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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

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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.

A Green Road Map for Executives: Begin with an Environmental Mission

March 31, 2009 1 comment

The first Green Travel Summit concluded last week in Newport Beach, CA. Their findings were released in list format and outlined the Top Ten Challenges to Greening Corporate Travel. The number one hurtle they identified is the same obstacle that slows down new initiatives across all industries. Corporate travel executives are having a difficult time defining a road map that will enable them to begin the process of making the products and services they provide more environmentally sustainable.

It is said the first step is often the hardest and I applaud the numerous initiatives already taken by those attending the inaugural Green Travel Summit. Now the excitement generated by such major players as American Express, the SkyTeam airline partners, and InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG), has to be put into practice. And not just by those in attendance or even just those in the travel industry. Businesses throughout the world, including those in the most dire of straits such as GM and Chrysler,  should start at the beginning and develop an environmental mission statement to help focus and guide their sustainability efforts.

An environmental mission statement is the sum of three pieces: Why + Goal + Success

  1. Why is this topic important to us? – We believe …
  2. What is our end goal? – We want to …
  3. How is success measured? – We envision a world ….

Taken separately, these three questions are important enough to spark conversation and suggest that change is in the air. When grouped  together, they can light a green torch will illuminate the best path forward. 

Why is this topic important to us? The reasons are almost infinite. There may be an operational problem that needs to be solved. Stakeholders may have become restless about the status quo and are requesting changes. Incentives may have been put in place by the government. Maybe other major players in the industry are already starting to move and you do not want to be left behind.

Whatever the reason, you have to be honest with yourself about why you are ready to begin going “green.” Very often it is a variety of factors. Each and every one of these should be documented and vetted because together they will enable you to figure out what is important to your organization. Understanding the reasons behind the change allows you to move with confidence and passion. 

Why sample – “We believe developing environmentally sustainable business operations is a vital component in decreasing our company’s carbon footprint and reducing its impact on the natural world. “

What is our end goal? I believe that given the choice, most business leaders would elect to have their companies be as clean and efficient as possible. So, the ultimate aim for almost everyone is to be completely “green.” But how does that look in your business? Will travel be replaced by virtual meetings? Will your products be produced with 100% recycled material? Can your people work remotely 85% of the time? 

These may seem like basic questions but they begin to lay out what needs to be done. Even within the same industry, travel for example, a hotel’s path to “green” differs from an airline’s which differs from a travel agency’s which is not the same as a cruise line’s. And the road GM follows will certainly vary from the one Chrysler chooses to drive down. Looking at what your business does to the world and defining all the areas in which you need to work will help bring your road map into focus. Keep in mind, your environmental mission statement is constantly evolving as your company and our world move ahead. Consider it progress when you have to edit it because you have accomplished your goals.

Goal sample – “We are working to assess the full extent to which our products and services touch the natural world. We will finish this process by August 1st, 2009. We will use the findings to develop a strategic green vision to be launched on January 4, 2010.”

Be bold. This is a time for action. 

How is success measured? – Close your eyes. Despite the IBM ads that say otherwise, closing ones eyes is a great way to block out distractions and image the possibilities. Daydreaming is proving to be another effective method for developing creative ideas. So, choose your means and image the end. 

Envision your customers, your employees, your office, and your suppliers. What are they doing in five or ten years? How about in 15 or 20 years? Image beyond today’s technology. How are your goods and services packaged, distributed, sold, used, and recycled? Who purchases them and why? 

How sample – “We are striving to revolutionize our industry and change our world. We envision that our products honor the materials from which they are made and inspire those who use them. They can be recycled by simply leaving them out in the rain. They can last for a lifetime if stored in a safe, cool, dry, and sacred place.” 

As I wrote above, the process of developing an environmental mission is a cyclical one. Your Why, What, and How should be revised annually and referenced often. 

And what if your company already has an environmental mission statement?

Use it.