Building a Green Program in Your Portfolio of Properties
By Arthur Weissman President and CEO, Green Seal, Inc. | October 28, 2008
Becoming green is not a one-time thing: it requires a concerted effort over time from a number of people and departments. This article will outline some recent trends in developing an environmentally responsible corporate policy, the steps to build a green program in a property or group of properties, and information about what should be covered by written policies and procedures.
Recent Trends in Corporate-Level Green Management Policies
In recent years, environmentally responsible property construction, management, and operational policies have grown extensively to include corporate-level engagement and institutionalization throughout franchises. This year Hilton Hotel Corporation announced their short- and long-term sustainability goals, Starwood developed its new franchise ELEMENT, and InterContinental established its Innovation Hotel Initiative -- showing that there has been a strong and positive shift in the thinking of corporate managers to act on and implement environmentally responsible polices within their chains. In their Tourism, Hospitality and Leisure Industry Trend Study for 2008, Deloitte is also careful to point out that sustainability is "Unlike many other business issues... it is all-encompassing - involving shareholders, consumers, retailers, suppliers, employees, non-government organizations, state and federal governments, and scientific and academic institutions. Leading companies in this arena are factoring in changing technologies, emerging consumer demands, and evolving regulatory requirements into their strategies and operations. In addition, they are taking a full life-cycle view of sustainability, and understanding how changes in one part of the organization could impact another." 1
Part of this shift is due to improvements in recent years in the ability to track and record environmentally responsible initiatives of individual facilities worldwide2 as well as a heightened awareness of energy and carbon issues, exemplified in carbon reporting tools such as the Doubletree Portland's on-line carbon-off set calculator developed in partnership with The Climate Trust. A helpful tool that is facilitating the development of green action plans across a brand or chain has been the data they now have available from life-cycle assessment software, which has been used internally by a number of brands for the past few years. These databases provide quantitative baseline data that chain and brand managers are now using to establish incremental green modification goals for their environmental programs. Quantifying how day-to-day operations can promote waste minimization, energy efficiency, freshwater management, waste water management, and the consumption of environmentally responsible products will enable you to set realistic and meaningful goals for more sustainable operations.
Another source of corporate-level interest in sustainability and environmental responsibility is due to an increasing demand by consumers for public reporting by corporations to disclose their efforts in adopting sustainable practices3. Fox - Przeworski4 has also pointed out the significance of linkages between environment and trade issues that are being discovered through efforts to harmonize trade liberalization, environmental protection, and domestic development goals. This harmonization has led to an array of incentives available to developers and lodging franchises who commit to building and managing green properties.
So with all this interest and demand in how your company and franchise can green your operations, where is the best place to begin? The first and foremost effort should be to build consensus within your senior management as to the importance of sustainable operations for your business. There are numerous guides and resources available now that identify and list ROIs for green facility design, green facility management, green operations, and environmentally preferable purchasing that can be of assistance in identifying specific solutions for your construction, housekeeping, and bulk purchasing. Once senior-level consensus is reached within your company via a written policy of commitment to sustainability, an action plan based on quantifiable goals should be developed by each department that outlines what actions will be taken to realize corporate commitments in the policy. These action plans should also include specific individuals or staff teams responsible for implementing each action. In developing these action plans department staff should collectively review the activities they are responsible for with the following questions in mind: