Talking Point: Why it pays to think like an island resort

Think like an island

Think like an island

A major barrier to lasting progress when it comes to lowering a hotel’s carbon footprint is overcoming that niggly issue of cultural change throughout the entire property. In this Talking Point, Xenia zu Hohenlohe managing partner of CSR specialists Considerate Hoteliers explains how hotels can overcome this thorny problem.

Appointing a green team and establishing a sustainability strategy are major steps in the right direction. However to ensure a hotel’s ‘green’ ambitions are cascaded down from the top and appropriate actions embedded so they become second-nature, each member of staff needs to understand the impact of their own environmental footprint on the whole business.

This is a challenge because in all developed countries, in particular in urban environments we tend to be so far removed from the impact that actions such as leaving a water tap on or failing to dispose of waste properly, can have on the environment.

To overcome this hurdle we get participants in our CSR workshops to imagine their hotel is on a very small island where the ecosystem is delicate and the infrastructure is such that seemingly small things can actually have a big detrimental impact on the environment.

For instance, a bag of rubbish remaining on the doorstep rather than being automatically taken away by the council, or carelessly discarded plastic bottles that can subsequently pose a threat to wildlife.

This imagery creates a greater consciousness of the contribution each person makes to the environmental footprint of the hotel.

Achieving cultural change is about having the conversation and finding the right language and way of telling the story that provides a lasting imprint on people’s memories and enables them to create a picture in their mind.

So, alongside the island resort analogy, it’s important to not just speak about abstract figures but relate targets in a way that resonates and doesn’t resort to using energy jargon. After all, which sticks in your mind better – reducing water usage by 2.5 million litres or cutting water consumption by the amount it takes to fill an Olympic sized swimming pool?

Encouraging the green team to brainstorm their own sustainability mission and vision for the hotel will naturally lead to more ownership of the challenge. This mission and vision forms the beginning of the sustainability conversation, which should be included as part of the induction process so each new employee is aligned with the strategy and feels involved right from the off.

However, while it’s important to communicate the overall sustainability objectives, staff engagement and instilling a sense of responsibility among individuals becomes even better when the targets are relevant to their particular area of work.

So alongside a headline figure, it’s important to break down and demonstrate the contribution that each area of the hotel – from the reception through to the kitchen – can make to the overall strategy. Providing staff with clear, practical steps can work wonders when it comes to achieving lasting behavioural changes.

Keeping the conversation going is also important whether it’s through a monthly newsletter relaying energy savings or successful initiatives, or holding regular brainstorming sessions that encourage individual members of staff to contribute their own ideas.

Without this, it’s easy for sustainability to fall off the radar and the ‘to-do’ list, particularly given the everyday challenges of running a hotel.

One of the key things to bear in mind is that although some changes may only seem quite small on the face of it, such as introducing paperless pay slips, each change added together can actually lead to significant wins in reducing energy consumption and saving resources.

Learn more about Considerate Hoteliers work with hotels here.

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