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Environmental Mission Statements: Starwood Shows Their Commitment

May 19, 2010 2 comments

This article is cross-posted on Environmental Leader.

*** This blog has moved. Please come and read new posts on our updated site, The Natural Strategy Blog.

In my last two articles, I summarized a variety of hotel environmental policies and outlined a three-step process for developing a strong environmental mission statement. The following analysis of how one lodging company has chosen to develop their commitment to sustainability will provide guidance on how to incorporate a tangible plan to protect the Earth into your own business.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. has published an excellent Environmental Sustainability Policy on their website.

We, at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., believe that economic growth and the well-being of society are inextricably tied to the health of the environment. Accordingly, we embrace our responsibility for environmental stewardship and are committed to integrating leading environmental practices and sustainability principles into our core business strategy.

Through collaboration with our hotel owners, franchisees, suppliers and business partners, we will actively work to reduce the environmental impact of our business activities and to continually improve and innovate on practices aimed at:

  • conserving natural resources,
  • minimizing waste and pollution,
  • enhancing indoor environmental quality,
  • establishing and reporting on key environmental performance indicators, and
  • raising environmental awareness among our associates, guests and communities.

We acknowledge that, in many ways, we, like the global community we serve, are only in the early stages of developing and implementing the many changes that will be necessary to achieve these vital goals. Nonetheless, we strongly believe that our efforts to support a healthy environment serve the interests of both current and future generations and constitute the foundation for enduring success.

Starwood’s understanding that the planet, people and profits are all inextricably linked is clear in the intialparagraph of their policy. Accepting this “triple bottom line” concept is an essential first step in developing an environmental mission statement, because it answers the question of why sustainability is important to their company. In addition, Starwood acknowledges their accountability and states their commitment to environmental responsibility in their opening sentences, which are strong points that create an impactful introduction to an environmental mission statement. Starwood has been effective in defining why the protection of the natural world is important to their organization.

In the second paragraph of their policy, Starwood’s environmental goals are presented in a clear manner and cover important “green” topics both inside and outside of their hotels. The objectives include an educational component, which is a critical piece in changing business practices and personal habits. They list hotel owners, franchisees, suppliers and business partners as the stakeholders with whom they will work to achieve their environmental objectives. Not including clients in this list of active “green” participants working toward Starwood’s environmental goals may result in their missing an important opportunity. In the past few years, there has been a surge of interest in environmental sustainability. Developing an explicit partnership with guests that goes beyond education is an important way to leverage the energy and commitment to protecting the Earth that an increasing number of clients posses. If invited to become involved, interested guests could help Starwood progress in their sustainability commitments. Those who opt not to participate will simply be aware that Starwood is actively seeking to work with all of its stakeholders to become increasingly “green.”  Not including guests underestimates the role this group can play in making Starwood’s Environmental Sustainability Policy come to life.

Many hotel companies incorporate a generalized statement about endeavoring to protect the natural world that lacks the specificity required to promote measurable change. Others claim they are currently engaged in sustainable practices, which does not provide incentives for them or their stakeholders to do more. Starwood sets itself apart by boldly stating a plan for success that seeks to “continually improve and innovate” their environmental practices. In doing so, they have set a bar they can never fully reach, creating an ideal situation that propels them ahead as they persistently explore new “green” avenues for improvement.

Unexpectedly, Starwood closes their environmental policy by acknowledging the nascent stage of their environmental efforts and admitting they have a lot of work ahead of them. Despite their identification with the many other companies that trail behind in implementing sustainability initiatives, Starwood demonstrates their willingness to take large strides toward a new way of doing business with their public statement about the many changes that are necessary in order to move their company in a “green” direction.

Starwood’s environmental mission statement includes all the three pieces of an effective statement: Why is environmental responsibility important to the company? What is the end goal? How will the business measure their success? Starwood logically outlines why they are interested in protecting the Earth, how they plan to lessen their impact on the natural world by listing their “green” goals, and explains that they will deem their efforts successful only if they work to continually improve them.

While well-crafted overall, Starwood’s policy misses a potential opportunity that provides us with another occasion to learn about effective environmental mission statements. I believe that if encouraged to become involved, clients who hunger to do more to help the environment will spend their own time working with brands they value. Some may simply tell friends and family about a new local business in which they believe and that they want to succeed. Others will do much more. Many of Starwood’s clients are meeting planners who might wish to reduce the energy and materials consumed at the events they coordinate. If asked by Starwood to engage their attendees, most planners would be happy to ensure their meeting participants are aware of the ways in which they can help minimize the impact of their conference, such as recycling and turning off lights. Customers who seek more should be offered opportunities to become involved in addition to environmental education, but exactly how companies reach out to their clients will vary depending on the organization’s “green” goals.

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Environmental Mission Statements: A List of Hotel Sustainability Policies

February 15, 2010 2 comments

This article is cross-posted on Environmental Leader.

*** This blog has moved. Please come and read new posts on our updated site, The Natural Strategy Blog.

A mission statement can help an organization navigate difficult times. I wonder how many hoteliers used their mission statements to remind them what of mattered most to their company during the past 18 months. As is true with many sectors of the world economy, 2009 was the worst year in recent memory for the hospitality industry. Meeting planners and business travelers moved to on-line conferences whenever possible and overnight vacations became a luxury for many people. Despite these financial problems, hotels and their investors understand the importance of developing a sustainable product and have been investing in green technologies.

This is the first in a series of posts that will investigate environmental mission statements. The articles will focus on how to develop an environmental mission statement, which companies have them, how are they being used, and discussing whether environmental mission statements are necessary. I have started by compiling links to the environmental policies and statements of several well-known hotel organizations.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts – One of the first hotel companies to incorporate sustainability into their organization, Fairmont’s Environmental Policy outlines  their commitments to protecting the natural world. Mission Statement

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts – While it is not a true environmental mission statement, the “Supporting Sustainability” paragraph on their Corporate Values page summarizes Four Seasons’ stance on being “green”.

Hilton Worldwide – A Sustainability Statement and an Environmental Policy are both available on Hilton’s Sustainability web page. Measurable goals are documented and ways to achieve them are noted. Mission Statement

InterContinental Hotels Group – Listing eight steps it will take to improve its relationship with the earth, IHG’s Environmental Policy is clear and aggresive. Their Green Engage program is an industry leading environmental initative and shows they are serious about their mission. Mission Statement

Kimpton Hotels and Restaurant Group, LLC – The foundations of the EarthCare program were set almost 30 years ago. Since then, Kimpton has dedicated itself to innovative “green” practices across all of its locations. Mission Statement

Marriott International, Inc.Spirit to Preserve is the sustainable arm of Marriott’ s Social Responsibility and Community Engagement program. In their Social Responsibility Report, J.D. Marriott says, “An integrated green strategy is a business imperative”. While Marriott has several partnerships with international conservation organizations, I am unable to find an official environmental mission statement.

Omni Hotels and Resorts – Similar to other hotel companies, Omni Hotels does not have a specific environmental mission statement. Instead, they provide information on their Environmental Stewardship practices.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. – Their Environmental Sustainability Policy is clear and professional, outlining the five “green” areas on which they are focused. Mission Statement

Wyndham Worldwide Corporation – The Wyndham Green program is well defined on-line. Their Policy Statement defines their thoughts on the environment, provides local and global goals, and lists seven areas of focus. The site also provides links to their Green Scorecard and Core Initiatives. Mission Statement

FOOD Inc. Shows That Consumers Can Change Corporations

October 14, 2009 1 comment

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*** This blog has moved. Please come and read new posts on our updated site, The Natural Strategy Blog.***

I just returned from seeing FOOD Inc., a new documentary about the industrialization of the American food industry. I knew the basic message would revolve around how distant we as a nation have become from the food we consume. I also had a feeling that Monsanto and their evil seed empire would make an appearance. What I was not expecting was to learn so much about how the incredible quantity of meat we eat in our country is supplied. I was also surprised to hear that the rise of fast food created a demand for cheap ingredients and helped spur the growth of the modern day corporate farm.

When Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle, his infamous expose of the meat industry in the early 1900s,  his words shed light on both the unsanitary processing facilities as well as the exploitation of immigrant workers in the meat factories of Chicago. The public was outraged and demanded safer meat, a bit ironic because Sinclair had hoped to raise awareness of the dangerous working conditions. The Pure Food Act of 1906 and the Meat Inspection Act gave people safer meat and workers better conditions. Evidently these changes, and others that followed, were effective, for being a meat packer became a well-paid and respected position by the 1950s, in line with the often venerated American autoworker. This is in stark contrast to today’s meat plants, which are among the most dangerous places to work in the US. So what happened? Among other reasons, FOOD Inc. says, McDonald’s happened.

By getting rid of its waitresses and turning their kitchen into an assembly line, McDonald’s developed the foundation for the modern day industrial food company. People were trained to perform the same job over and over and over again. They were treated as machines, paid a low wage, and disposed of at will because other workers were readily available to take their place. As fast food grew, McDonald’s needed larger and larger quantities of meat, potatoes, chicken, lettuce, etc. They demanded that farmers ensure consistent quality in their products while at the same time decreasing their cost. How were the farmers of the 1950 and 1960s able to meet this demand? They were not and the corporate farm was born.

According to the movie, in the 1970s, the top four beef producers made up approximately 20% of the industry. Today, they account for almost 80%. The US has gone from having hundreds of slaughter houses to only thirteen major factories that process beef. Not only are the cows being kept in high density feedlots, they are being feed a diet of corn instead of what ruminants typically eat, grass. Corn is used because its production is heavily subsidized by the federal government and the cost to ranchers is actually below the cost of production. It also makes the cows grow larger and fatter.

The corn produces an unnatural environment in the cow rumination chamber and encourages the growth of harmful e-coli. Reports of e-coli tainted meat increased throughout the 1990s and we have even seen other crops, such as spinach and peanuts, become infected over the last few years. E-coli outbreaks have killed multiple people, one of the most notable of which was a 2 1/2 year old boy who died twelve days after eating an infected hamburger while on vacation with his family. This tragedy was the impetus for Kevin’s Law, a food safety bill that has been bounced around Capital Hill for almost a decade but has yet to find its way into law.

Despite a fair amount of doom and gloom concerning the current state of our food system, FOOD Inc. offers a strong sense that this madness can be stopped. Joel Salatin of Polyface Farms in Virginia is an honest, humble, and insightful spokesperson for a farming system that treats animals as living beings and rewards small scale agriculture with fresh, nutrient packed, and delicious food. The audience clapped when he mused about what happens to people who treat cattle, chickens, and pigs as if they were only a raw material. He wondered how we will treat our neighbors, our community, and the rest of the world if we can’t treat our food and the people who raise and process it with respect.

After the movie ended and the house lights came on, I left the Portsmouth Music Hall thinking about what Gary Hirshberg, CE-Yo of Stonyfield Farm, said near the end of the film about the power of consumers. He assured us that companies will do what we as consumers want. When Wal-Mart customers showed a preference for milk free of rGBH, an artificial growth hormone, the company switched to non-rGBH milk. This has more or less “nailed the coffin” on rGBH because of Wal-Mart’s tremendous buying power.

Each time we buy an item at the grocery store or the farmers market, we are sending a message to the food industry. Companies spend millions of dollars every year to find out what consumers want. Let’s make sure to tell them we need local food grown and raised with care on organic farms. And this food will taste even better when we know our choices are changing the way the modern way farms operate.

Green Engage – IHG’s Answer to Global Warming

In early 2009, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) launched its own on-line sustainability program. Designed to aid hotel managers in reducing the waste, water, and energy consumption of their properties, Green Engage is revolutionary within the hospitality industry. Never before has a hotel company developed their own tool to measure, assess, and reduce the resources they use and the garbage they create.

Green Engage was conceived after IHG completed an extensive consumer research project in 2008. In addition to the standard guest wishes of ‘nice location’ and ‘good price’, they noticed that more people were interested in hotel sustainability practices than ever before. Combining this new data with their own interest in reducing the green house gases of their properties, the concept of a single, on-line application that would allow all IHG hotels to document, manage, and report their sustainability efforts was born and Green Engage was rolled out in January 2009.

Green Engage lives up to its name, providing data and suggestions for every department a of  hotel beginning with the site selection process for new properties.  During the construction, guidelines for sustainable materials are provided and information on IHG specific concerns, such as creating an effective and efficient building envelope to “maintain the desired indoor conditions and … permit the use of natural ventilation, passive heating, and day-lighting” are available.

Super efficient HVAC, lighting, and mechanical systems are suggested as a good way to reduce the hotel’s consumption and publicly showcase the efforts each IHG hotel is making toward becoming a more sustainable operation. The progress of all hotels is available to all lIHG properties so managers are able to research which green initiatives best suit their property and which programs will provide the best ROI.

IHG created the Green Engage platform to be used at all 4,100 of their properties and last year began training its Americas Region on what sustainability means to a hotel. Green Aware (About, Water, Air, Recycling and Energy) courses were provided to managers at approximately 500 hotels. And it does not stop there.

In September 2008, IHG moved its corporate headquarters into a new, green building in Denhem, England. This state of the art, sustainable building includes the Green Room, a mock up of their “room of the future,” that will allow them to test new sustainability products and systems before rolling them out to some of their 620,000 guestrooms world wide. For the rest of the building, not only were local, sustainable suppliers given preferential treatment, 400 tonnes was construction debris was spared from a life underground in landfills. Instead, 90% of the project’s waste was reused or recycled, reducing green house gases, bringing new life to previously used materials, and in the end, sustaining life for us all.

IHG provides another example of a company that “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 begin in their tracks and reward those who stayed ahead of the curve. Like FairmontHotels and Resorts, IHG is leading the way in green hospitality, showing everyone that green business is good business.

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.

A Sustainable Experience

August 22, 2008 2 comments

Employees today want to know that their employers are working to protect the natural world. But highly publicized green initiatives aren’t doing the trick. Workers need to believe that their company truly cares about the earth. They are looking for a sustainable experience.

 

Zogby recently completed its 14th annual “Attitudes in the American Workplace” poll and choose to highlight their finding that only 17% of employees surveyed believe their companies are going green for socially responsible reasons. Commenting on the survey, Environmental Leader began its coverage by saying “Half (50.8%) of U.S. workers say their company has a significant initiative such as carpooling and recycling, but most report being cynical about their employer’s motivation for going green…”. When I look at the data I see a reason for these numbers: without understanding that their organization is led by people who also have a great deal of concern for the environment, employees assume green programs are simply another way to increase the bottom line.  

 

The poll shows that 77% of US employees surveyed feel it is “very important” or “somewhat important” that their companies be green but only 71% of employees said they were being educated on how to be greener at home. I believe the fact that not enough workplaces are educating their employees about green living outside of the office significantly limits the worker’s buy-in to sustainable efforts in the workplace. When sustainability programs seem to come out of nowhere and are not rounded out with employee education, it makes sense the worker’s question their origins.  

 

Here are the reasons people believe their companies began environmental initiatives: 24% thought they were to save money, 22% said it was because the company wants positive publicity, 14% responded that it was the politically correct thing to do, 13% said green programs were enacted to combat rising energy costs and only 17% believed a sincere interest in CSR (corporate social responsibility) was at work.

 

I find these reasons interesting and but expected. Stopping climate change and protecting natural resources are concerns that affect each person and every business on earth. When almost three quarters of organizations are not educating their employees about these pressing issues and how to help combat them both at work and at home, I think it is clear why so many people question the motives behind their employers green interest.  

 

The Society for Human Resource Management’s June 2008 issue of HR Magazine was entitled Working Green. Their article, Get in the Business of Being Green, provides a great overview of how an HR department can roll out employee education and other steps on the road toward sustainability. In addition to SHRM’s suggestions, eLearning materials can be developed to create an interactive and effective training course that can be hosted on the company’s intranet and accessed by employees across an organization.

 

Once companies go through the time and expense of educating their workforce on the company’s initiatives and how they can be green at home, I believe the employees will have a sustainable experience with their employer. They will realize that even though their companies are often saving money, gaining public support and publicity, and dealing with the energy crisis, they also have a sincere commitment to CSR.