Business Case for Sustainability

By Arthur Weissman President and CEO, Green Seal, Inc. | September 02, 2010

Last year we wrote an article explaining the need for developing a business case for sustainability in the lodging industry and what it should entail. (see http://www.hotelexecutive.com/bus_rev/pub/002/126.asp) This article will update the earlier one by providing a framework for considering sustainability in the lodging industry, giving recent information relevant to a business case from the Doubletree in Portland, Oregon, and highlighting other examples of efforts being made to address sustainability in the industry.

Need for Industry Consideration of Sustainability

Today, with increasing public interest and awareness of the detrimental impacts human activity can have on the environment and society, consumers are more skeptical and critical of "green" claims being made about goods and services. The question facing them when they make purchasing decisions today is more graduated, and examines to what extent the production and use of a good or service is detrimental to the environment and society. Specifically within the hospitality industry, this question can now be phased as, How does the hospitality service promote sustainable development of its local community and other communities that it interacts with? Propson (1) agrees that," A sustainable hotel should have as small a footprint as possible; it should sit lightly on the land." but that "Eco-lodges do this in part simply because they are physically quite small. It's a different story at larger hotels and resorts." The next question is whether both large and small properties can agree on a common standard to measure sustainability in the hospitality industry. In the following section, we first look at the sustainability program of Doubletree of Portland, Oregon and those of a few other service providers that show successful integration of broad sustainability efforts in their businesses.

Sustainable Hospitality Service Program Models

In the U.S, a specific example of the benefits gained by integrating a comprehensive social and environmental accountability plan within hospitality is the Doubletree Hotel and Executive Meeting Center.(http://www.doubletreeportlandgreen.com )

This full service hotel and meeting facility in Portland has developed a sustainability program which is both remedial and pro-active in addressing the environmental, social and economic impacts of its business activities. By voluntarily undertaking Green Seal certification (under GS-33), and implementing a fully-customized Carbon Calculator with The Climate Trust via their website, the facility has made a conscious effort to reduce the hotel's impact on natural systems. These actions reflect how the company's comprehensive Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) philosophy is incorporated into its organizational ethos, identity, and behavior. In so doing, the Doubletree Portland has earned approximately $2 million in additional revenue from new businesses seeking green hotels for rooms and meetings.

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Guest Service: A Culture of YES

In a recent global consumers report, 97% of the participants said that customer service is a major factor in their loyalty to a brand, and 76% said they view customer service as the true test of how much a company values them. And since there is no industry more reliant on customer satisfaction than the hotel industry, managers must be unrelenting in their determination to hire, train and empower the very best people, and to create a culture of exceptional customer service within their organization. Of course, this begins with hiring the right people. There are people who are naturally service-oriented; people who are warm, empathetic, enthusiastic, pleasant, thoughtful and optimistic; people who take pride in their ability to solve problems for the hotel guests they are serving. Then, those same employees must be empowered to solve problems using their own judgment, without having to track down a manager to do it. This is how seamless problem solving and conflict resolution are achieved in guest service. This willingness to empower employees is part of creating a Culture of Yes within an organization.  The goal is to create an environment in which everyone is striving to say “Yes”, rather than figuring out ways to say, “No”. It is essential that this attitude be instilled in all frontline, customer-facing, employees. Finally, in order to ensure that the hotel can generate a consistent level of performance across a wide variety of situations, management must also put in place well-defined systems and standards, and then educate their employees about them. Every employee must be aware of and responsible for every standard that applies in their department. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.