Helping Your Hotel Green Your Community

By Rani Bhattacharyya Community Economics Extension Educator , University of Minnesota Extension- Center for Community Vitality | October 16, 2011

With the growing demand in the hospitality market for sincere and transparent reporting of environmental commitments being made by service providers, it would be wise for managers and property owners to consider and benefit from the monitoring and reporting efforts being made by your local city, county and state officials. When you consider participating in one of these government managed programs it's important to keep in mind that they have been developed from a need to aggregate data not only for internal forecasting and development, but also to provide more visibility of these sustainability efforts to prospective visitors and businesses.

In his book titled Rise of the Creative Class, Richard Florida puts it succinctly by stating that: creative professionals are knowledge-based workers and include those working in healthcare, business and finance, the legal sector, and education. They "draw on complex bodies of knowledge to solve specific problems" using higher degrees of education to do so (2002). He also goes onto explain that these creative professionals choose to re-locate, live and work in communities where there is a proven balance between diverse modes of living, recreation and access to hi-tech technology. With these recommendations in mind, many community leaders have taken up the responsibility to show how sustainable and balanced their communities really are. Green business programs are the key to making this happen.

Community Benchmarking Programs

With SustainLane's benchmarking efforts in 2005 of the fifty most populated U.S. cities, local government officials had their first taste of how their community planning and developmental efforts could be evaluated externally for performance using environmental and economic impact metrics. Since then, many officials have undertaken the task to identify means by which they can help to report on their communities continuing improvements. These self reporting projects range from Green Maps (developed by community members to highlight environmental, cultural and social destinations within their cities) all the way up to the International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives' (ICLEI) new STAR Community Index program. ICLEI's program once adopted by a community helps officials develop sustainability goals and then benchmark and measure these goals using their patented Clean Air and Climate Protection software. What is important to note in these programs is the concerted effort being made by local government agencies to develop metrics by which they can measure and monitor the sustainable development of their communities.

In reaching out to local companies, green business programs are helping to incentivize this monitoring and evaluation process within the private sector. Some of these programs offer marketing packages, while others have teamed up with local utilities providers to provide discounted services to retro –fit or conduct environmental audits at existing properties. Other programs also offer expedited permitting processes, or subsides for participating in environmental recognition programs like Green Seal, USGBC, or EPA's facility EnergyStar program. The incentive package that is put together by each community varies with the needs of their resident businesses, departmental administrative capacity, and willingness to partner with other agencies that have overlapping jurisdictions.

Green businesses in general, can support cities in achieving major environmental and economic objectives by helping to:

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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.