The Importance of Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry

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Over the past several decades, hoteliers have turned their focus to the importance of sustainability in the hospitality industry as it relates to hotel development and operations, including the environmental, economic and social impact. Sustainability is one of the most important issues currently facing our world.

The hospitality sector has historically had a dramatic environmental impact through energy and water consumption, use of consumable and durable goods, and solid and hazardous waste creation. Hotels consume energy for HVAC operations, lighting, fuel and other power needs. Water is used for bathrooms, F&B, and laundry, as well as other general operations (irrigation, cleaning and maintenance). Waste is generated by the disposal of paper, batteries and bulbs, furniture, equipment, appliances and more.

Economically, myths include the ideas that green operation is more expensive and that guests are not interested in sustainability. In fact, according to Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research, the reverse is true for both. Recent advances in technology related to renewable sources of energy (solar, geothermal, wind, etc.) have improved the economics of using these kinds of alternative energies at the property level.

On the social front, there has been a remarkable shift in recent times, as demonstrated by the introduction of corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, as well as the green buildings for new development projects. Cornell also offers educational programs to inform and drive discussion and critical thinking around significant industry issues like the global challenges of sustainability.

As hoteliers begin to realize that they can provide an enhanced guest experience by integrating natural elements, there has been an evolution in “green thought” in the community inspired by multiple factors:

  • Cost savings
    Cost is always a driving factor and reducing operating costs provides a compelling incentive for hoteliers. Cost reduction and efficiency strategies can be achieved by investing in better operational procedures and emerging environmental technologies. Many hoteliers now employ a variety of strategies to reduce, reuse, and recycle waste. Other emerging areas include sustainable procurement, indoor environmental quality (focusing on air quality and chemical/cleaning product use), and staff training programs (which can facilitate improved performance and higher levels of employee satisfaction/retention).
  • Economic incentives
    Our government has enacted a variety of economic incentives to encourage the development of environmental retrofits and the construction of “green” buildings. These benefits include tax write-offs, financial grants, insurance premium discounts and expedited regulatory permitting.
  • Regulatory affairs
    Current environmental regulations targeted toward the hotel sector are largely focused on facility operations such as storm-water management, hazardous materials handling, and environmental health and safety. However, a wide range of present and future legislative activities will impact hotel design, construction methods and operational approaches.
  • Guest experience
    A greater number of hoteliers understand that investments in environmental technology can have a direct positive impact on guest experience. Where the rubber meets the road, however, is what the guest thinks and feels about their hotel experience. Lighting, furnishings, cleaners and other front-of-house products combine to leave an impression with the customer, which can affect both occupancy and ADR.
  • Corporate brand image
    Adopting a sustainable corporate culture can provide a distinct advantage in terms of attracting and retaining talent. FairRidge Group, a team of management experts focused on business transformation through the practical application of sustainability, noted that a recent survey found that over 50% of American workers report being inclined to work for “green” companies. In particular, women and younger employees gravitate to those with a mission to look beyond profitability and focus on benefits to the wider community. They are eager to work with companies in which they feel they can make a difference.
  • Brand image
    Most major hotel brands have incorporated some level of sustainability platform into their brand definition. Several brands have been repositioned to cater to a younger generation of more environmentally and socially active customers. Having sustainable business practices will lead to an enhanced reputation and brand image, which translates to great hotel profits in the long term.

Last edited: 09/12/2018

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