Green Hotels & Responsible Tourism Initiative

How To Increase Your Bottom Line By Going Green

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How To Get Started - Tools For Success

It is evident that there are a number of benefits to going green, many of which increase your bottom line as well as your brand value.

The questions remain then, how to get started? and what are the tools to success?

There are eight key components to establishing a program to effectively green your hotel:

  1. Identify a green coordinator/champion.
  2. Set a baseline to focus your efforts and measure future success.
  3. Engage your staff.
  4. Set an action plan.
  5. Elect a Green Team to run the program in-house.
  6. Write an Environmental Policy Statement.
  7. Train employees.
  8. Benchmark your efforts.

1. Identify a green coordinator champion

In order for any environmental program to be successful, the first step is nominating someone in the organization as being responsible for it.

Some potential choices for this role would be the general manager or other senior management or executive staff within the business.

In addition to the green coordinator, the hotel must also have an environmental coordinator to facilitate carrying out the program's implementation.

The environmental coordinator would primarily be responsible for:

  • Organizing the Green Team.
  • Coordinating environmental audits for water, waste, energy, carbon emissions and purchasing.
  • Monitoring of performance against established goals.

The environmental coordinator is crucial to the success of the program as they will assume the role of program manager, information gatherer, communicator, motivator and ambassador to guests and clients (Fairmont, 2002).

Six Senses Hotels and Resorts operating out of Thailand, dedicates three people, a Social and Environment coordinator, an engineer and an environmental analyst to administer sustainable policies. At the property level, each resort has a full-time Social and Environment coordinator to lead the property's sustainability initiatives (Ernst and Young, 2008).

Setting a baseline - departmental audits

Departmental audits are essential to determining where you should focus your efforts. To set future goals, it is imperative to have a clear understanding of the hotel's current position in terms of resource use by department. Therefore, it is essential to audit how much energy and water is consumed, as well as how much and what type of waste is generated. All operations generate green house gases (GHG), and as carbon emissions are increasingly being used as a measure of efficiency, this could be incorporated as an indicator in your audits. It can be built as part of your environmental audits or conducted separately as a GHG inventory report done by a carbon management firm.

Measurement and benchmarking is crucial to the success of an environmental program. You must to know what you use and produce before you can reduce it!

Departments that need to be audited are:

  • Engineering
  • Laundry
  • General management
  • Grounds and recreation
  • Housekeeping
  • Purchasing
  • Kitchen and food and beverage outlets
  • Front desk

It is also good practice to ensure that the measurements are tracked against the established goals on a regular basis by each department and there is a central tracking system which consolidates all the data for analysis.

Annual reports indicating the baseline and progress made towards achieving your goals will communicate your efforts to internal and external stakeholders and keep the departments on track.

3. Determining staff support

Without the support of the employees, an environmental program will rarely succeed. It is imperative to engage and consult with employees before starting and during the development and implementation phase of an environmental program. Employees also have a better understanding of the areas where savings can occur and of small improvements that have the potential to make a big difference.

With advice from your employees, you will get a better understanding of both the environmental issues within your property and of your employee's concerns, interest and passions. As an example, in some areas waste management might be a common concern, whereas in other locations, water conservation and air quality may be an issue.

Begin with an ideas campaign, and get employees excited about being able to provide suggestions for the environmental program. It will also help if you can give incentives for the best ideas related to reducing the hotel's overall environmental impact.

Consulting your employees is a great starting point for your environmental program and gives employees a sense of empowerment and ownership. It will make them proud to work at your hotel.

4. Setting an action plan

In order to achieve results, goals should be set on an annual basis. Using the audit as a baseline, the goals should be attainable and measurable.

For example, a goal such as "Reduce energy consumption where possible" is a great idea, but much too vague to be practical. A clearer and more suitable action plan would be to "Replace all incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescents wherever possible" or to create "a policy that all housekeeping staff keep all window drapes closed and lights turned off when a room is not in use." This can then be translated into meaningful and measurable goals, such as percentage reduction in a year, and also how much money that reduction has saved.

Specific and attainable action plans are much easier to monitor in terms of project completion and cost savings.

In order to get you on track with the action plan:

  • Choose goals in the first year that are easily attainable. An example is setting all printers to double-sided printing.
  • Keep track of all the cost savings measures. It will be easier to justify bigger expenses in energy conservation.

By phasing in an environmental program and choosing easily attainable goals with quick wins which have a major impact, it is easier to keep on track and find the money to invest in bigger projects. Seeing results should increase senior management support and generate employee enthusiasm.

5. Electing a green committee or team

Once the support and enthusiasm of the employees is gained and an action plan identified, it is imperative to assemble a team to run the new environmental program in-house.

Establishing an environmental committee or "Green Team" is essential to the success of an environmental program. It is also just as important to find a group of enthusiastic employees who are passionate about environmental issues. Finding a Green Champion from senior management is necessary for the Green Team's success.

Some considerations when selecting a Green Team are:

  • Technical expertise in areas such as operations, engineering and purchasing.
  • Departmental representation such as front desk, food and beverage, housekeeping
  • Keep groups to a manageable size to ensure easier decision-making.
  • Involve marketing and sales as they may have useful external intelligence about consumers and competitors.
  • Communication skills are invaluable and the people you select should be comfortable dealing with senior management and employees alike, as well as with external stakeholders.

Members of the Green Team should exhibit qualities such as:

  • Have an interest in environmental matters.
  • Be enthusiastic, motivated and passionate.
  • Able to commit a certain amount of time.

6. Write an environmental policy statement

An environmental policy statement should be written to communicate both internally and externally.

A well written policy statement needs to expresses the following:

  • Environmental goals that the facility will undertake (for example, committing to reduce 20% of waste by X year).
  • The way in which the organization aims to treat the people it employs (for example, through upholding equal opportunities and other fundamental human rights).
  • The way in which it aims to integrate into the community in which it is based and co-operate on any significant local issues that impact the business.

Policy statements should be communicated where possible:

  • Employee manuals
  • At the back of the house
  • On the website
  • In guest information packs

A sample environmental policy statement you can use for your hotel can be found in Appendix two.

7. Incorporating your environmental program into employee training

In order for an environmental program to be successful, the goals and objectives should be incorporated into employee training.

Employees should be made aware of the policies and initiatives, as well as the goals and objectives of the environmental program. This information should be included in training documentation, in orientation packages for new employees, as well as other staff training methods, with the aim to integrate these policies into the organization. Posters, general staff emails and other less formal means are also a great way to make employees aware of the environmental program initiatives.

Policies work best when staff members understand their responsibilities in achieving the policy objectives.

8. Benchmarking and regular progress reports

Benchmarking progress on a regular basis is vital in achieving the goal of being a responsible business.

Regular progress reports should be made on the monitoring and measurement of the goals in the environmental program. Progress of how the goals are being achieved should also be communicated to all stakeholders and placed on the website (if appropriate). For larger businesses a sustainability report or integrating a section on environment/social responsibility in the annual report would be an effective means to communicate results.

Benchmarking and annual reports would enable building on good results by setting targets for further achievement.

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