An Overview of Environmental Innovations in Five Hospitality Areas

By Arthur Weissman President and CEO, Green Seal, Inc. | April 22, 2012

With all the greening tools and programs that are now available, both property managers and guests are having a harder time discriminating what is really environmentally preferable. To help remedy this, an important principle to consider is: how significant is an activity in reducing the environmental impacts of my property and service? If the reduction is minimal, you might want to look at your operations a little more deeply in some of the areas we present in this article. For each operational aspect listed, we've tried to highlight some of the current trends and tools that are available that are easy to implement, as well as a few that might take a bit more effort. Starting small and working towards achieving the more complex will make your property and services not only more environmentally responsible, but also more efficient, reliable, and enjoyable for clients as well. Is there anything better for your property and brand than that?

The five main aspects of hospitality management where lodging managers and executives can significantly reduce a property's environmental impact include: facility operations, purchasing, housekeeping, food services, and staff engagement and outreach. Through adopting environmentally responsible practices in these operative areas, a hotel chain or property can measurably reduce its impact on human health and the environment.

Facility operations, while one of the broadest aspects of hospitality management, is also one of the more common areas wherein property and chain managers are focusing their efforts. Environmental initiatives to track energy and water efficiency, ensure preventative equipment maintenance plans are implemented, and to divert all or part of the waste stream towards recycling or re-use programs are the most common and easily implemented aspects of facility operations that a hotel chain or property can adopt without a huge expense. Energy, water, and waste diversion can be tracked by hand or by using many of the facility management software platforms currently available. These data can also be used to define environmental goals for a company's environmental team and are frequently used when a hotel chooses to report on its environmental impact to customers. While not an initial cost, facility upgrades are also popular, but often have a greater environmental impact when planned for after the tracking initiatives, preventative maintenance, and waster diversion programs are already implemented.

Environmentally preferable purchasing can also affect a broad range of hospitality operations. By localizing your supply chains, paying attention to the ingredients that make up the products and services you use, and by selecting vendors that use minimal packaging or provide take-back programs for larger packaging, you can help reduce the environmental impact of your properties from transporting goods and services. Sourcing locally can also benefit your operation by increasing the positive local publicity of your facilities and by making your customers' experiences more memorable by incorporating local flavor into their visit. When comparing products and services, you should pay attention to claims made on their labels or literature, the products' expected durability, and potential hazards to air, soil, and water quality when used or if used incorrectly. By purchasing products that are certified by a reputable third-party organization such as Green Seal, you can reduce your property's(ies') environmental footprint while creating a healthier environment for your guests. Purchasing products with minimal packaging (or partnering with a supplier who provides container take-back services) also reduces the amount of time and labor of your staff in processing the extra material. Reducing this clutter can also make back-of-the-house areas safer and healthier for your staff.

In the area of housekeeping, you should try to develop environmentally responsible goals that cover the guest room amenities and maintenance, laundering services, and common area cleaning policies and procedures. It's important that efficient procedures for each of these internal services be documented, read, and frequently reviewed by your staff. Popular and easily adoptable initiatives can include:

  • pre-programmed temperature settings for cleaning and laundering equipment,
  • proper use of dilution control systems for amenities as well as cleaning solutions, and
  • monitoring consumption of amenities and cleaning products. .
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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.