Sustainability a focus of RFPs and contract talks

By Andrew Pentol |

San Francisco International Airport (SFO) is considering the possibility of updating tender conditions to include sustainability benchmarks for retail partners.

Speaking during the second instalment of this publication’s Travel Retail Sustainability Forum (TRSF) which took place today (8 April) at the 2021 Virtual Summit of the Americas (5-9 April), Cheryl Nashir, Revenue Development and Management Director, San Francisco International Airport said adding sustainability benchmarks to tenders would be a positive move.

Nashir was part of an expert speaker line-up, which discussed current and future plans to encourage a cleaner and greener future for travel retail and showcased best sustainable practices.

The remainder of the panel comprised Mark Birnie, Business Development Director and Deputy Managing Director, Harding Retail; Andy Battjes, Director of Environmental Health and Safety, Brown-Forman; and Jill Stoneberg, Director, Social Impact & Sustainability at Virgin Voyages.

Today’s session, which was jointly moderated by Luke Barras-Hill, Acting Managing Editor, TRBusiness and Michael Barrett, Head of CSR and events TRBusiness attracted 127 viewers.


“We have to let perspective tenants know what we want early [in terms of sustainability] so they are able to deliver,” Nashir commented. “They want that information and are keen to know how they can please SFO and win in a request for proposal (RFP) process.”

[Click the below video to watch the second instalment of the Travel Retail Sustainability Forum]

She added: “We have already looked at our evaluation criteria and rather than add new elements, we have asked ourselves what can be removed and replaced with sustainability efforts.”

Currently, SFO tender participants do not require any form of certification when it comes to sustainability, but this could change in the future, hinted Nashir.

“We have had a 16-point sustainable food programme, for example, for many years. This is based on a qualitative review of how tender participants plan to meet our requirements.”

Aside considering adjusting  tender conditions to place more emphasis on sustainability, SFO has announced the expansion of its plastic-free policy to prohibit the sale of beverages in plastic bottles.

Cheryl Nashir, Revenue Development and Management Director, San Francisco International Airport revealed SFO is considering adding sustainability benchmarks to upcoming tenders.

In August 2019, SFO became the world’s first airport to prohibit the provision or sale of single-use water bottles in plastic or aseptic paper packaging. This policy has now been expanded to prohibit the sale of any beverages, including sodas, teas and juices in plastic or aseptic paper packaging.

Airport retailers have been provided with a guide comprising approved alternatives to plastic bottles and 100 hydration stations have been installed across the airport to expand access and encourage passengers to bring refillable bottles.

Offering a cruise retail perspective on the inclusion of sustainability benchmarks in RFPs, Birnie said they had definitely crept in over the past couple of years.


Referring to Harding’s Virgin Voyages partnership Birnie revealed it was clear from the outset that that sustainability had to be part of the onboard assortment. Otherwise, Harding or any other retailer for that matter would not be part of the Virgin Voyages retail proposition.

As reported, Harding won the sole retail concession onboard Virgin Voyages’ first liner back in 2018. The vessel is now hoping to finally set sail from Portsmouth, England with a limited series of voyages this summer.

“It was clear from the start that sustainability was part of the Virgin Voyages DNA and that the retail element had to resonate and match with that.”

Mark Birnie, Business Development Director and Deputy Managing Director, Harding Retail believes sustainability will become a more prominent part of contract negotiations and requests for proposals in years to come.

Birnie, who suggested more questions are being asked about sustainability in RFPs and contract negotiations added: “I think we will see this even more over the coming years. Sustainability is definitely going to be part and parcel of most RFP negotiations, but where it will rank in terms of importance is questionable.

“This will depend on the cruise brand and where sustainability sits among its priorities.”

Sustainability is also driving discussion among brands such as Brown-Forman. Battjes explained: “It is now driving internal discussions as our brand teams want to better understand the sustainability stories each of our brands have to tell so they can communicate them in a very authentic way.

“Our brand partners are really driving sustainability from an internal perspective. They realise there are unique stories which can be used to improve their communication with customers and consumers.”

The influence of sustainability criteria within DF&TR tender submissions was one of a number of important questions TRBusiness put to the industry in the Sustainability Survey, part of the April interactive e-zine.

To read the Sustainability Survey responses in full, click here.

More to follow…




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