Luxury and Sustainability Can Co-exist, Through Alignment of a Brand's Ethos

By James Bermingham Vice President, Montage Hotels & Resorts | September 04, 2011

Sustainability is currently the hottest buzzword in the hospitality industry. Much conversation exists over possible fiscal advantages of sustainable initiatives, pros and cons of various initiatives (i.e. towel cards) and the impact on the guest experience. However, despite the surge in banter on this topic, there is still debate over whether sustainability can co-exist with luxury.

We at Montage Hotels & Resorts believe that sustainability and luxury co-exist. We have found that sustainability aligns brand ethics with luxury guests, providing long-term value.

There are two core principles that allow us to bring this experience to life at our three properties, Montage Laguna Beach, Montage Beverly Hills and Montage Deer Valley: incorporating sustainability into the ethos of the brand and never losing sight of the guest experience. These two principles have distinguished us as one of the first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) hotels in Southern California.

Following is a closer look at our commitment to sustainability and how we define sustainable luxury.

Incorporating Sustainability into the Brand's Ethos

The first step is a genuine, brand-wide commitment to the cause. For many, this commitment may require a redevelopment of the brand ethos. Montage Hotels & Resorts is fortunate in that we did not have to retrofit our brand's ethos to incorporate sustainability; from the onset, it has always been a product of our approach to doing business.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.