Going Beyond 'Green Travel' to Create a Lasting Impact on the Hospitality Industry

By Jared Meyers Co-Owner Legacy Vacation Resorts, Legacy Vacation Resorts | September 08, 2019

Legacy Vacation Resorts is dedicated to providing vacation experiences for families and friends to create their unique moments and lasting memories in a manner that respects our environment, employees and community. The company as a whole seeks to go beyond simple eco-friendly initiatives and use our business to make a legitimate positive impact in the communities we serve and the world at large.

In March of 2019, LVR became a Certified B Corporation, which are companies that voluntarily commit to transparency and legally dedicate themselves to a triple bottom line of serving people, the planet and profit. Since then, the company has used these principles as a guiding light for the future of our business and its stakeholders.

A Purpose Driven Mission For More

In late 2017, Legacy Vacation Resorts was working hard to deliver a great value on high quality vacation experiences for our guests and we were doing so successfully, at least by traditional metrics. We were profitable, reinvesting back into our operation, improving guest satisfaction and providing growth for our employees. Despite this success, it did not feel like we were driving a positive overall impact. In fact, it seemed we were, like many companies, seeking incremental improvement and allowing others to deal with our business' negative externalities, many occurring without our knowledge because we did not measure them.

Legacy Vacation Club Indian Shores in Clearwater Beach, Florida

We struggled to see how we could make a net positive impact and felt that the word "sustainability" was being used by most businesses as part of a "green/purpose washing" campaign. Not wanting to do the same, we began educating ourselves on how we could use our resources and abilities most effectively and credibly. Through this process, we identified a few business movements and programs that enlightened us on how we could properly measure our impact, enhance what we were doing well, reduce or eliminate what we were not, and contribute to larger systematic change for a shared, inclusive, and durable prosperity for all.

We have since aligned with several of these organizations but were most enamored with Certified B Corporations. Administered by the non-profit, B Lab, Certified B Corps are businesses that voluntarily meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose through third-party verification. They adopt a higher purpose, stakeholder orientation, conscious practices, and offset their negative externalities.

These practices led them to thrive through strong profits, stability, and valuation. While some household names like Patagonia, Eileen Fisher, Ben & Jerry's, and Seventh Generation were part of this movement, we were disheartened to learn that our home state of Florida (the 3rd most populous state), only had 17 B Corps, and the entire United States had no multi-state resort hospitality companies.

Finally, we had found a way that we could deliver a net positive societal impact and we were determined to not only become a certified B Corp, but to facilitate the growth of the B Corp movement in Florida and in the hospitality industry at large.

In early 2018, LVR began efforts toward securing B Corp Certification. This meant analyzing our operating procedures and efforts in five Impact Areas required by the certification process, including Governance, Workers, Community, Environment, and Customers. During what turned out to be a year-long process aligning every aspect of Legacy Vacation Resorts with B Lab's requirements, the company rolled out multiple initiatives towards a more sustainable business model.

In addition to becoming a Certified B Corporation, LVR was among the first multi-state hotel companies to become a member of 1% For The Planet, a network of more than 1,500 member businesses, numerous individuals, and thousands of nonprofit partners in more than 40 countries. The organization is fostering a global movement, inspiring businesses to support environmental solutions by making a simple commitment to donate 1% of their sales revenue to various charities working in one of six core focus areas, including climate, food, land, pollution, water, and wildlife. LVR also became a proud partner of Conscious Capitalism International, an organization that maintains a philosophy based on a simple idea that when practiced consciously, business innately elevates humanity.

Building A Legacy

After certification became official in March of 2019, LVR became the first multi-state hospitality and vacation ownership company to offset the carbon footprint of guests booked through our website, offer to donate 5% of our guest's reservation to a charity of their choice, donate 1% of our total revenue to environmental charities (as part of our 1% for the Planet commitment), sponsor Conscious Capitalism, and meet Certified B Corporation standards. The new sustainable business model includes 100% carbon footprint offsetting for guests that book directly with the LVR website, electric vehicle chargers at each property, waste reduction and enhanced recycling efforts, sustainable lifestyle awareness campaigns, green-focused renovation projects and a living wage initiative for employees in our eight locations across four states.

The company also implemented an internal "Day of Hope" campaign, which gives employees the opportunity to receive paid time off in pursuit of volunteer activities. Moving forward, LVR has adopted a reduction target to cut down all emissions by 25% by the year 2025.

LVR is also undergoing a process of changing the way we think as a company to a "Life-Cycle" approach. This means we are taking into account where our dollars go from manufacturing to distribution to consumption. Together with suppliers, we are working towards ensuring they enforce a responsible code of conduct in their own workplaces. We believe the companies, vendors and suppliers we work with should support their local economy and support purchases that do not sacrifice the environment or cause harm to human wellbeing and health.

While all of these changes will give our existing guests additional reasons to be proud to stay with us, they will also attract a new kind of traveler and customer – one that shares our values and places importance on social responsibility, environmental responsibility and sustainable travel. By incorporating these conscious values into our ethos rather than just creating a department for it, leadership sincerely believes we will achieve our mission better than ever before and experience revenue growth for the company.

Looking ahead, as we exhibit success by using our business as a force for good, we will share this information within the hospitality industry to help it attain sustainable economic development. Our desire is not to be the best in the world but the best for the world, and part of that is to inspire other companies to follow suit.

Our Impact in Action

An excellent place to see the implementation and execution of our new sustainable initiatives is at the company's flagship location, Legacy Vacation Resorts Indian Shores, home to villa-style accommodations and beach access just a short walk away. Located on the picturesque Gulf Coast of Florida, the property recently underwent a full scale green renovation project and now boasts the smallest energy footprint of all locations in our portfolio.

The project introduced all new energy star appliances and fixtures as well as new operation and maintenance procedures to ensure that the building isn't only built in a sustainable manner, but is also being managed efficiently as well. The remodel efforts used low VOC paints, and policies we have in place require the use of non-toxic cleaners, therefore reducing toxic output.

Water management products and systems are used to help conserve our water usage and reduce water waste, and guests are provided with in-room pitchers and signage detailing the safety of filtered water provided by the city to hopefully eliminate their need for single-use plastic water bottles. Furthermore, native and drought-resistant landscaping is used throughout the property to mitigate the need for heavy irrigation and use of fertilizers. The resort, along with all locations in the company, offers waste recycling services for guests as well as a partnership with Clean the World, a certified B Corp, based in Orlando, that recycles our used hygiene products and repurposes them back to vulnerable communities around the world.

The resort also seeks to do good for the local community, and we first look to utilize products and services from local and Certified B Corp suppliers and vendors whenever possible thus contributing to a circular economy. This supplier management is not just better business, but an effort to educate our guests about new responsible products that they can obtain back home.

We plan to implement similar projects and initiatives at all of our eight locations in four states, with some impressive programs having already been introduced. Currently, our Brigantine beach resort is powered by 100% renewable electricity. 'Sustainability Champions' have been appointed at each location that acts as a sustainability ambassador to communicate and promote corporate initiatives. All resorts with food and beverage operations offer plant-based food options and boxed water is available at Resort Markets. This year, we launched an annual scholarship program where we provided three $2,000.00 scholarships to employees or their dependents.

The company also began a matching campaign for employee contributions to approved charities which includes donations the employees give collectively throughout the company and during property activities up to $2,500.00. We have also established an employee energy rebate program at our headquarters, as well as the Orlando and Kissimmee properties, where employees can purchase LED lights at our company's cost to help with reducing their personal carbon footprint at home. There is also a selection of socially responsible investing options available in employee retirement plans.

One of the most remarkable initiatives is our Employee Income Advance Program, currently available for Florida and New Jersey-based employees. This program offers bank assistance to employees in good standing (generally with a tenure of one year or greater) by providing loaned funds of $500 - $2,500 for emergency expenditures. Loans are repaid via automatic payroll deductions, thus building the borrower's credit score. Once the loan is paid off, the payroll deduction is continued and rolled into a savings account. This program helps employees not only avoid predatory lending to take care of emergency financial needs, but also builds credit and savings, financial literacy and financial stability.

Looking ahead, each location will continue to find ways to reduce single use plastic items and unnecessary waste, individual amenities will be switched out for refillable dispensers, check-in documents will be streamlined to eliminate the need for printed collateral, and we will seek continued improvement.

Business For Good, For All

While using our business as a force for good, we will educate the hospitality industry on how to attain sustainable economic development. As part of the pursuit of this goal, we co-founded the Florida for Good movement to help create a better world by combining the power of business with accountability, transparency, and a stakeholder orientation. The For Good Movement is a connection between B Corps, Conscious Capitalism, 1% for the Planet, like minded organizations/networks, governments/chambers, academia, and the local For Good ecosystems. It promotes business responsibility & resiliency to all companies, whether they be considered irresponsible today or whether they are competing to be the best for the world.

Florida for Good funds free resources, an online business directory and events to facilitate the spread of conscious business and growth of the Certified B Corp community in Florida and beyond. Since the organization's inception, Legacy Vacation Resorts has donated more than $50,000 to its charitable endeavors via cash and in-kind support. As part of our mission, LVR and Florida for Good encourage companies to take B Lab's free impact assessment so they can learn how they measure up against other businesses and learn about the areas in which they can most improve.

In the time since it launched in 2018, Florida for Good has grown significantly and now boasts four local/regional chapters including Central Florida for Good, St. Pete for Good, Northeast Florida for Good and Boca for Good and more than 100 member businesses.

Our business is successful not in spite of our responsible practices but because of them. At Legacy Vacation Resorts, we feel strongly that business leaders will impact our future, so we need leaders that appreciate the interdependence of all things, and recognize that true success is predicated on the success of all stakeholders, not just shareholders.

Mr. Meyers Jared Meyers is a hospitality veteran with more than 20 years in the industry. The University of Florida graduate is passionate about delivering a quality product through his company, Legacy Vacation Resorts, to help friends and families enjoy unforgettable vacations together. One of his other passions? Utilizing the power of his business as a force for good. Searching for a way to use his resources and abilities for positive change, Mr. Meyers learned about Certified B Corporations - companies that voluntarily meet the highest levels of social and environmental performance with transparency and accountability. Inspired by his findings, he immediately set out on a journey to transform his company into a Certified B Corp and also create a movement to help other hospitality and travel businesses to do the same. Always looking toward the bigger picture for his social and environmental impact goals, Mr. Meyers co-created the Florida for Good program. With its entrepreneurial spirit, Florida For Good is the connector between B Corps, Conscious Capitalism, 1% For The Planet, like minded organizations/networks, governments/chambers, academia, and the localized For Good ecosystems throughout the state. Jared Meyers can be contacted at 407-697-0388 or jared@legacyvacationclub.com Please visit http://www.legacyvacationresorts.com for more information. Extended Biography

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