The Road to Hell…

The road to hell…is paved with good intentions! Your CEO has announced the group’s embarkation on a voyage of “sustainable hotel operations”, effective immediately. How does this corporate aspiration translate into action at ground level in the operations? How does this lofty good intention not end up as an exercise in greenwashing?

An honest, sincere and effective strategy to improve the sustainability of a hotel group’s operations will start with a full and frank audit of the current status of:

1. Its hardware and system’s Environmental performance;

2. Its Social interactions and the impact of its operations on communities and ecosystems; and

3. Its Governance, managerial and performance measurement systems.


1) Hardware and system’s Environmental performance

Entails an in-depth examination of each operation, investigating the efficiency, age and condition of most of its major plant and equipment and in particular the control systems and managerial regimes that govern the operation of those systems. Most likely this will be performed by an environmental specialist together with the operation’s engineering staff and involve interviews with the managers of the heavy resource-utilising departments, such as Housekeeping, F&B, Stewarding and Procurement.

The deliverables from such an audit will be an evaluation of the deficiencies of existing plant serving as a target list for either the retrofitting of efficiency improvements, replacement or additional capital expenditure aimed at reducing resource usage and all forms of waste.


2) Social interactions and the impact of its operations on communities and ecosystems

Seeks to evaluate such qualities as diversity performance in the workplace and disclosure (e.g., gender, ethnicity, age, disability and remuneration distribution parameters). In addition, it will address the human rights practices of its own operations and those of its suppliers. The health, hygiene, safety and security aspects of guests, employees and the local community in which the property operates, will be evaluated. This contemplates its use of chemical compounds and their effect on the environment, indoor air quality, control of pathogens, training for food handling, storage and preparation, control of emissions and discharges into the local environment, workplace and guest-space hazard assessments etc.

Each operation bears responsibility for appointing suppliers and ensuring that they adhere to standards commensurate with the group’s own sustainability policies. To this end a Supplier Code of Conduct will be compiled and sent to the relevant suppliers with the expectation that their directors will confirm  compliance with those requirements or that their practices will be rectified within a specified period of time.

Operations will be asked to list out activities undertaken by the property and/or its employees, which are aimed at benefiting the community in which they operate, if any. Such things as participation in local community events, fundraising, volunteering and donations of materials, meals, event space or room stays for worthy causes, charities, schools or underprivileged groups, environmental clean-up exercises, internships and industry education, all qualify.


3) Governance, managerial and performance measurement systems

Corporate and property level management are now in a position to develop their sustainability strategy. Amongst other matters this will entail the following:

  • Allocation of management responsibility for the setting of strategic environmental goals in management, control, measurement, reporting and remediation of the business unit’s sustainability performance. In addition, the prioritisation and ROI of capital expenditure projects and operational strategies to maintain and improve sustainable outcomes for the business.
  • Measurement and reporting, in accordance with international standards, of inputs or outputs of; All forms of energy (i.e. carbon based and renewable); Greenhouse gas emission equivalents; Carbon footprint; Water and Waste
  • Establishment of Standard Operating Procedures throughout the business, applicable to all departments, for achieving sustainability targets, conserving resources and the elimination of waste across the business, for instance* in:
    • Water usage, passive and active controls
    • Energy usage, passive and active controls
    • Waste handling, procurement implications, reduction, upcycling, recycling and disposal
    • Food & Beverage – sustainable ingredients, local sourcing and safe practices
    • Provision of information to guests about how they can contribute to the business’s sustainability goals and welcoming their suggested improvements

* These examples are by no means exhaustive.

  • Establishment of a Corporate Social Responsibility senior management working group:
    • Establishing ethical standards and codes of conduct for dealing with all stakeholders
    • Monitoring procurement policies, the appointment and performance of suppliers and tendering matters
    • Vetting and prioritising capital and operational expenditure budgets to maintain and improve sustainable outcomes for the business
    • Providing resources and fostering involvement of the business and employees in green activities and others that are socially important to the local community
    • Ensuring no harm is caused by the business

Above all, having established a datum level of performance, it is essential that the targets for improvement are compared with actual achievements and should be reported regularly to those personnel charged with improving the sustainability aspects of the operations, preferably in accordance with some recognised standard of reporting, such as the Global Reporting Initiative and also preferably that they be audited and accredited by an independent body.

Accurate measurement and honest reporting are the tools that management need to fulfil those lofty aspirations.

David Williams (Associate) | Hotel Solutions PartnershipAuthor:

David Williams BSc FCA FIH P-CSR, Chief Operating Officer Asia Pacific, Hotel Solutions Partnership is a Certified CSR Practitioner (Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment). David has the practical experience of having initiated, planned and executed the Peninsula Hotel Group’s sustainability activities and he was also responsible for the publication of Peninsula’s yearly Sustainability Reports as part of the group’s annual financial report documents, achieving the Global Reporting Initiative certification.