How to Prepare a Corporate Environmental Program

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

The process of implementing a successful environmental program throughout a hotel brand can be a very daunting task for executives who have been assigned this role, or have decided to start such an initiative on their own. In this article we will try to outline some of the key questions and tools that brand managers will need to consider prior to implementing an environmental initiative throughout their chain. We will also suggest a few strategies that can help make the implementation of an environmental program efficient and streamlined for both corporate and property-level employees.

Your Environmental Policy and the Corporate Green Team Commitment

In a survey of hotel managers in the United States, Park(1) found that managers who have a high level of concern for the environment are also engaged with strong corporate commitments to reduce the environmental impacts of their brand. Without this top level commitment, company-wide environmental programs have a very small chance of successful integration with a brand's business plan and strategic positioning. But by taking on the responsibility of prioritizing corporate-level environmental goals for your brand, you can ensure that there will be an ongoing commitment to achieving these goals, raise your company's internal awareness of them, and allow for better inter-departmental coordination in achieving your desired reductions.

There are many tools and experts available now to help identify opportunities within your properties for environmentally responsible waste management, energy management, water conservation, and environmentally preferable purchasing practices that can improve your company's environmental performance. Often, however, internal identification of these areas for improvement are more successful, because your employees have a better understanding of your company's culture, as well as the most efficient means to implement environmental decisions into day-to-day operations. Before setting your environmental targets, however, it is also important to understand where you and your corporate-level Green Team can make the most significant impact. This is where reviewing your business plan and getting input from your various departments play a vital role in the development of your program.

Identifying and recruiting key corporate-level managers of your company's various departments into your Corporate Green Team will be challenging but also rewarding. Departments that you should try to bring into the team include: facility operations (to understand general energy, water, and preventive maintenance impacts), your contract purchasing department (to consider environmentally preferable products and services and your supply chains), housekeeping services, food services, human resources (to develop staff training programs and resources) and general administration (to understand back office impacts). The important thing to remember when you do ask them to join is to understand what their main concerns are and address them at the outset. A few ways to achieve this include presenting your potential team members with cost savings information, industry trend reports, or a list of other potential employee benefits that you have been able to research internally.

Once you have these colleagues on board, their expertise and insight into your brand's operations will be crucial for identifying which modifications to corporate-level polices can achieve the greatest reductions of environmental impact by each department. Developing an environmental policy with this Corporate Green Team will take time, but is usually successful if the team can meet monthly to report on their progress. If the group is unable to provide the analysis or data needed to understand your brands' impact, then you should seek external help for preliminary energy, water, and waste audits and if needed, supply chain analysis.

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Coming up in March 2019...

Human Resources: An Era of Transition

Traditionally, the human resource department administers five key areas within a hotel operation - compliance, compensation and benefits, organizational dynamics, selection and retention, and training and development. However, HR professionals are also presently involved in culture-building activities, as well as implementing new employee on-boarding practices and engagement initiatives. As a result, HR professionals have been elevated to senior leadership status, creating value and profit within their organization. Still, they continue to face some intractable issues, including a shrinking talent pool and the need to recruit top-notch employees who are empowered to provide outstanding customer service. In order to attract top-tier talent, one option is to take advantage of recruitment opportunities offered through colleges and universities, especially if they have a hospitality major. This pool of prospective employees is likely to be better educated and more enthusiastic than walk-in hires. Also, once hired, there could be additional training and development opportunities that stem from an association with a college or university. Continuing education courses, business conferences, seminars and online instruction - all can be a valuable source of employee development opportunities. In addition to meeting recruitment demands in the present, HR professionals must also be forward-thinking, anticipating the skills that will be needed in the future to meet guest expectations. One such skill that is becoming increasingly valued is “resilience”, the ability to “go with the flow” and not become overwhelmed by the disruptive influences  of change and reinvention. In an era of transition—new technologies, expanding markets, consolidation of brands and businesses, and modifications in people's values and lifestyles - the capacity to remain flexible, nimble and resilient is a valuable skill to possess. The March Hotel Business Review will examine some of the strategies that HR professionals are employing to ensure that their hotel operations continue to thrive.