Building a Green Culture

By Cedric Lemesle, Director of Quality and Environment, Accor North America | October 09, 2009

The direct correlation between being green and making good business sense garners widespread consensus across the hospitality industry. Implementing environmentally-friendly practices throughout an entire brand, or even in a few properties, is exciting and will produce long-term financial benefits. Yet, it presents a set of challenges that hotel owners/operators must anticipate, two of which are sharing the company's vision with team members, and measuring and tracking energy consumption. Tackling these challenges, however, will have the most impact on a hotel's overall energy consumption and bottom line costs.

Getting everyone on board
Controlling the actions and behaviors of a hotel's team members is always a challenge when going green. Having a solid plan, sharing the company vision with the team, and then helping each person, from executives to housekeeping staff, understand how their daily actions effect the environment and property savings can be very difficult.

Training and communication are vital to success. Develop a monthly message or "best practices" tip, send it to each property manager, and work with them to educate their staff so they are in a state of perpetual training about how to be more environmentally-conscious. Offer short online energy awareness classes. Once the company standards and tools are in place, make the communication fun and visual so that it is easy for property managers to understand how to find out exactly how much water, electricity, and gas their property is consuming and its impact on their business and the environment.

Effective energy management
Effectively managing energy consumption is critical to building a green culture. However a hotel cannot manage energy consumption, and know how and where to cut costs, if it doesn't have a way to measure and track it accurately and easily.

Energy measurement technology and implementation can be costly, but if a company wants to be effective in its commitment to being green, it must be ready to invest in new technology so that it can make an environmental and business impact. One strategy for building a budget for green technology is to commit a certain percentage of yearly capital expenditure to invest in new energy-saving equipment.

For example, Motel 6 (www.motel6.com) has invested in a new wireless energy management system that monitors energy consumption from one central station. This type of remote-access Internet-based management system is perfect for a brand with several properties spread out over many states. Currently in the pilot stages at Motel 6, the system allows the hotel to set room temperatures remotely and alerts management via email if a PTAC unit experiences a malfunction.

Researching and testing a potential new product is of course very important, but what companies should not overlook is the value of good customer support. A hotel can have the best energy tracking technology available, but if the product supplier is not available for training and support at crucial moments, it is much more difficult to justify the value of such technology.

Motel 6's green milestone
Motel 6 will celebrate the opening of its first new Phoenix prototype property in early October. The new property in Northlake, Texas is Accor North America's (www.accor-na.com) most energy efficient property ever and includes many new green measures that will use less energy than the average existing Motel 6 location. This is a "test" property in many ways, and as management tracks expenditures versus savings from decreased energy consumption, they'll likely be able to justify the implementation of some of the new green measures at other properties.

Although going green still requires higher initial costs, the long-term savings and environmental benefits make this route a practical move for any hotel owner or operator. Once a solid plan is developed and invested in, success is dependent upon effectively managing energy, as well as unifying team members around the company's vision. Every flip of a light switch makes a difference. Never think that just one or two hotel properties can't make a profound environmental impact. We all affect global change through our actions.
 
Cedric Lemesle is the director of quality & environment for Accor North America. In this role, Lemesle oversees quality assurance and environmental programs for more than 1,000 hotels in North America, including the Motel 6 and Studio 6 brands. Lemesle began his career in hospitality in 1994, when he worked for Hilton Hotels in the U.K.
 

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