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Talking Point: Communicating sustainability to staff

TF Julie

Continuing this month's theme on communication, for this Talking Point we talk to the Travel Foundation's Industry Programmes Manager, Julie Middleton about how best to get hotel staff fired up about sustainability

Forget about communicating your sustainability policy to staff. If you really want to engage staff with all things green, do it their way. In order to succeed, you'll need staff to get behind every nook and cranny of your property's sustainability policy, and giving staff ownership is one of the best ways to drive the green agenda.

Make it fun...

So often, sustainability is seen as the 'add on', and a rather dry one. If your staff have little understanding about sustainability, the Travel Foundation's training quiz (visit www.travelfoundationtraining.com and click on 'Greener Hotels') is a great place to start. It's quick, simple and will give staff a great base knowledge from which to grow. Encouraging staff to take the training by turning it into a competition - who can score the highest? Who can beat their manager? Create a buzz around it, and build on it.

Promoting local food and drinks, and visits to other local businesses is something staff can really get behind, they have the insider knowledge, and no doubt their favourites! By doing this you're promoting what makes the destination you're in unique, offering guests something extra, and supporting local businesses. For example, in Cyprus we trained staff in 10 hotels in Paphos to be ambassadors for the local area, informing guests where they can try local produce, buy local crafts and eat in authentic tavernas.

Make it relatable...

Allowing staff to submit ideas about how your property can become more sustainable is a great way to get them involved, and if they have suggested it, they are more likely to take action and see the value in what they are doing. Don't underestimate the feel good factor - many aspects of sustainability can help staff feel good about their work.

Staff are often motivated by benefits to the local community. For example, Tikida Gardens Hotel in Marrakech have a composting scheme where they sell the compost they do not use, and the profits go into a fund for employees on long-term sickness. At Alexander the Great hotel in Cyprus, staff can take old furniture or white goods home for their own use, or sell them.

In some cases, where a sustainability issue affects the destination and the way staff live, they can even change things they do at home because of policies at work. At Divi Southwinds Hotel in Barbados, security guard Mr Wiggins adopted several of the hotel's practices at home, including catching rain water to water his garden and for use in the toilet. He even managed to reduce his water bill at home from US$30 per month to US$18 per month.

Ascos Beach Hotel in Cyprus took part in a Travel Foundation initiative to reduce plastic. Lack of recycling facilities and landfill is a big issue in Cyprus so staff really understood how important it was to get behind new policies which included serving water in glass carafes rather than plastic bottles. Guests didn't mind at all, and staff were really proud to be working for a hotel that received an award locally for their efforts to help protect the environment.

The proof's in the pudding...

Nissi Beach Hotel,  one of the most environmentally aware hotels in Cyprus has virtually no staff turnover and Divi Southwinds in Barbados employs 105 members of staff and boasts a staff turnover of less than 1%, retirement is the main reason for staff leaving!

The Travel Foundation's free 'Greener Hotels' training quiz is a great place to get started, and our Greener Accommodations tool has lots of helpful downloads and guides to help you move forwards with your sustainability journey.

Of course, taking action is a great way to show staff (and guests) that you mean business when it comes to sustainability. The Travel Foundation's Make Holidays Greener campaign in July is a great way to do this. This year's theme is the Big Beach Clean, and so far, over 80 hotels have signed up, getting staff (and even guests in some cases!) involved in something tangible, quite literally cleaning up their local environment. You can find out more about the campaign and sign up to get involved here: www.makeholidaysgreener.org.uk.

Finally, I'd just like to say...put your staff at the heart of your sustainability policy, they are your green champions!

For more information about the Travel Foundation's green business tools go to their Greener Accommodation resources [1].