If we don’t act now, by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the oceans. Humanity produced an estimated 9.2 billion tonnes of plastics between 1950 and 2017. Of this, approximately 7 billion tonnes are now waste, either deposited in landfills or accumulating in terrestrial and aquatic environments and ecosystems.
To compound the problem, more than 98 percent of plastic is made from fossil fuels and plastic production is expected to double by 2050. Emissions from plastic alone will take up between 10 and 13 percent of the world’s remaining carbon budget to meet a 1.5 degree Celsius target under the Paris Agreement.
In our industry, one hotel can use 300,000 pieces of single-use plastic every month. This is a staggering statistic of which Sonder is keenly aware. Being a relatively young business, we’re in a unique position to minimize our environmental impact by making choices about our operations early on.
One of those is our newly announced commitment to eliminate Single-Use Plastic (SUP) amenities by the end of 2022 in guest units worldwide.
The significance of this commitment should not be underestimated. Aside from only one other hospitality provider, Sonder is the only major hospitality brand to commit to elimination of all SUP amenities within a one-year timeframe. Not just straws. Not just shampoo bottles. Not over an undefined period of time. All SUP amenities globally, this year.
At Sonder we understand that adopting responsible business practices early-on in the growth of our business will have an exponential long term impact.
We launched this business in 2014, and have grown very rapidly, with over 200% revenue growth year-over-year in Q4 2021. We currently have approximately 1.6 million SUP amenity items (~6,700 kg) annually flowing through our North American operations alone. Left unaddressed, this amount will only increase, and any replacement, reduction or elimination of SUP will be harder to manage as the business grows. Our efforts to limit waste are intentionally proactive. Our ability to make this commitment would not be possible without the collaboration of our responsible suppliers.
Through B-Corp certified Davines we’re able transition our shampoo, conditioner and shower gel to large format dispensers and our hand lotion to aluminum packaging. All with the same high quality ingredients. The amenities are from Davines’ Essential Haircare DEDE range, formulated with red celery extract from a Slow Food Presidium farm in Italy to safeguard biodiversity and are exclusive to Sonder in the hospitality space.
For coffee, we’re fortunate to work with Metropolis Coffee Company out of Chicago. In order to provide high quality coffee without the waste, they’ve developed home compostable Biodegradable Product Institute (BPI) certified packaging for capsules and bags. In addition, Metropolis is developing one of the first high speed capsule packing machines in North America that’s able to fill and process compostable film – inspired by Sonder’s investment.
While our elimination of single use plastic amenities commitment is significant, it is part of our broader sustainability commitments under our People, Place & Planet framework. This includes our decarbonization efforts and intelligent energy management through clean energy partnerships with companies like Zen Ecosystems and Arcadia. Responsible sourcing and incentivizing innovation through supplier partnerships is crucial to our ability to deliver on our commitments and to continue to build towards even more ambitious ones.