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Published on Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What are the Key Attributes of a Sustainability Manager?


By Dana Krauskopf, Co-Founder/Owner Hamanasi Adventure & Dive Resort

When a property decides to go down the road of sustainability and get itself an eco certification, a question often arises how will this be maintained? Who will continue the momentum? Indeed, these are valid concerns, especially for smaller hotels, as handling the monitoring and reporting alone is big job. Interpreting and acting on results and implementing new initiatives requires focused dedication.

When Hamanasi first became Green Globe certified, our General Manager primarily handled our sustainability programs with input from various employees. Over the years as the property grew, we hired dedicated Sustainability Managers. Each manager brought unique skills and ideas that helped shape our sustainability program. A combination of several key attributes makes an effective sustainability manager.

Passion
The most critical attribute of an effective sustainability manager is an infectious passion for preserving and protecting the environment and native cultures. Something made an impression on this individual likely from an early age that has shaped his or her views. For me, it was going to the beach while growing up and seeing dead fish on the sand. I knew something wasn't right! For others, it may be a love of the outdoors they acquired hiking in a forest or swimming in the sea. This passion will motivate not only the manager, but also those around.

Knowledge of Conservation Issues
There are conservation factors that affect the sustainability efforts of a hotel - those on property, in the community, in its country and the greater world. A sustainability manager needs to have a general understanding of each, with a keen knowledge of the local issues. For example, in some areas this may be water conservation, in others it may be erosion or high energy costs. The local issues will help the manager focus on what is important and how this fits in with larger concerns. This knowledge could be obtained through education, volunteering and/or on-the-job experience.

Communication
A critical part of a sustainability manager's job is educating and influencing others about the hotel's initiatives and why they are important. This person must be equally comfortable talking to guests, employees, community members and government officials.  He or she must be able to communicate effectively in writing, as well. This manager's passionate communication should inspire those around him/her to act.

Competent at Collecting and Analyzing Data
Creating spreadsheets and inputting utility and other records is an important task performed monthly, at minimum, by a sustainability manager. Ideally, this person is comfortable working with figures, interpreting numbers and acting upon them. This data can help a property identify leaks, cost savings and opportunities for improvement. Furthermore, this information must be reported annually, at minimum.

Experience Working with the Government and NGOs
While having experience working with the government or NGOs is not critical, I believe that this is icing on the cake for a truly successful sustainability manager. Such experience broadens and enriches the understanding of critical issues. There will be a network of individuals the manager can consult and tap. Strong public, private and nonprofit partnerships create mutual collaboration towards lasting change.

At Hamanasi, we are excited to have as our Sustainability Manager Seleem Chan, who has a combination of the traits mentioned. Seleem grew up in Southern Belize waiting for fishermen returning from the sea with their catch. Wanting to know more about their "unknown world" not only inspired him to learn to swim, it established a lifelong affinity for the sea.

Seleem's commitment to a career in conservation began when he attended summer camps with the Toledo Institute for Development and Environment (TIDE) where he would spend time on the Southern Belize cayes learning about marine based activities and the marine species of Belize. After obtaining a degree in Natural Resources Management he worked with a United Nations Development Program (UNDP) funded project "building community awareness of the coral reef through educational programming". Later, he worked on terrestrial protected areas in the Sarstoon Temash National Park, where he also was responsible for capacity building of community stakeholders of the natural resources around them. He lobbied for the creation of a shrimp nursery within the coastal communities located along the edge of the national park. His appreciation for the natural resources of Belize and marine and terrestrial conservation is the natural result of his 25 years of experience in the field.

After Seleem learned that Hamanasi's commitment to sustainability aligned with his personal and professional beliefs he joined our team. At Hamanasi, he leads our Green Team, which is engaged in community outreach, capacity building events and tree planting activities. His personal favorite is our weekly green presentations given to guests, which not only teaches them about Hamanasi's eco efforts, but also engages them in conversation about the importance of conservation in our daily lives.  He coordinates with department managers our sustainability priorities. Additionally, he connects with NGOs about their work in our area.

"If I was a believer in destiny, I definitely would say I was destined to be at Hamanasi in this capacity.   But on my days off, I still go out to wait for the fishermen to bring in their catch," said Seleem Chan.

And we hope he is counting the number of fish, recording their size and sharing his conservation values!

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