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Fairmont Continues to Fulfill Its Sustainable Mission

July 2, 2009 1 comment

Fairmont Hotels and Resorts recently added another guideline to its already impressive environmental program. Their new Green IT initiative will help the company reduce its carbon footprint by focusing on waste reduction, energy conservation, and responsible purchasing. The plan will be in place by the end of the year and includes guidelines for charitable giving and electronic recycling as well as a corporate wide power management scheme pushed down to each employees’ workstation. As these changes are implemented at more than 50 Fairmont properties spread across the globe, the company will enjoy cost savings and the satisfaction that comes with broadening its industry leading environmental sustainability program.

Fairmont’s Green Partnership Program was launched in 1990 and rather than remaining static, it has pushed them to consider their effects on the environment throughout the organization. From installing sustainable energy management systems for both guestrooms and function space to seeking out community members in need who can accept unused food and household products, thus keeping them out of landfills, Fairmont aims to minimize its impact on the natural world and promote sustainable business at every turn. For example, the Lexus Hybrid Living Suite at the Fairmont Washington, D.C., features style from famed green interior designer, Kelly LaPlante, while at the company’s Scottsdale property, faucet aerators and low flush toilets have been installed as a way to reduce water consumption in this desert environment.

An area where Fairmont truly shines is its extensive Eco-Meet program. Designed to provide superior sustainable service to conference planners and attendees, it is divided into four parts: Eco-Accommodation, Eco-Cuisine, Eco-Service, and Eco-Programming.

  • Eco-Accommodation provides energy efficient lighting and information about Eco-Meet in all guestrooms.
  • Eco-Cuisine means guests will enjoy high-quality food made from local, organic ingredients.
  • Eco-Service aims to make functions sustainable by using china and cuterly along with bulk cream and sugar and to ensure meetings are greener by providing white boards instead of flip charts.
  • Eco-Programming allows planners to provide sustainable education to meeting attendees through guest speakers, an eco-TV channel in each guestroom, and by assisting in carbon footprint calculations and offset purchases.

Fairmont’s Green IT is another example how this Canadian company “gets it”. Bringing sustainability into an organization does more than protect the earth. Being green provides cost savings from increased efficiency and conservation. These efforts can be rolled into new marketing opportunities focused on the rapidly growing eco-consumer. Sustainability programs can also make sure a business is ahead of the inevitable regulation that will stop those who lag behind in their tracks and reward those who stayed ahead of the curve. Having known all of this for the past twenty years, Fairmont is positioned to continue leading the way in green hospitality, pulling the rest of the hospitality industry behind them.

Green IT – Marketing Versus Measuring

March 24, 2009 5 comments

A recent “green” marketing study has me wondering: assuming that many technology companies are indeed becoming better caretakers of the planet, is it more important for businesses to appear “green” to their consumers or to be leading the way in sustainable practices? I’ll take the thought leaders over the thought manipulators any day.  

The recently released Green Factor study surveyed over 3500 IT professionals and found that Dell ranked highest in green technology. Dell has been compiling Corporate Social Responsibility reports since 1998 and should be applauded for the numerous steps they have taken to become more environmentally  sustainable, especially for their robust recycling program. What sparked my interest in their new accolade is that Climate Counts, a non-profit that evaluates the efforts companies take to reduce their role in climate change, ranked Dell 10th out of the 12 electronics companies it researched. 

Here are some interesting differences in how the Green Factor survey and the Climate Counts Company Scorecard approach their research and in the results they find. According to its web site, the Green Factor ” is a joint initiative between Strategic Oxygen and Cohn & Wolfe to illuminate ‘green’ marketing opportunities and further ‘green’-focused research on a global scale.” So, they want to help organizations cash in on the current “green” wave. I have no problem with companies promoting themselves based on their sustainable actions but I question a report whose main goal is to “illuminate ‘green’ marketing opportunities.” What does this do for the buyers who are about to buy a new piece of hardware? It shows them how successful marketing campaigns have made companies like Dell and Apple into “green” IT heroes. Hopefully these buyers are digging a little deeper before they make their purchases because not all that claims green is gold.

Climate Counts defines itself as “a collaborative effort to bring consumers and companies together in the fight against global climate change.”  In pursuit of this end, they have a developed 22 questions worth a total of 100 points that evaluate what organizations are doing in four areas: measuring their footprint, reducing their contribution to global warming, supporting tough climate legislation, and publicly announcing their work in relation to climate change. Certainly a lot to live up to but IBM did not have a hard time topping the elelectronics category with a 77. Cannon was close behind with a 74, and scoring 70, Toshiba came in third. Dell’s score of 47 put it in 10th place, second only to Nokia, at 37, and Apple, 11.

Apple does not need any more attention drawn to their lackluster sustainability efforts, just Google “Apple computers, green,” but they provide such a great example of the difference between what these reports found that I can’t resist talking about them. Participants in the Green Factor placed Apple at number five out of almost 30 companies in terms of their perceived “greenness”. Climate Counts ranked Apple last out of 12 companies, noting that they lacked publicly available information about their efforts to measure their role in climate change.

The drastic difference in rankings is not surprising given the divergent missions of the authors but it highlights the main issue I have with a report like Green Factor. Apple comes out near the top because they have been able to portray themself as hip and green. They are so effective that most consumers believe they are doing all that they can to decrease their carbon footprint, increase manufacturing efficiency, and, in the end, reduce their contribution to global warming. But this is not clearly not the case and reading a report that shows Apple near the top of the green IT ladder is perpetuating the sustainably myth they have built.

I guess the Green Factor report helps shine a light on how to capture “green” marketing opportunities, something I fear is becoming more important than being measured by a third party who can truly illuminate the dark shadows and shining examples of real sustainable actions. I urge individuals and companies alike to seek out facts rather than listen to hype. Learn how an organization measures up to clearly defined standards rather than how effective it is in marketing itself using fuzzy imagery.