Understanding Your Hotel's Environmental Relationship
By Walker Lunn Founder, EnviRelation, LLC | September 25, 2011
Consider this: US agricultural soil is lost 10 times faster than the natural replenishment rate. As a business leader, understanding your hotel's environmental relationship is important because it provides insight into critical – not important, but critical – risks and opportunities.Relationships are give and take. Your hotel's environmental relationship is what you take from the environment, and what you give to the environment. If the food, power, transportation, and water your hotel purchases are not critical to the success of the operation, you can stop reading here. If you believe that they are, then you understand that you must have a good relationship with the Earth.
If these resources are critical, then they deserve rigorous and comprehensive consideration and planning. A hotel can begin by listing all the things it takes from the planet to support daily operations, and a list of all the things a hotel "gives" back to the planet. Chances are, your hotel takes a lot of good things, and gives back a lot of bad things. Even properties with "green" certifications may find that for them, being green is not "good" for the environment; it is just being "less bad."There is a break-even point on being "good" for the environment and most "green" certifications place organizations far below it.
This is about more than how "green" your guests think your hotel is. Most guests see green certifications as a good thing, but few understand the requirements and what that means for a hotel's environmental relationship. David Jerome, Senior Vice President for Corporate Responsibility with InterContinental Hotels, wants guests to compare a night's stay with InterContinental Hotels to a night's stay in their own homefrom an environmental perspective. He believes this is a fair comparison and that IHG will outperform most homes in this respect. Making this comparison also encourages a guest to look to create change at home and to hold their hotel of choice to a higher standard. But outperforming your guests' own environmental measures doesn't mean you have a sustainable business model.
To begin understanding your environmental relationship, a manager should understand certain characteristics about the resources that they use. Examples are:
Stability of Supply
Understand how much of this resource is available, how often supplies are replenished, and if that rate of replenishment is changing. Beyond supply, you should understand the demand trends placed on that resource - what is the rate of demand, will that rate change, and what are the implications to your ability to acquire that resource at a reasonable price? A 2006 article by Susan Lang in Cornell's Chronicle Online points out that US soil replenishment rates are far below the rate of loss. Other resources may not face the same situation. The USGS Sustainability of Ground-Water Resources is quick to point out that ground-water replenishment rates far exceed consumption rates nationally, but local variances could be significant. Food is another excellent example. As public opinion and science lean further away from industrial agriculture and heavy use of growth hormones, pesticides, and genetically modified, mono-culture crops, access to what is considered healthy, supple and safe food may pose a challenge.
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