It’s important for hotels and hotel companies to implement measurements and report them because no strategy is viable without the ability to measure and recognize it.
The hotel industry is endorsing sustainable development more, and most hotel companies have included it in their business strategy. To make a difference between greenwashing (a term used to describe the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly) and a serious plan, it’s important that hotels and hotel companies implement measurements and report them because no strategy is viable without the ability to measure and recognize it.
Key measurements relating to the carbon footprint of a hotel include:
• Gas and water consumption;
• Landfilled, recycled and composted waste; and
• Employees’ transportation impact.
These measurements prove a hotel’s commitment to the environment and help improve its results every year. There are other measurements that can be organized around the social responsibility section (people) of the triple bottom line (profit, planet and people)—for example, the number of hours per employee devoted to charitable work, the number of training hours per employee, the outcome of charitable and community programs, diversity within the hotel and lost hours statistics.
To help independent hotels measure and improve their impact on the world persistently, it’s highly recommended to use a measurement program. Some of these are certifications such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design or LEED EB (Existing Buildings) and ISO 14001. They concentrate solely on the environmental impact of the hotel. Others are complete and include the three Ps (people, planet, profit) such as the Global Reporting Initiative, which was created in the late ’90s by Ceres, a coalition of companies interested in sustainability; the United Nations Environment Program; and the Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria. Sustainable Travel International just issued its new STEP 2.0 certification program.
Hotel companies are developing their own measurement systems that help each hotel record all statistics and improve itself against its own previous results. More importantly, it gives a chance for a hotel to benchmark itself against other company properties. Such an opportunity helps improve the economic bottom line because each hotel learns to better manage its utility costs. InterContinental Hotels Group recently launched the Green Engage program, which will measure the carbon footprint of its 4,200 hotels worldwide. Such a program is extremely valuable for owners, too, because hotels will be able to consistently improve their impact on the environment and their energy costs.
To be recognized for objectivity, reporting can be made through a third-party company, such as EnviRelation. Eric Ricaurte, a company executive, said reporting demonstrates the commitment of a hotel to sustainable development values and avoids greenwashing. The challenge is that programs are more global in their approach and not yet specifically adapted to individual hotels. But for those hotels that consider they don’t have enough measurements or information to put in a report, Ricaurte suggests reporting anyway because most of the time properties find they do much more than they think, and it will engage them permanently into improving their performance. He believes negative trends shouldn’t restrain hoteliers from reporting. On the contrary, it proves the seriousness of the work of the property or the company and its efforts to fulfill its ambition. Sustainable development is a long journey. Reporting is a work in progress.
A sustainability report is an excellent communication tool. Its impact on stakeholders is the reporting, disclosure and transparency of the commitment the company makes to sustainable development ideals. Clients usually are impressed knowing the actions a hotel has undertaken and are saying more frequently they’ll chose a property based on this extraordinary criteria.
Hervé Houdré began his tenure as general manager of the Willard InterContinental Washington D.C. in 2004. He is recognized for introducing refinements which impact profit and increase market share. Under his leadership, the Willard InterContinental has embarked on a sustainability program, Willard InterContinental - The Next 100 Years. Houdré, who has written a white paper, Sustainable Hospitality© : Sustainable Development in the Hotel Industry, and his team, have put into place a five-year roadmap that defines and quantifies the mid-term SD goals for the hotel. The hotel published its first GRI Standard Sustainability Report available at www.willarddc.com/sd.