Hotels throughout North America have been adopting sustainability strategies for several years now. How well these programs succeed, however, is dependent on a variety of issues. For instance, success is more attainable if there is strong support from top management who understand the value of these strategies.
Those who do grasp this value may also wish to implement various new technologies to improve the effectiveness of these programs. But executing this new technology and measuring its performance also means getting staff on board, training them and inspiring them with what value it will bring to an organization or green program.
Here, Michael Wilson, vice-president of AFFLINK, a provider of strategic procurement and supply chain solutions that also develops such technologies, illustrates how new technologies can be more smoothly adopted within a hotel’s green program.
What are the first steps to implementing new technology and products?
Whenever an organization decides to implement a big change in their operations, the first thing they have to do is what I call “sell the brand inside.” This is the way you get buy-in and can convince staff that the change is being made for reasons that will benefit the hotel in many ways. And because change can often be disruptive to an organization, the better the reasons and the better it is sold to employees, the more likely it is to succeed.
How can management sell these elements of a program to employees?
There are software and online technologies, some of which are free and available to hotel managers who ask a series of questions to help answer the whys of all kinds of initiatives, including green and sustainability initiatives. Some of these questions include the following:
- Is the initiative being implemented to enhance the corporate image?
- Does this initiative comply with new regulations?
- Is the goal to help create a healthier hotel for guests and staff?
- Is another goal to increase occupancy rates?
- Are we trying to reduce overall operating costs?
After going through these questions, these technologies essentially rank the results, identifying the top priorities so that managers can have a clearer picture of why a program is being initiated and its goals. With this information, the initiative is now ready to be sold inside.
Once everyone is sold on the initiative, now what?
Steps must be taken to implement the program. What I suggest is forming a team. The team should be made up of upper management, an operations manager, the restaurant or food service manager and members of the custodial crew. Their job is to establish goals and deadlines, deciding, for instance, what steps can be taken now at no or minimal cost, which items can be addressed in the next six months at moderate cost and which items may need a year to be accomplished and may be costly.
Using cleaning as an example, a very simple step would be to stop selecting ready-to-use cleaning solutions. While some may be green, these products fall short when it comes to sustainability; plus they are costly. Selecting concentrated cleaning solutions is less expensive, requires less packaging and generates less waste, along with requiring less fuel for delivery.
Your last point brings up another question: how do we select products that are green and also promote sustainability?
The first thing to do is figuratively “peel the roof” off the hotel property. A hotel is made up of guest rooms, meeting rooms, a laundry area, a lobby, a food service area, offices, a fitness centre, a pool, recreation areas, and so on. Continuing with our cleaning example, the green cleaning products used in one area are not necessarily those that would be used in another. Here is where technology can help. For each area, some of these systems can recommend various products that work well and fall into the realm of our green and sustainability initiatives.
What criteria is used to suggest these products?
Again continuing with our cleaning example, the technology first separates green from traditional cleaning solutions. It then narrows down selections depending on where the product will be used—in a guest room, for instance, or in the kitchen—and for what reasons. It then offers choices based on costs—for instance, as we mentioned earlier, more expensive ready-to-use products versus less expensive cleaning solutions in large concentrated containers. But word to the wise: before making any product selection, call in a distributor marketing these products. While the technology does the heavy work, the distributor will help managers fine-tune the selection process to ensure that the most effective and cost-effective products are selected for each area of the hotel.
How can the green team help to reduce water consumption, fuel, electricity, and so on?
There are several dashboard systems now available that can prove invaluable for such issues. For instance, say we want to reduce water consumption. The first step in the process is to determine how much water the hotel is now using. Some dashboards and utility companies allow this information to be downloaded directly. Be sure to collect two years of data to establish a solid benchmark. If possible, it may also be good to determine how much water is consumed per guest room. This is where most of the water is likely being used in your property, and this information can prove very valuable.
Now use the same step-by-step approach we discussed earlier. Determine what steps can be taken to reduce water consumption now at little cost, what should be done in six months, what should be done in a year, and so on. For instance, a first step, and one that can result in significant water savings, is for the green team to ensure that aerators, which are very inexpensive, are installed in all faucets and showerheads. Next, hotel engineers should go on a “water leaks expedition.” Water leaks are very common and, with all the bathrooms in a hotel, result in a lot of water waste.
And I should add that all of the suggestions here are not one-time projects. The projects and steps taken must be continually reevaluated. Managers should view green and sustainable initiatives as a journey with no end point. New technologies, new products and new procedures are always being introduced that can help hotels operate in more efficient, cost-effective, green and sustainable ways.
Robert Kravitz is a frequent writer for the green, cleaning, and professional building industries.