Take a Systematic Approach to Your Cleaning Program's Sustainability

By Lynne A. Olson RD&E Corporate Scientist, Global Sustainability, ECOLAB | May 28, 2017

The terms “sustainable” and “green” are both broadly understood, yet have no widely accepted or actionable definition. For example, if a guest inquires, “Do you have a green or sustainable cleaning program at your property?” there are at least two ways to respond:

“It depends, what is your definition of ‘sustainable’ or ‘green’?” Once defined, you can respond by measuring your lodging cleaning program against the proposed definition. Or alternatively, you could say “yes, ” and then clearly explain your definition of “sustainable”. However, this means you must have defined sustainability for your brand, or borrowed and adopted definitions from other reputable sources.

Over the last several years lodging properties have been driven to answer this kind of question and almost always borrow their definitions of a sustainable cleaning program from other sources. In North America, the most widely borrowed definitions for sustainability, in the context of lodging and facility cleaning, are adopted from the US Green Building Council LEED ( Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design ) standard, which points to multi-attribute, eco-certifications ( Green Seal, US EPA Safer Choice and UL ) for guidance in selecting cleaning and janitorial products such as trash bags, toilet paper, hard surface, floor and hand care products. Trip Advisor has taken a similar approach to that described in the LEED standard, but implemented the guidance as a pared down, simplified self-survey.

During the past several years many corporations have implemented “sustainable” lodging cleaning programs leveraging borrowed definitions of sustainability. More recently, leadership organizations have started looking back and asking if these efforts are resulting in real, measurable improvements. If the key driver was to be able to consistently answer the “sustainable cleaning program” question, many of these initiatives have provided a response. But, has this approach lead to real, measurable results? Good question, but difficult to answer since in most cases results and impact reduction are not systematically considered in developing a sustainable lodging cleaning program.

To address this gap, the Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council ( SPLC ), a nonprofit organization, is devoted to simplifying and standardizing sustainable purchasing for the Institutional market. It does this by delivering the best available sustainable purchasing guidance to Institutional buyers within a process-based approach that ensures sustainable purchasing programs strategically identify, address and measure real results and impacts. Founded in 2013, the Council has already attracted 180 member organizations with more than $200 billion in collective purchasing power. Several hospitality organizations are involved as Council members, including Caesars, Hilton, MGM Resorts, Avendra and Vizient. As the Council’s work spreads, clear purchasing requirements will reward suppliers that design effective products and systems with real and measureable benefits. That market demand will give suppliers the confidence to invest in sustainable innovation in a way that will take sustainability from “random acts of greenness” to business as usual.

To embark on a truly systematic sustainable cleaning program, it is foundational to identify the impacts that are relevant and specific to your property and brand aspirations. For lodging, potential impact falls into five main buckets: cleaning program performance, guest comfort and employee exposure, proper product application, solid waste and water.

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Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.