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Environmental sustainability is too often considered a separate function or responsibility within hotel chains. But that should definitely not be the case. Sustainability should be considered as default practice for every action and decision.
Too often I see hotel staff simply switching on their ‘sustainability thinking’ by getting personnel to turn off unnecessary lights or asking the cleaning team to optimise their use of water, but that is not acting in a smart and effective way. It’s time to apply common sense.
Sustainability cannot be considered simply the responsibility of ‘Green Champions’. Often hotels will nominate a member of staff whose responsibility, or privilege for that matter, it is to make operations sustainable alongside their actual job. Imagine instead if you had designated people who were in charge of being friendly and polite to the guests!
Sustainability must of course be managed in the same manner as all business functions. It is the responsibility of management but I am hesitant to have ‘green messengers’ or ‘activists’ within the organisation. Sustainability is not a Christmas party committee, but a core element of today’s business.
I can see where the practice of having ‘green champions’ is coming from. There may be people who have more personal interest in the subject and accordingly more know-how to be shared. That is all well and good; motivation and showing a good example never hurts.
But the other side of the coin is that nominating particular green champions may send the message that sustainability is something complex that requires the understanding and application of science, not something for everyone to be involved with and contribute to.
Sustainability is simply common sense and every employee should be on board. Only then will sustainability become the norm and actually start benefitting the business. And when sustainability is the norm and default practice across the organisation, results will start showing in the quality of service and customer satisfaction too.
But to achieve this the following must be in place:
Manage by Example
The management must show that sustainability is a core element of the business strategy and that it is an ongoing process, not an ad hoc project.
Manage by Facts
What you measure you can change. It makes contributing much more meaningful when staff understand the difference they make can and will be recognised.
Manage by Education
Not every staff member needs to know how to calculate CO2, but every staff member should have the possibility and even requisite to learn the basics. Not only will this take the mystery out of the subject but it also motivates and encourages everyone to be pro-active and find new ways to operate more sustainably. Basic sustainability training for staff that raises awareness and makes the practice second nature, should be regular and ongoing. Staff need to think sustainably first every time.
It is a fact of life that some people always contribute and commit more than others, no matter what the subject, but by providing facts and education everyone will at least be equipped to contribute. So instead of trying to find those few voluntary green champions, have all your staff – including the management! – educated, and make sustainability truly count for your business.