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Environmental Mission Statements: Four Seasons’ Golden Opportunity

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. ***

As the hotel industry continues to move toward Corporate Social Responsibility, recent Deloitte hospitality research states that “Sustainability will become a defining issue for the industry in 2015 and beyond.” With this in mind, I have been analyzing the environmental mission statements and policies of various hotel companies. In this article, I review Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts’ “Supporting Sustainability” policy and suggest several ways in which they could turn their commitment to protecting the environment into a defining core value.

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts have built an internationally recognized brand by offering guests exceptional luxury in beautiful locations around the world. They understand that while each property provides patrons with a unique experience, a consistent level of service across all hotels is crucial to the success of the company. From what I have found on-line, all Four Seasons properties do not apply the same level of attention to their environmental programs. Four Seasons says their “guiding principle is the Golden Rule – to treat others as you wish to be treated” and I believe this allows them to excel at what they do. They now have a “Golden Opportunity” to bring sustainability, and the increased revenue and marketing opportunities it offers, to all areas of their enterprise.

Four Seasons has posted their environmental stance on-line under the heading “Supporting Sustainability.” One of three corporate values found on their corporate website, it states that:

Four Seasons involves employees and guests in the common goal of preserving and protecting the planet. We engage in sustainable practices that conserve natural resources and reduce environmental impact. As importantly, sustainable tourism will enhance and protect the destinations where Four Seasons operates for generations to come.

Four Seasons closes their statement by making it clear why protecting natural resources is important to them. As I outlined in a previous post, an effective environmental mission statement answers the following three questions: Why is the topic important? What is the end goal? How will success be measured? Without understanding why environmentalism is a significant issue for their business, Four Seasons would not be able to develop an effective strategy for minimizing their impact on the Earth.

By stating their aims, Four Seasons touches on another piece that effective environmental policies must contain: what is the end goal? Four Seasons understands that in order to reach their objectives they must work with both their guests and employees. These are two vital groups that can have a large impact on sustainability efforts and Four Seasons is wise to include them. I believe it is also important that Four Seasons join with their business partners and the communities in which they operate. Both of these stakeholders have a keen interest in the strength and character of Four Seasons’ business practices.

What their Supporting Sustainability statement lacks is how Four Seasons will measure their success in relation to their goals. For example, they could develop specific and measurable energy reduction targets to be met by 2015 at all of their properties. The absence of an enterprise-wide environmental program with goals for all properties is setting Four Seasons up for inconsistent programs across their brand. I believe this may lead to an appearance that sustainability is not a true core value for the company.

Searching the internet provides several examples of “green” programs that take place at Four Seasons hotels. There are gardens, a few sustainable meeting packages, and even some green lodging awards. These initiatives are very encouraging and show that many Four Seasons properties are taking steps toward protecting the natural world; however, the lack of a corporate-wide program means inconsistent and potentially uninspired local offerings are inevitable.

For example, I found one Four Seasons Hotel’s website in which “Green Initiatives” is the seventh item listed under the Conference Planning page. The sustainability offering falls below technical assistance, music and entertainment, receiving and maintenance, welcome amenities and VIP gifts, spouse programs, and family programs. I understand that what sets Four Seasons apart in the hospitality industry is their close attention to all aspects of a meeting and this thorough list of offerings is proof that they can accommodate all conference needs. At the same time, I am discouraged to find “green” initiatives last in the list of services offered to Four Seasons’ guests. Its position within the list matters. I was forced to scroll down two pages to find the first mention of “green.” Having studied and worked with sustainability programs for many years, I believe this makes the “Green Initiatives” offering at this Four Seasons Hotel appear to be an afterthought. Added to the bottom of the list, the sustainability option may seem to be offered because it is in vogue rather than being a corporate value of the company. Four Seasons truly has a “Golden Opportunity” to bring sustainability into every part of its operations and avoid the potential mixed-message that situations like this create.

Four Seasons is a leader in the hospitality industry because they know how to run a world-class organization. The time is ripe for them to bring the exceptional execution they apply to other parts of their business into focus on a company-wide sustainability campaign. Not only will this decrease their operational costs and get them in-line with the rest of the industry, going “green” can provide a year’s worth of content for social media marketing and will no doubt drive new business, something even this prestigious company can use in today’s economic climate.

An effective plan would be to hire a Chief Sustainability Officer who can create a robust environmental mission statement and develop an environmental action plan for the entire organization. As is quickly becoming the norm, Four Seasons should be transparent about their entire sustainability project and publish an annual report documenting all of their environmental work.

Making sure employees embody The Golden Rule every day allows Four Seasons to offer consistent and outstanding service at all of their properties. To ensure the success of a new sustainability program, Four Seasons will need to train their staff to incorporate “green” ideals into everything they do. Knowing how well they execute day-to-day operations as well as special projects, I am sure that Four Seasons will develop and implement an innovative and exciting environmental sustainability program when they turn their attention to this “Golden Opportunity.”

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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

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.