Corporate Responsibility: Myths and Opportunities
By David Michael Jerome SVP Corporate Responsibility, InterContinental Hotels Group | September 16, 2012
Corporate responsibility, sustainability, green – whatever you prefer to call it, it's here to stay. But is CR even relevant for travel, you might ask, how seriously should we be taking it? Getting to the heart of the matter can be tricky – there's no shortage of myths surrounding CR and the hotel industry. But if they're not dealt with, these myths can mask the many opportunities that sustainability offers the astute hotel business.
What is clear is that CR doesn't mean telling people they shouldn't travel. After all, to travel is human – we travel for jobs, for survival, to celebrate and to learn. The task for us as providers of hospitality is to find ways to make sure that when people do travel, they do it as responsibly as possible. Only by making that move will you be poised to grasp the opportunities.
Myth One: Green is expensive and time consuming
There are a number of ways to think about this but the bottom line is: sustainable practices save money.
For a start, the technologies hotels use to measure sustainability are evolving quickly – they're getting better and easier to use at the same time as the costs of implementing them are coming down. And that's without the operational savings that come from monitoring things like energy usage. At IHG, we developed an online environmental management system called Green Engage. Energy is the second largest cost in our hotels, after people. We set a target to make energy savings of 6 – 10% in our owned and managed estate in the three year period between 2010 and 2012. Our latest carbon footprint study shows that we have achieved a reduction in carbon despite growth, including a reduction of about 15% in our owned and managed hotels.
You have to look at the total cost of an action. Let's take a simple example. Switching the light bulbs you use in your hotel is pretty expensive – getting rid of your old inventory and replacing it with a new one can cost around US$200,000. But you'll recoup that investment in energy savings in just six months, assuming you buy the right kind of light bulb. After that, you're saving money.
Water usage is another area where savings can be made. By fitting environmentally friendly taps that save water without compromising the guest experience one of our Holiday Inn hotels in Flinders, Australia, recouped its AUD $22,000 investment in low flow technology after 18 months and cut water usage by 50%. The taps contain vacuum flow valves which pump air into the water stream. This means the taps use less water but the flow feels as powerful as before.
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