Inclusive Business Hub team

Practitioner Hub Administrator

BIF interviews Joanne Selby, General Manager of Sun International Hotels, Zambia

We spoke to Joanne Selby, General Manager of Sun International Hotels, about the local sourcing initiative that the hotel has launched. See transcript below and click here to read Carolin Schramm's blog about BIF's visit to Sun Hotels.

I run two hotels in Livingston, a five star hotel and the Zambezi Sun. From a sourcing point of view, when we opened the property in 2001, we were a big investment in quite an underdeveloped area, Livingston, from a tourist point of view. So a lot of the things we needed for our discerning guests we needed to source either from Lusaka or from South Africa. Firstly not great for putting money back into the community in which we operate, and secondly, not great for our carbon footprint, either. So that’s really the start of our local sourcing programme.

What are the main benefits of the current local sourcing programme for fruit and vegetables?

I think the benefits to the community are multiple benefits really. From a business point of view, we want the community in which we operate to be better off by us being here. And certainly from an environmental point of view we want to limit our carbon footprint. Also, I guess people are more discerning these days. They want to know where their food comes from. Food provenance is more important. People are more aware of genetic modification and things like that. People are interested in ‘organic’ and I think people, especially at five star properties, that’s what they want to know. They want to know that they are benefitting the community and also, you know, that they are doing the right thing.

Why is Sun International now looking to scale up its local sourcing programme?

When we started off the farmer’s market and the hydroponic scheme, our objectives were really about getting kids in schools, making people that were traditionally economically inactive, active. And really just improving the community in which we operate so that more people are tied in to our success. Than just our staff or just our shareholders.

What are the main challenges you have encountered in scaling up the programme?

We wanted to scale it up because we didn’t want what started as a community development programme... to get too big for us, it’s not our core business. We don’t have the expertise. You know, we got it to a certain point, we don’t want it to become exclusive. So that we exclude new entrants. Which is key, because otherwise we’re not developing small and medium enterprises, we’re just creating another big business. And secondly, we want to make sure that we’re doing the right thing. You know, dealing with the challenges and keeping growing the projects. Again, so including new entrants and making sure it becomes a self-sustaining business model.

What would you recommend to other businesses wishing to turn a corporate social investment initiative into a sustainable, independent business model?

Firstly, I think acknowledge that it’s not your core business, and ask for help. We’ve been incredibly lucky in getting a lot of technical support and a lot of advice. And talk about your project. And also don’t just think that you have to implement what’s invented on site. You know, learn from other properties, other businesses. It doesn’t all have to be invented by you. Use the knowledge that’s out there more than anything else.