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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Coming up in February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.