Environmental awareness and training

Why is environmental awareness and training important?

Successful businesses need to be efficient, well-managed, customer-focused, offer quality products and services and provide value for money. Within this framework they also have to fulfil the expectations of their stakeholders, which includes demonstrating their commitment to the environment. A company can have the most ambitious environmental policy, but unless staff understand the philosophy behind it, the goals they are aiming for and how to achieve them, it will not be successful. Good intentions are undermined through poor training.

For example, if hotel guests have dutifully followed a request in the bathroom to hang their towels up for reuse to conserve water and energy and to reduce detergent use for the benefit of the environment, they will not be pleased if they find that the towels have been changed. This can cause greater customer disappointment than by not having a towel and linens programme in the first place!

Where to start

This information in this guide applies equally to large hotels that are part of international chains or small and medium sized establishments. However it does assume that you already have an environmental policy in place.

If this is not the case, you should first identify the issues that are applicable to your business, draw up a policy and decide how you are going to monitor and measure your progress.

Companies use different means to promote environmental awareness and conduct training. Some contract in external specialist consultants, some train managers to run sessions internally (train-the trainers), others set up modules to be completed at certain times via the staff intranet or use video conferencing, lectures, discussion groups or role play. You may wish to use some or all of these techniques.

Staff responsible for environmental management should be properly qualified and have the awareness, knowledge and skills to implement environmental best practices in accordance with regional and international standards. Various training programmes may be appropriate for them to undergo before they embark upon staff training, such as ISO 14001 and EMAS foundation courses, the CIEH Environmental Management Certificate or other environmental manager qualifications. Contact your local trade or small business association or relevant government department to find out what is available in your area.

Environmental training should be regular and ongoing and not a one-off event. It should be a part of the mainstream daily management of your business and should include staff at all levels, including senior management. Although it is a serious subject, there is no need for it to be boring – if your training sessions are enjoyable, staff will learn more and be motivated to get involved.

It can be carried out:

  • as part of induction training for new staff
  • continuous on-the-job training and refresher courses
  • dedicated environmental sessions.

Training sessions should be reinforced with written information that can be referred back to – for example training manuals, on CD or the hotel intranet and supplemented with information such as checklists and case studies on notice boards.

In some companies, environmental training is part of a wider corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy and programme. Although CSR has a broader, socio-economic and community focus, much of the information here is also relevant for CSR training.

Raising awareness

  • Use the first training session to explain why you have a policy and want to improve environmental performance. This should cover global environmental issues and the benefits to your own business of addressing them such as:
    • more efficient operation
    • to encourage customer loyalty and improve your
    • competitive position
    • to attract and retain the best staff
    • to be a responsible member of the community
    • to enhance the company’s reputation and attract investment
  • Give trainees their own copy of the environmental policy and make sure it is displayed prominently on staff notice boards and in common areas. Ask staff if they have seen the policy and know where it is displayed.
  • List environmental committee and ‘green team’ members on the notice board. Ask staff if they know who their environmental representatives are. Give members of ‘green teams’ special badges or other means by which they can be identified. These should be attractive and desirable so that they are proud to wear them.
  • Ask trainees if they know what environmental actions the hotel is already taking.
  • Conduct a brief tour of the hotel and ask everyone to identify what the different issues are for each department. Look at what detergents and chemicals are used in the kitchen and bathrooms, how the boiler is fuelled and how waste is handled.
  • In each location, ask staff what improvements could be made to reduce environmental impacts.
  • Finish the first session by asking staff to identify two actions that the establishment can take to become more environmentally-friendly. These can involve simple changes in practice such as ensuring lights are switched off in meeting rooms when they are unoccupied and not cleaning basins with the tap running. Make sure the reductions can be monitored and reported back to future meetings.
  • Encourage personal ownership of the issues. Each green team member could be asked to draw up a personal action plan at the end of the course and identify how they can report on their own progress.
  • Plan a series of events and activities with team members which all staff and their families can take part in such as clean-ups, quizzes and poster competitions to encourage involvement and enthusiasm for the programme. This will also help to raise community awareness of your efforts.

Programme implementation

  • Once the green teams and staff are familiar with the establishment’s environmental policy and programme, they need to know how to put it into action. There are various stages for which specific training may be necessary, for instance:
  • Conducting a review:If you have not already done so, you will need to audit current practice and consumption in order to set targets and develop indicators. It may be helpful to set up a ‘benchmarking team’ and to brief its members about how to collect information on, for example:
    • energy and water use and waste figures from utility and waste bills
    • use of chemicals and hazardous materials from purchasing records
    • environmental legislation that must be tracked and adhered to.
  • Implementing procedures:Assess training gaps created by new procedures. For example, if you are introducing a new system of waste separation to facilitate recycling:
    • Divided waste baskets in rooms will need to be clearly marked so that guests put cans, bottles, paper etc into the right compartments
    • Housekeeping, F&B, engineering staff and gardeners will need to keep waste separate
    • Waste will need to be segregated back-of-house into different streams ready for collection for disposal or recycling
    • Staff may need to be trained how to use glass and other materials compaction equipment
    • You will need to identify and train a responsible individual to monitor results and keep records so that performance can be tracked over time
    • Contractors may need to be informed of new procedures
    • Suppliers may need to be consulted over how goods are packaged for delivery
    • You may wish to identify and brief a waste champion on how to co-ordinate these efforts
  • Monitoring progress: Departments will have different actions to undertake, whether this involves checking meters, sales records or utility bills etc. They need to be clear what has to be monitored, who carries it out, how often, whether it needs to be at a particular time of day, where the information should be logged and who needs to review it.
  • Meeting targets:Once environmental data is available it will be possible to set reduction targets – for example ‘reducing energy use by five per cent over the next six months by simple changes in practice’. Each department will then need to know what is required of them. Special departmental sessions can be used to draw up checklists for display in the relevant area. For example in the kitchen, the checklist might include:
    • Run the dishwasher only when it is full
    • Check door seals on refrigerators and chilled cabinets every week and report faults
    • Do not use the oven for space heating
    • Turn off equipment that is not required between lunch and dinner sessions
  • Understanding indicators: Examples of indicators that will be used for reporting include:
    • litres of water used per m2 or per guest night
    • Kwh energy used per m2 or per guest night
    • kg waste created by guest night
    • kg waste sent for recycling
    • litres of detergent used
  • Communicating results:How you present the information matters — indicators on their own may not be meaningful. They need to be quantified in order to promote understanding and motivation. For example:
    • Recycling one glass bottle saves enough energy to power a 100-watt light bulb for almost an hour, a computer for 25 minutes, a TV for 20 minutes or a washing machine for 10 minutes
    • Recycling an aluminium drinks can saves enough energy to power a TV for 3-4 hours
  • Disseminating information: Inform all staff (not just green teams) via internal memos, newsletters, notice boards and through staff meetings. You can also inform guests via in-room material such as letters, your guest services manual or on the TV. If they perceive you to be sincerely committed to environmental goals, they are more likely to support your towel and linen reuse programme, and not think it is being done simply to save on laundry bills.

Case Study: Responsible Business at Rezidor SAS Hospitality
Rezidor SAS Hospitality introduced its Responsible Business (RB) programme into its hotels in 2001. This takes a systematic approach to addressing environmental, social, and health & safety issues supported by an ambitious policy with objectives and indicators linked to seven key stakeholders.

Because the company operates in nearly 50 countries with different levels of awareness, infrastructure and needs, the RB programme is designed to be flexible; the hotels adopt common performance objectives based on continuous improvement, but can choose activities suited to their local conditions. Indicators have been developed for each objective in order to measure performance in all hotels. Hotels are also required to report on their performance annually (and in some areas monthly) to the corporate office.

Each hotel has a Responsible Business Coordinator working part-time within the scope of the programme, under the supervision and guidance of the Corporate Vice President, Responsible
Business. RB co-ordinators assist the general managers in implementing local RB action plans and support the Regional Director on RB matters to provide a link between the corporate office and the hotels.

Environmental and social responsibility training is a key part of the programme and focuses on global environmental and social concerns, linking them specifically to hotel operations. Through the training, employees learn how they can make a positive contribution.

By the end of 2005, more than 10,000 Radisson SAS employees had received the training. Pia Heidenmark-Cook, Vice President, Responsible Business, explains how it works: “We have set up the RB training as a minimum two-hour hour module. Some hotels take the staff out of work for the whole day to carry out our customer service-based ‘Yes I Can’ training which includes the two hour RB module at the end. Others keep the training sessions separate from each other. Because staff change relatively often in the hotel industry, RB training is also very much a part of induction training, so that new employees are aware of the programme. Our target from the corporate office is to have all staff in all our brands trained in RB – i.e. Radisson SAS, Country Inn, Missoni, Park Inn and Regent hotels. So far, around 75 per cent of the employees in our managed and leased hotels have received training. The figure is less for the Park Inn hotels as they are relatively new to the system”.

Rezidor’s training sessions consist of:

  • an introduction (why are we working with RB?)
  • the environment (what are the issues, how do hotel operations impact on it, and what can I do?)
  • social issues (what do we mean by this, how does it link to hotel operations, and what can I do?)

Hotels are encouraged to use their individual RB Action Plan as part of the training, so that their employees see clearly that there is a direct link to their hotel's operation.

Tips for success

  • Conduct training sessions during normal, paid working hours. This demonstrates that there is management commitment to the programme.
  • Ensure that staff know why they are attending the training sessions
  • Choose trainers who are knowledgeable, committed, enthusiastic and good communicators. Make sure they are thoroughly familiar with the training material before they start.
  • Limit groups to a manageable number of people at a time.
  • Match content to the right intellectual level and ensure it is easy to understand.
  • Make it fun as well as serious to encourage staff buy-in. For example in London, UK, The Dorchester changes its cartoons every month while the Churchill Inter- Continental ran a campaign based on ‘Winston says!’ Other characters hotels use include Captain Watt, Jolly Green Giant or Major Recycle.
  • Allow sufficient time for debate and to exchange views in order to engage your audience and build enthusiasm. Consider breaking for refreshments to encourage discussion between trainees. However, do not make sessions too long or staff will lose interest and feel stressed about what tasks they need to accomplish outside the meeting.
  • Ask staff how they feel about environmental issues in their personal lives and use examples that are relevant to them. For example ‘A dripping tap wastes 30 drops of water per minute which is 380 litres (84 gallons) per month or 4,600 litres (1,008 gallons) per year – about 30 bathtubs full’. Translate this into local currency to show how much money is wasted.
  • Manage expectations: In a large chain it is unlikely that you will be able to make major changes in policy. Think about whether there are any limitations - for example if improvements or changes are suggested during the training session, what modifications can be made whilst remaining ‘in-line’ with existing policies and processes?
  • Encourage staff participation and interaction and be prepared to answer questions such as ‘How will the money saved be used?’
  • Support the sessions with practical and informative handout material and point to sources of further information.
  • Anticipate how environmental activities may impact on the workplace and staff time and workload.
  • Encourage feedback and suggestions at all stages and particularly at the end of course debrief.
  • Reward participants with a certificate or other recognition to show they have successfully completed the course.
  • Install a suggestion box or other mechanism whereby staff can be rewarded for the best environmental idea each month.
  • Start each session with a brief review and end by setting the date for the next session.
  • Hold regular green team meetings to discuss progress, and make further improvements

Case Study: Hilton’s ‘we care!’ programme
Based on Hilton International’s global environmental programme, Hilton Europe & Africa’s ‘we care!’ campaign aims to raise awareness, train, inform and inspire team members, guests, customers and partners. Hilton aims ‘to become the industry leader in environmental management and contribute to a sustainable society’. To this end it has set a target to reduce utility consumption across the Europe and Africa region by five per cent in 2006.

Over the first seven months of 2006:

  • over 6,000 team members have been through workshops and submitted their own hotel action plans for follow-up by the executive management
  • more than 4000 team members have completed Hilton’s ‘ecoLearning’ internet tool (now in six languages including Arabic)
  • All 79 Hilton’s in Europe and Africa have active environmental committees
  • An energy saving competition between the hotels is ongoing.

Between January and May 2006, Hilton’s five hotels in Paris reduced their overall energy use by 20 per cent compared with the same period in 2005. Simple changes in practice such as switching off lights and computers combined with the chief engineers’ commitment to making hotel equipment as energy-efficient as possible has cut the hotels’ combined carbon dioxide emissions by 1167 tonnes – the equivalent of taking 430 cars off the road.

Environmental task forces were established in December 2005 at the Hilton Charles de Gaulle Airport, Hilton Paris and Hilton La Défense, adding to those at Hilton Orly Airport and Hilton Arc de Triomphe. These ‘Green Teams’ include members from all departments who together agreed objectives and the short and long-term actions to achieve them. Since the programme’s official launch at the end of 2005, around 1,000 team members have been trained and more than 80 suggestions made on how to take the programme forward.

Together with trainers from Espace Info Energie, an association linked to ADEME, the National Agency of Environment and Energy Control, team members used existing resources such as the ecoLearning tool and led environmental workshops for their colleagues. These focused on energy-efficiency, waste reduction, water efficiency and minimising pollution, and included the setting of targets, how to measure performance and sharing best practices. The input from these brainstorming sessions was used to produce a range of communications to raise awareness and promote learning.

These include:

  • internal posters on departmental best environmental practices and Green Team audits
  • 15 environmental and energy saving actions for each of the hotels
  • a pocket guide on the environment which has since been made available world-wide on Hilton’s intranet
  • use of the company’s internet-based Hilton Environmental Reporting (HER) system (now used by 400 hotels) to obtain a key performance indicator (KPI) energy report to record and communicate results, using energy and water use per guest night benchmarks
  • energy audits of all the Paris properties
  • questionnaires to track changing attitudes to the environment
  • a special training session for the outsourced housekeeping team
  • a partnership with ADEME called ‘Planete Gagnante’ (Winning Planet) which encourages partners to educate the public under the slogan ‘Economies d'énergie. Faisons vite, ça chauffe’ (‘Quick! Save energy, it’s getting hot!’). Hilton is the first hotel group to sign up. There are nearly 40 other partners including WWF, SNCF, Electricité de France, and La Poste.
  • Events and activities to support France’s National Environmental Sustainability Awareness Week (29 May – 4 June). These included running an information stand and competition in the hotel lobbies with representatives from a number of environmental organisations and companies selling products such as energy-efficient light bulbs and bicycles.

Environmental Sustainability Awareness Week was the first time Hilton communicated externally about its ‘we care!’ campaign. Having successfully implemented the programme internally, the hotels were ready to start talking to their suppliers, business partners and guests. They explained how they worked first to avoid wasting energy through no-cost and low-cost measures before implementing efficiency measures involving a modest or more significant outlay – nearly all of which will eventually pay for themselves in lower energy bills. The final step is to look at where the energy is coming from and the options for using renewable technologies.

Also during the week, nearly 50 team members from three of the hotels collected rubbish and promoted ‘we care!’ in their local community. Organic produce was introduced into the hotel restaurants and Hilton also won two prizes in a cycling rally in the city centre as part of the National Bicycle Festival.


A Buyer’s Guide to Reducing Energy Costs in the Hospitality Sector


Catering for a Better Future: Waste Management Fact Files for Hospitality Businesses

CIEH Environmental Awareness and Environmental Management Certificates

WRAP: Top Water Minimisation Tips for Hotels

EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS)

Green Lodging News

ISO 14001

Waste Counts: A Handbook for Accommodation Operators
Published by CESHI, July 2002

More Information

Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST)

Centre for Environmental Studies in the Hospitality Industry (CESHI)

Chartered Institute of Environmealth (CIEH)

Considerate Hoteliers Association

web: www.envirowise.gov.uk

Green Hotels Association

We would like to thank the following for their help with this guide:

Jane Carlton Smith, CESHI, Department of Hospitality, Leisure and Tourism Management, Oxford Brookes

John Firrell, Considerate Hoteliers

Every attempt has been made to ensure the accuracy of this article. However, the Tourism Partnership cannot accept any responsibility for actions based on this information.

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