The Business Case for Greening Your Property
By Arthur Weissman President and CEO, Green Seal, Inc. | October 28, 2008
The biggest obstacle to greening the hospitality industry - that is, trying to make its operations (including purchases) more environmentally sustainable - appears to be its presumption that being green has no real business benefit. In previous articles in this series, we have made a number of points to show ways in which greening can increase business revenue and reduce costs, but a more formal business case still needs to be made. In this article, we will discuss why such a business case is needed; what does and does not constitute a business case for greening; efforts to date to make the case; and what still needs to be done.
Need for Business Case
We have spoken with several major hotel chains, and most of them question the value of commiting to sustainability in any major or public way without a demonstration that it will improve their business. One can show many examples of cost savings and potential market benefits, but what they typically want most to see is evidence of market demand for greening efforts on the part of their potential customers. And that is generally lacking in most geographic markets and market segments.
We have met and worked with management and staff in major chains who demonstrate genuine commitment to sustainability and may even know how to implement it in their properties from a technical or engineering perspective. Yet they confess that they cannot make headway in their company unless they have data to show their CEO or brand managers that there is real demand for the greening of their properties. Theirs is a plea, really, for the business case so they can get their top management to move in a sustainable direction.
What this means, essentially, is that sustainability has to be aligned with the rest of the hospitality business, combining toward a common goal both the tangible and the intangible aspects of the business. It will not suffice for greening to be seen as an outlier, an add-on, to the core business; instead, it must be intrinsic, even a critical component of that business. Such is the way some companies are embracing sustainability: as an integral part of their corporate ethos, identity, and behavior.
We have explored the theoretical and some practical bases for this integration in previous articles, including the way greening can ultimately be aligned with good business practices, such as effectiveness and efficiency. All that remains is to make the demonstration in persuasive, concrete terms in the language of the industry, with a focus on customer demand.