Beginning Your Sustainability Journey: Lessons Learned From Sofitel

By Cerise Bridges Certification Specialist, Green Seal | May 20, 2018

Hotels can be like small cities with complex infrastructures and intricate moving parts. "Going green" on such a large scale can be daunting, but the benefits are undeniable and the tools for success are out there. For some firsthand guidance on how to start, what to expect, and where to find help, we tapped Rex Umbay, Director of Engineering at the Sofitel Los Angeles, a recently Green Seal-certified gem in the heart of glamorous Beverly Hills.

Cerise Bridges: Thanks so much for taking the time to share your experience and insights with us, Rex. Let's start with the basics. Could you give a quick snapshot of the building - the year it was built, recent renovations, etc.?

Rex Umbay: The building was originally built in 1988 as a Sofitel, part of the AccorHotels Group, and was fully renovated in 2006. Soft renovation projects have been taking place since then, including a full renovation of our food and beverage areas (bar and restaurant).

CB: When did the hotel begin to go green and why was it important?

RU: AccorHotels has been pioneering green initiatives and leading sustainability in the hospitality industry since 1994, when its Environment Department was created. In 2002, the Sustainable Development Department was formed, and in 2011, an action plan came to fruition as the Planet 21 program. Planet 21 consisted of 21 sustainable key actions and granted 4 levels of certification to hotels successfully executing certain initiatives. It is at this time that the Sofitel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills made eco-friendly initiatives its number one priority - and nothing has changed since then. Being green is still our own hotel's main objective -- we have a great responsibility to balance our activities with eco-friendly practices. This positive environmental impact starts at the property level. Now, more than ever, we are working on sustaining and improving our green initiatives.

CB: What is one thing you've learned during the process and do you have any advice for hotel managers who are just beginning the process of greening their properties?

/ SLIDES
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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.