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Operating in a global context: sustainability in the hospitality sector

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Inge Huijbrechts, vice-president of responsible business at Rezidor Hotel Group, writes how the hospitality industry is helping tackle key sustainability challenges.

In 2012, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) estimated that the global travel industry generated over 260m jobs (one in 11 jobs worldwide) and contributed 9% of the global gross domestic product. In the same year the number of global travellers surpassed one billion. An industry of this size has a considerable impact on social, economic and environmental conditions around the world.

The United Nations Environment Programme has forecast that if the tourism industry continues to operate in the way it does today, energy use and emissions will double by 2050, with water use increasing to 2.5 times current levels. Buildings are already responsible for 30% of global energy consumption, yet most are very inefficient. Energy savings of between 20 and 30% could be achieved if commercial buildings were designed to be more efficient.

Hotels that make investments in green technologies and the green economy will help to reduce the impact of tourism. The hospitality industry has a growing responsibility to develop and adapt its business operations and engaging all stakeholders, including our customers, in this process is key.

Consumer research shows that sustainability is of increasing importance when making travel decisions. Ninety-three per cent of Conde Nast Traveller readers surveyed in 2011 stated that travel companies should be responsible for protecting the environment, and 58% stated that their hotel choice is influenced by the support the hotel gives to the local community.

Furthermore, a 2013 Cone/Echo Global CR Study found that 91% of global consumers are likely to switch brands to one associated with a good cause. However, this idea is not a new one – with a 1996 global study by Business in the Community revealing that 86% of consumers said that they would have a more positive opinion of a company that is doing something to make the world a better place, regardless of the cause or issue concerned.

It is clear then that in order to meet objectives and see results, that communication to all stakeholders is key. Providing guests and customers with information and opportunities to be involved with sustainability activity – in a fun way – will not only have a positive effect on results, but will also make staying at pro-active hotels more appealing to environmentally discerning travellers.

To meet this demand, we’ve integrated environmental options in our loyalty programme, Club Carlson. It is the first loyalty programme in the hospitality industry to commit to a global carbon offsetting initiative for all meeting and events and provides individual members with the opportunity to redeem Gold Points to offset the carbon of their personal travel and support wind farms in India and tree-planting in Kenya.

As part of our continued efforts to inform and make it easy for our guests to participate in responsible business activities at our hotels, over 200 of our hotels across the world participated in Earth Hour this year. Of particular success was the Radisson Blu Hotel, Birmingham. Turning off 90% of front of house lighting and substituting this with numerous tea lights, guests were encouraged to support the cause by turning off their guestroom lights during the special hour. Guests at the Radisson Blu Filini restaurant experienced a romantic and environmentally friendly dinner with the entire restaurant illuminated with tea lights.

Further guest incentives have been piloted in our Park Inn by Radisson hotels, whereby guests are offered the option to forego housekeeping services in exchange for Club Carlson points and a Rezidor donation to World Childhood Foundation. Ongoing initiatives also include allowing guests to indicate whether they’d like towels washed to save on water and resource usage.

Resources

Hotels are extremely resource-intensive, particularly in terms of energy and water use. They also impact the natural environment through food use and waste generation.

The UN has estimated that by 2050, the world’s need for drinkable water will double and the need for fresh water for agriculture will increase by 80%. Recognising this urgent need to continuously reduce water consumption will be key to making a change to this troubling statistic.

Roughly one third of the food produced in the world for human consumption every year – approximately 1.3 billion tonnes – is lost or wasted. Global population growth projections estimate there will be an additional 2 to 3 billion people to feed in the world over the next 40 years. This will result in a 70% increase in demand for food by 2050.

As food and drink represents over 30% of the group’s revenue, Rezidor recognises the importance of reducing waste and the resource intensity of the food and drink supply chain. Reducing water consumption in our hotels – without compromising service quality for guests – is a key priority. By the end of 2013: 71% of guestrooms had water saving toilets, 79% of guestrooms now have aerators to control tap and shower water flows, 7% of hotels recycle grey water, 6% collect rainwater for irrigation, car washing and other needs and 12% of hotels use waterless urinals.

Inge Huijbrechts is vice-president of responsible business at Rezidor Hotel Group. All of its activities form part of its Responsible Business programme. To learn more, please click here

Photo: Carlson Rezidor

Further reading:

International Tourism Partnership: the hotels that are shaping the future of tourism

New tourism report: hotel workers plagued by low wages and long hours

Top holiday tips for responsible tourists

Life changing travel and travel changing lives

The Guide to Sustainable Tourism 2014

Environment

4 Common Items That Can be Reused Again and Again

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reuse reduce recycle plastic bottles etc
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Vanatchanan | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/vanatchanan%20buahom

As a society we are getting much better at taking our obligations to the world and environment around us more seriously. This is undoubtedly a good thing! The effects of climate change are beginning to manifest across the world, and this is turning the issue from an abstract threat into a very real danger. Trying to introduce some greener, more eco-friendly practices into your life isn’t just a great way of doing something beneficial for society and the world around you. It is a wonderful way of engaging positively with the world and carries with it numerous psychological benefits.

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Being a greener, more ecologically friendly person doesn’t require any dramatic life changes. Breaking or making a few small habits is all it takes to make your life a greener one. In this article we look at one of the easiest, yet most effective green practices to get into: reusing everyday items.

Jars and Containers

Glass and metal are widely recycled, and recycling is a good thing! However, consider whether any containers you buy, whether it’s a tub of ice cream or a jar of coffee, can be washed out and reused for something else. Mason jars, for example, can be used to store homemade pasta sauce and can be washed for future use. Once you start thinking about it, you will find endless opportunities to reuse your old containers.

Soda Bottles

An ice-cold soda is a wonderful treat on a hot day, but buying soda can get expensive, and the manufacturing and distribution of the drinks themselves isn’t great for the environment. However, by holding on to your old soda bottles and repurposing them as water bottles, you can save money on drinks, or use them to measure out water for your garden.

Plastic Bags

Most of the time groceries come in paper bags, which are better for the environment than the plastic alternatives, but they are less durable and thus harder to reuse. Whenever the store places your items in a plastic bag, hang onto it so you can reuse the bags again. If you want to take it one step further, consider looking into buying some personalized recycled bags. These bags are designed to last for a long time and are made of recycled materials. They look striking and unique, they’ll turn heads, and maybe even attitudes!

Seeds

If you’re a keen gardener, then you will already probably know how to reseed your plants in order to ensure a fresh crop after each plant’s lifecycle. If you have space in your garden, or haven’t yet tried your hand at gardening, then consider planting a small vegetable plot. Growing your own veggies means that you’ll be helping to cut back on the emissions generated by their transport and production. The best part about growing your own food in this way is that, by harvesting properly and saving the seeds, you can be set up with fresh vegetables for life!

Reusing and recycling common household items is an easy way to make your world a little bit greener. Once you start looking for these opportunities you’ll realize that they’re everywhere!

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Environment

These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money

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eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/cyano

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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