Carlson Hotels: •Green' Still Going Strong with Guests, Study Reveals

By Carmen Baker, Vice President, Responsible Business at Carlson Hotels Worldwide | August 04, 2009

As part of a long-standing commitment to responsible business, Carlson Hotels Worldwide is engaged in a broad program to promote environmental sustainability at its properties and among its guests. Through Carlson's review of sustainability programs at other companies, they learned of organizations that, after beginning with the best of intentions, became sidetracked and ultimately failed to create the desired impact. As a result, Carlson established metrics-driven goals for its environmental sustainability initiatives, to ensure that the company will produce a positive, measurable impact.

Carlson's programs seek to address basic infrastructure issues including the reduction, recycling and reuse of solid waste; the reduction and ultimate elimination of harmful chemicals in its processes; measures to conserve water and energy; and strategies to improve air quality.

Guest feedback
Carlson Hotels recently conducted its own guest survey, which found:

  • Overall, guests feel they are "very engaged" in environmental issues and 58 percent said they would be willing to book a hotel room that is environmentally friendly
  • Guests expressed a high degree of willingness to "do their part" at home and while on the road.
  • Fifty-six percent said they actively seek environmentally friendly products and services with 52 percent saying they would participate in programs to help reduce or offset the hotel's carbon emissions.
  • When it comes to their willingness to change behavior, most guests seek choice - such as the choice to have their linen or towels changed or not changed
Recent initiatives: Energy Star and LEED
Carlson's efforts took a significant step forward this past spring with the completion of the first-ever Green Supplier Summit, held at the Country Inn & Suites French Quarter New Orleans in May.

The Green Supplier Summit brought together 13 individual vendors -- including ozone laundry and energy management system providers, water-conserving fixture manufacturers, sustainable bedding suppliers and even companies that supply technology platforms to measure the effectiveness of environmental and carbon offset programs - to collaborate on Carlson's environmental pilot program. All of the companies are national leaders in providing advanced, environmentally sensitive products, services and systems, as well as important partners in Carlson's overall sustainability programs.

As Carlson works to design and implement these innovative initiatives, the hotel brand continues to study environmental programs and procedures established by other organizations, and partner with credible environmental institutions. For example, Carlson Hotels recently completed evaluations of its owned and managed Country Inns & Suites by Carlson locations under a program sponsored by Energy Star.

Energy Star is a program that partners the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the U.S. Department of Energy. It provides homes and businesses with strategies and tools to protect the environment and save money through energy-efficient products and practices.

Each property can now use Energy Star's Portfolio Manager system to track its total energy (primarily electricity and gas) consumption. Each evaluation, in turn, provides that Country Inns & Suites location with a rating based on its energy use in comparison with every other building in Energy Star's database. The rating will ultimately provide a measurement of each property's energy-use footprint, allowing management to focus on the steps necessary to improve that location's energy efficiency and performance.

Carlson is also looking into other sustainability programs. For example, they are reviewing architectural design elements at Country Inns & Suites locations to measure these variables against Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards. This review will help Carlson to determine where they might incorporate LEED-approved design elements.

Finally, Carlson Hotels recently launched several initiatives to impact sustainability at the ground level. These include an Energy Management System (EMS) evaluation and analysis on behalf of all of its properties, which fully examined and made recommendations on the effective implementation of energy management systems. Carlson has also launched a review of all fixtures, furniture and equipment used at its properties to identify greener alternatives and acquire better options where feasible.

Pursuing partnerships for change
In addition to conducting evaluations, Carlson Hotels works to evaluate and recommend educational resources, alternative solutions and approved operating practices on behalf of its owners and operators, allowing them to focus on day-to-day business.

Carlson's 2009 initiatives also include efforts to partner with organizations that promote sustainability. For example, Trinity Oaks Vineyards of Sherman Oaks, Calif., the primary wine supplier for Regent Hotels & Resorts, is currently planting one tree for each bottle of Trinity Oaks wine it sells. The total is now up to 1,110,241 trees planted since July 2008.

These sustainability initiatives follow a series of programs undertaken in 2008 and earlier. For example, in December Carlson Hotels celebrated the opening of the 1,000th hotel in its family of brands - the Radisson St. Martin Resort, Marina & Spa - by pledging 1,000 trees to the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign. At the Radisson St. Martin opening celebration, Carlson executives and top UNEP officials planted the first tree in the program in a specially designated area of the resort. Members of Carlson Hotels' Asia Pacific operations team continued that initiative with a tree-planting organized by the Singapore Environmental Council in March. As with the other plantings, the Singapore team planted an indigenous species, in this case a tree belonging to the Horsfieldia plant family, a threatened species native to Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Commitment to the cause
Carlson also produced a comprehensive "green guide" entitled Practical Guide to Greening Your Hotel, in late 2008. The guide outlines sustainability strategies and practical steps for environmental responsibility, and the measures outlined in the guide will be applied across all of Carlson Hotels' five hotel brands.

Through these and other programs that address sustainability, Carlson Hotels will continue to pursue responsible business measures that offer the additional benefit of positively impacting our natural environment.

Carmen Baker joined Carlson in 2001 as general manager of Reservations -- Carlson Hotels Worldwide managing the Omaha, Sidney and Mexico City reservation centers. As the VP of responsible business, Baker leads the company's initiatives in the areas of corporate social responsibility including environment sustainability, charitable giving and community relations.
 

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