina La Fortuna

Eva Holt-Rushmore joined Selina about a year ago as head of the Selina Corporate Social Responsibility department following her experience working in international NGOs, where she worked on social development projects such as public health, prevention of violence, sustainability, youth leadership, and more. For Eva, the challenge was to join a company where she could have a tangible social impact.

Maca Capocci joined Selina over a year and a half ago, after more than five years of experience in television sales and marketing, as well as marketing for small and medium businesses in Latin America.

Selina Secret Garden, Lisbon

Selina defines itself as a lifestyle, travel and hotel platform. They describe themselves like this:

“Selina is not just accommodation. Yes, we offer (gorgeous, beautifully-designed) places to stay. More than that, we offer a place to connect with others. Be inspired by stunning beaches and lush jungles. Fuel your creativity in energetic urban centers. Catch a wave, dance until dawn, or tap into a new level of productivity with surfing, activities, co-working, and community by Selina. If you’re looking for a unique, immersive, purpose-filled experience, you’re looking for Selina.”

Selina Porto

“The Impact Department has four goals and I am focused primarily on two of them: reducing unemployment and the Selina Gives Backprogram. To reduce unemployment we always try to hire local workers and we have created an uptraining program to provide support for at-risk local talent or for those who have not had the opportunity to work in the hospitality industry (especially in “nomadic” hospitality). Selina’s goal is to train these people and see how we can support them to enter the local economy — with Selina or with other businesses.”

Regarding the ecological impact, one of the factors that Eva highlights is Selina’s policy of rehabilitating buildings. This is in contrast to an industry that, she tells us, has the usual practice of demolishing and re-building from scratch. “This is not what interests us, we want to work with what is already built. Today 60% of the buildings are upcycled and this can include from the structure to the sofa side table.” Construction in general has a high environmental impact when using traditional materials such as cement and reinforced concrete.

Selina Córdoba

Twelve months ago Selina began conducting an internal audit with an external consultancy: “For us sustainability does not only have to do with the environment but with several different factors. This is why we are collecting indicators in 11 different categories to assess Selina’s sustainability grades in each of our locations.This is the first year so we’re waiting on the results in order to plan our next steps.”

Selina works on the assumption that they appeal to the environmentally conscious traveler and that reaching this kind of traveler means that “in the end, they will dictate where they want to go,” Maca explains. The reality is that, especially for the new generations that are already part of the workforce, it is especially difficult to dissociate personal and professional life values. When they work to fix the problems that exist today, they don’t do it with resentment towards the older generations, but with a constructive attitude and the will to “amend what we have done [wrong] for years.”

One of the factors that weighs most throughout the conversation is the link with local communities: “The future of a company is directly related to their ability to create connections with the communities in which they operate.” In this sense, the Selina Gives Backprogram stands out. In these programs the employees work with the communities doing beach cleaning activities, English classes for children, and other community activities. Guests can participate in these programs and are rewarded with loyalty tokens. “Today’s traveler wants to travel and be local, they want to understand how they live or what is happening in the locality they are visiting. For us it is simply to apply the philosophy of ‘do good and be rewarded.’”

“Selina is an experience company and our activity programming department achieves an average of 3 activities per day per location. And we have about 10 per month which have a local community social, economic or environmental impact focus.” Eva also tells us that 40% of these sustainability-focused activities deal with environmental issues. Their topics can be everything from recycling classes for children to more intensive workshops conducted through local or international partnerships with experts. Many organizations provide a day of specific workshops with the intention of calling on expertise, whether local or international, and adding value to our schedules that are open to guests, staff and people from the local community. “Another of Selina’s commitments,” Eva shares, “is to donate the 2% of staff hours.”

Beach cleaning organized by Selina

Although is it great that they feature these kinds of activities, if we do the math, there is plenty of room for improvement. Of all their actions, just 11% has a local impact (meaning community social, economic or environmental impact) and if we just consider the environmental activities that figure is lower than 4.5% of all activities.

I wanted to ask about one aspect of Selina’s relationship with coworking that caught my attention. Selina has had two very different “eras” when it comes to coworking: In the first one, coworking was not even mentioned on their website. However, a few months ago it gained its own section in their listing of services and prominent placement in their marketing materials: “Catch a wave, dance until dawn, or tap into a new level of productivity with surfing, activities, co-working, and community by Selina. If you’re looking for a unique, immersive, purpose-filled experience, you’re looking for Selina.”

Continue reading in part 2 of our interview.

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Happy Coworking!

Marc Navarro

Coworking and organization consultant. Content Director of the CoworkingSpain Conference. Created the coworking with social return concept.