Key ways to achieve sustainability goals in your spa

It Must Be NOW founders Onno and Alexa Poortier share crucial sustainability advice and a checklist for spas wishing to accelerate change


By Wendy Golledge

28 April 2023

Onno and Alexa Poortier founded It Must Be NOW to help companies working in hospitality and tourism achieve Climate Positive and accelerate change for a sustainable future.

With an ever-growing urgency for the wellness sector to intensify its efforts to fight climate change, European Spa asked Onno and Alexa to create an exclusive sustainability checklist for spas.

Their advice can help your business identify what really needs to happen to make a significant move forwards towards your sustainability goals.

Litter on a beach on the south of Ile de La Gonave in Haiti
Litter on a beach on Ile de La Gonave in Haiti | © Conservation International

“While more spa and wellness companies are environmentally aware, not nearly enough have committed to sustainability with accountability and transparency as a core value,” says Alexa Poortier. “Short-term gain is still prioritised over long-term thinking.

“While the industry says that sustainability is a vital message and ‘talks the talk’, business-as-usual prevails. More spas must champion a climate-positive future to limit global warming to 1.5ºC.”

How sustainable is your spa?

It Must Be NOW suggests spas begin by asking the following questions...


• Is the spa team knowledgeable about sustainable practices?


• Does the property reduce, then offset all remaining carbon emission?


• Does the property conserve water and have efficient water usage?


• Does the property’s electricity use come from renewable sources?


• Does the property have an energy-efficiency plan?


• What are the property’s waste management and recycling policies?


• Does the property provide and use single use plastics?


• Are the spa suppliers sustainable and certified?


• Are the bathrobes, towels and linen sustainably sourced, natural and organic, instead of chemically treated?


• Are the spa amenities and packaging biodegradable and sustainable?


• Does the spa’s restaurant use locally grown, organic and in-season food and locally made drinks whenever possible?

What really needs to happen for a significant move forward?

“There must be greater scrutiny and governance from government regulators, banks and insurance companies,” continues Poortier.

“A significant move forward will require a change in values, attitudes, behaviours and stakeholder demand.”

“More country governments need to adopt laws for stricter sustainability reporting directives, governance, incentives and penalties for non-compliance.

“Countries must establish a cap on carbon emissions for big companies and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).”

Onno and Alexa Poortier
It Must Be NOW is a legacy project in alliance with inspiring figures and companies from the hospitality industry founded by Onno (right) and Alexa Poortier

How to do sustainability better

  • Prepare better – be knowledgeable and prioritise accountability and transparency.
  • Understand what leading global scientists have been saying and the urgency – there are just over 6 years left before our carbon budget runs out
  • NET Zero by 2050 is ‘too little too late’ to limit global warming to 2ºC
  • The difference between 1.5ºC and 2ºC is a big deal
  • Global temperatures will only stabilise when carbon dioxide emissions reach Net Zero or better
  • Establish strategic alliances and obtain robust support from companies providing funding support
  • Get the basics right – you need the support and commitment of your entire team
  • Form a Green Team with representatives from all departments
  • Draft a sustainability policy and have it available to all stakeholders
  • Build knowledge and capacity – train the sustainability coordinator to undertake day-to-day programme implementation
  • Collaborate and share knowledge with other properties that are ‘forces for good’.

The simple must-dos

How spa and wellness businesses that have not yet committed to sustainability can simply change their values, attitudes and behaviours


• Reduce, reuse and recycle waste (plastic, packaging, water)


• Opt for renewable materials and energies


• Reduce harmful ingredients in all products


• Conserve water


• Spend time in communities and nature to promote wellbeing

Alexa Poortier

"Accountable and transparent sustainability includes taking responsibility for your impact on communities and the environment with a holistic and circular approach focused on community wellbeing, the conservation of nature, culture preservation and carbon reduction."

Alexa Poortier

Co-founder, It Must Be NOW
Bali from the sea | © Reto Guntli

“Spa and wellness tourism worldwide is positioned to benefit profitably from the fast-growing wellness and tourism economy,” concludes Poortier.

“But when more than 80% of consumers want a more sustainable experience ( and Google 2021 Survey), spas must take responsibility for their total impacts.

“This means no greenwashing. Commit to sustainability with accountability and transparency as a core value and practice.”

Be inspired...

To find out more about the work It Must Be NOW is doing to increase sustainability in the hospitality sector, click below


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