Five 'Recession-friendly' Ingredients to Maximize Effectiveness of Your Green Program
By Jeff Slye Senior Consultant, Five Winds International | March 04, 2012
It seems that every hotel these days is claiming they have an environmental commitment and official eco-program. It makes sense considering some of the core benefits of going green include; attracting customers that share green values, achieving bottom line cost savings that come from conservation and more efficient products, plus attracting, retaining, and inspiring employees. The most compelling benefit is that the top line benefits become more real and significant each year for hotels. TripAdvisor's April 16th survey illustrates this point stating, "27% (of hotel guests) are willing to spend $50 or more to be environmentally-friendly when traveling."
While all this green hotel activity is good news, I've also seen many hotel operations not aligning with their eco-intentions causing disappointment among guests. From the same survey, TripAdvisor states, "17% of travelers reported staying at a hotel that didn't live up to its eco-friendly promises." I've helped hundreds of hotels and restaurants authenticate their eco-program and on a recent audit trip, I witnessed several hotels with self-proclaimed green programs still taking towels and washing them when not requested (yes, I mark the tags) and leaving all the lights and TVs on prior to check-in, and I checked in at 10 pm. It's my belief that these inconsistencies are not necessarily from a lack of desire to do the right thing, rather they likely come from a lack of a concerted effort and understanding on how to ensure their programs and commitments are effectively implemented and managed.
By now, the term, green-washing, may have entered your consciousness. It's important for me to clarify my definition of green-washing as compared to the failed efforts despite green proclamations. True green-washing occurs when a company is consciously fraudulent or intentionally deceives guests regarding the communication and execution of their green efforts and/or environmental commitment. I don't see green-washing when a hotel or company has made a commitment toward reducing their environmental efforts and are behind or struggling on those efforts. In my experience consulting with hotel companies, the latter comes from lack of expertise, guidance, and support, which I hope to help address with the following five steps for maximizing a hotel's green program.
1. Review and Reaffirm Executive Support
Although grass roots green teams are critical to any program's success, without support from the top, the initiative and effort can only go so far. If senior management is talking about the hotel's green efforts, it is only natural that employees will want to stay educated, involved, and engaged in the program. If the program is an executive priority, they'll want to ensure the program is a success. Great examples of green hospitality leadership are blogs on Marriott's environmental efforts written by Bill Marriott, Marriott's CEO. Click here for his Earth Hour blog (link). Although Marriott is not perfect and there are some of Marriott hotels that are still behind, this type of executive commitment has made their eco-efforts more visible and propelled the company into a leadership position, particularly among the larger chains. Marriott employees are clear they have a job to do in making the program as effective as possible.
2. Green Team Engagement