Sustainability: We Cannot Afford NOT to be Green!

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June 30, 2016
Sustainability
Diane Estner - dianeestner@danni-enterprises.com

There are still a number of people convinced that adopting sustainable practices are too expensive and not worth the investment.

Here are some accomplishments by leaders in the hotel industry that will make you feel good about the result and also serve as a reminder to the operational benefits, with a solid bottom line. For this article, I am focusing on some large brand programs because they offer leadership and change from the highest executive level, and they serve as great examples for everyone.  

Starwood’s commitment is “30/20 by 20”: a 30 percent reduction in energy and 20 percent reduction in water consumption and a 30 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per built hotel room by 2020.   

Starwood’s “Make A Green Choice" (MAGC) program is an exciting guest-facing sustainability program in which Starwood’s guests can choose to help reduce the environmental footprint. Any guest at a participating Starwood property can Make A Green Choice by foregoing full housekeeping for up to three days in a row (excluding their checkout day). For each night a guest opts into MAGC, they receive 250-500 Starpoints or a $5 food and beverage voucher. As a result, Starwood’s global program saves up to 49.2 gallons of water, 0.19 kWh of electricity, 25,000 BTU of natural gas, and 7oz. of cleaning product chemicals per night per room (which can vary by brand and region).  This type of program incentivizes guests and also reduces Starwood’s labor costs.


There are also a growing number of businesses only willing to hold meeting and conferences at hotels that offer sustainable meeting practices (SMP). This includes a globally aligned collection of initiatives that integrate environmental and social concerns into the meeting process. Starwood’s program offers a meeting impact report that calculates the carbon footprint of a customer’s meeting, tracks the sustainable practices incorporated during the event, and provides the ability to offset the meeting’s carbon footprint. Across all brands worldwide, meetings at Starwood are now sustainable. 


IHG’s Green Engage™ program is a proprietary sustainability management system that helps measure and report sustainability achievements.  Since 2012, IHG’s entire portfolio has reduced its carbon footprint by 3 percent per occupied room and reduced water consumption by 4.2 percent per occupied room in water stressed areas from a 2012 baseline.


Marriott International has made a commitment to reduce water and energy consumption by 20 percent by 2020. The good news is Marriott has already achieved its goal of reducing water usage by 22.9 percent from its 2007 baseline. Today Marriott offers more than 238 Level 2 EV charging stations (electric vehicle) available in the United States and Canada, and travelers can easily locate the hotels that offer this service on its website. Marriott energy efficiency projects deployed within the Americas average an annual savings of 53 million kWh/year which equals removing 7,600 cars from the road. Seven properties within India source their electricity directly from wind energy plants. Of Marriott’s North American suppliers, 84 percent have sustainability policies.  


When Hilton Hotels moved to Virginia, it selected a global headquarters within a site built to the highest environmental standards. The building features a reflective roof, low-flow plumbing that reduces water use by 40 percent, energy efficient windows, the use of sustainable wood in doors and the lobby, and a 10,000-gallon cistern for rainwater and air conditioner condensate capture. Only 3 percent of the waste produced at the building goes to a landfill.


Accor has confirmed its commitment to finance the planting of 10 million trees by 2021 under its Plant for the Planet program. This initiative is part of Accor Hotels’ Planet 21 sustainable development program. It is financed by money saved when guests choose to reuse towels rather than send them to be washed, and has funded more than 4.5 million trees to date since its inception in 2009.  In five years, Planet 21 has helped Accor cut water consumption by nearly 9 percent, energy consumption by 5.3 percent and carbon emissions by 6.2 percent.

Reduced Operating Costs

While reduced operating expenses are the obvious benefit, sustainability upgrades that improve energy and water efficiency have a direct impact on utility costs. According to the U.S. EPA, even a 10 percent reduction in energy consumption would have the same financial effect as increasing average daily room rate by $1.35 in full-service hotels (EnergyStar.gov).


Increased RevPAR

In addition to reducing costs, sustainability programs can generate more heads in beds. TripAdvisor conducted a recent study where it found that 34 percent of travelers would be willing to pay more to stay at an environmentally friendly hotel. (TripAdvisor.com)

Every action has a reaction. When you factor in that sustainability makes business sense and offers a proven ROI, I’m sure you’ll agree we seriously cannot afford not to be green.

Diane Estner is the president of DANNI enterprises and can be reached at dianeestner@danni-enterprises.com.

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