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Environmental Mission Statements: A List of Hotel Sustainability Policies

courtland, matt, the natural strategyA mission statement can help an organization navigate difficult times. I wonder how many hoteliers used their mission statements to remind them what of mattered most to their company during the past 18 months. As is true with many sectors of the world economy, 2009 was the worst year in recent memory for the hospitality industry. Meeting planners and business travelers moved to online conferences whenever possible and overnight vacations became a luxury for many people. Despite these financial problems, hotels and their investors understand the importance of developing a sustainable product and have been investing in green technologies.

This is the first in a series of posts that will investigate environmental mission statements. The articles will focus on how to develop an environmental mission statement, which companies have them, how are they being used, and discussing whether environmental mission statements are necessary. I have started by compiling links to the environmental policies and statements of several well-known hotel organizations.

Fairmont Hotels & Resorts – One of the first hotel companies to incorporate sustainability into their organization, Fairmont’s Environmental Policy outlines their commitments to protecting the natural world. Mission Statement

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts – While it is not a true environmental mission statement, the “Supporting Sustainability” paragraph on their Corporate Values page summarizes Four Seasons’ stance on being “green”.

Hilton Worldwide – A Sustainability Statement and an Environmental Policy are both available on Hilton’s Sustainability web page. Measurable goals are documented and ways to achieve them are noted. Mission Statement

InterContinental Hotels Group – Listing eight steps it will take to improve its relationship with the earth, IHG’s Environmental Policy is clear and aggresive. Their Green Engage program is an industry leading environmental initiative and shows they are serious about their mission. Mission Statement

Kimpton Hotels and Restaurant Group, LLC – The foundations of the EarthCare program were set almost 30 years ago. Since then, Kimpton has dedicated itself to innovative “green” practices across all of its locations. Mission Statement

Marriott International, Inc.Spirit to Preserve is the sustainable arm of Marriott’ s Social Responsibility and Community Engagement program. In their Social Responsibility Report, J.D. Marriott says, “An integrated green strategy is a business imperative”. While Marriott has several partnerships with international conservation organizations, I am unable to find an official environmental mission statement.

Omni Hotels and Resorts – Similar to other hotel companies, Omni Hotels does not have a specific environmental mission statement. Instead, they provide information on their Environmental Stewardship practices.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. – Their Environmental Sustainability Policy is clear and professional, outlining the five “green” areas on which they are focused. Mission Statement

Wyndham Worldwide Corporation – The Wyndham Green program is well defined on-line. Their Policy Statement defines their thoughts on the environment, provides local and global goals, and lists seven areas of focus. The site also provides links to their Green Scorecard and Core Initiatives. Mission Statement

Matt Courtland is founder and CEO of The Natural Strategy, a consulting firm based in Portsmouth, NH, that works with business leaders to incorporate environmental sustainability into the core strategy of their organizations. Matt uses The Natural Strategy’s Eco-Position Survey to assess the current relationship a business has with the environment and to understand its future sustainability goals. He then guides leaders through developing an environmental mission statement, creating a strategic plan that will carry out the sustainability objectives of the company, and educating employees on how to be “green” in the workplace.

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18 thoughts on “Environmental Mission Statements: A List of Hotel Sustainability Policies

  1. I looked at several of the hotel sustainability reports and I see major gaps in transparency. Making future promises of 10% to 20% reductions as part of a five-year plan in energy, emissions, waste output and water consumption doesn’t mean much when you don’t publish your current usage. There is no accountability. I’m curious to know why the Hilton Worldwide chose to make reductions in a five-year plan when results can be achieved in one year.

    The Marriott International states that it has reduced overall energy consumption year over year, but there is no transparency. No statistics are provided. It says, “We donate excess food, guest amenities, furniture and computer equipment whenever possible.” It sounds well-intentioned but there is no metrics to back it up and no trends to indicate improvement.

    Twitter @JohnBergdoll

  2. Excellent overview of top hotel groups! As very much customer facing companies, it isn’t surprising to see that most have crafted, and displayed, environmental mission statements.

    Delivering on many of the points in those statements is also something I have see the hospitality industry embrace as well. The preponderance of “green” meeting and event packages is growing. The nice aspect of this is that it is often a big win for all involved. The people booking the events benefit from being able to promote being green, the hotel’s profit from lower costs of many practices (bulk foods, rather than individually packaged ones), and the environment comes out ahead too!

    As more people are exposed to these practices at conferences they attend, the more we will see society as a whole, come to incorporate this as just the normal thing to do. And one day, there will be no need to craft environmental statements (and that would be a good thing if being green was just part of being human).

    Thanks for a great post!

  3. Well done! As a green meeting planner, asking for a hotel’s environmental policy is the first place I start. I agree with John Berdoll’s comments that without transparency and measurable statistics “whenever possible” just doesn’t carry much weight. Planners should be asking their other vendors including caterers, transportation companies, exhibit contractors, etc. for environmental policies as well.

    I am excited to see green meeting practices continue to grow despite, in fact, because of the economy. Being environmentally responsible makes good business sense!

  4. Good job to set up sustainability for hotel. I do like to see more green operation for either indoor or outdoor landscaping with water conservation. I haven’t seen hotels to take advantage of technology to conserve our water supply yet from my experience. I hope someone can tell me more about this if there is any hotels pay attention to this. With plant health management, we even can water plants without any loss. To me, sustainable management needs to integrate everything into daily operation so that we can really achieve sustainability. Otherwise, it is always something missing down the road. I do appreciate Natural Strategy for business.

  5. Great posting, Matt. It would be interesting to follow up with a review of the transparent action plans for each of these corporations to work to achieve their vision. How public are they with their action plans? Are they considering the use of ISO 14001 or BS 8901 for making sustainability part of what everyone of their employees does every day? Do they use all three responsibilities (environment, social and economic) within their programs or are they just limited to the green area? I’d love to see how they stack up using the guidelines set forth in the draft ISO 26000 social reponsibility standard.

  6. Mission statements are just words on paper! Action statements however are different. I am looking for a hotel chain that will act sustainably with regard to air quality. You can not claim sustainability if you clean your air conditioners in-house with a chemical. They don’t work, harm the end-user (your guests) and harm the environment when you rinse the chemical residule down the storm water system. Sincere sustainable action plans will search for ways to remove harmful poisoins and chemicals from their operations. Steam sanitizing air conditioners is sustainable, pure and simple. The benefits are obvious and results are superb!

  7. David, I appreciate your comments. As with all change, the more people are exposed to new practices, the sooner they realize these new ways of working and living are not a huge transition from what they are doing today. Green meetings are an excellent example and I am sure they have inspired many people to forgo bottled water and avoid disposable coffee cups.

  8. Nancy, thank you for pointing out what I believe stands as a powerful symbol for the “green business” movement: increased spending on environmental sustainability programs during the recent Great Recession. One of the first results businesses notice after implementing a sustainability program is decreased operating costs. Saving money and protecting our planet go hand in hand and I am glad that hotels are moving in this direction. Now we just need them to provide us with more detailed metrics.

  9. Thank you for your comments, Ko. I have worked at over 400 hotels around the world and seen both extremes when it comes to landscaping. Many hotels in the desert include a golf course, which creates a completely unnatural experience that I find unsettling because I know nature never intended to have lush grass in such a dry location. I have also seen hotels that use local plants and schedule their watering for early in the morning or not at all. The landscaping of all buildings effects their internal temperature and when done in a “green” manner, can go a long way to reducing the energy demands of the structure and water and food requirements of the surrounding plants.

  10. Bob, your suggestion to follow up with how these hotel companies are moving toward their goals is a great idea. I have not seen many hotels follow any of the ISO, GRI, or other international environmental guidelines. They tend to pursue local or national accreditation. From my experience, most hotels began community based programs in the 1990s and then added sustainability initiatives more recently. While I believe that ISO 26000 may catch on in the hospitality industry, the soon to be launched Tourism Sustainability Council will offer requirements more focused on hotels, although they will certainly not be as detailed as an ISO certification.

  11. Greg, while I appreciate your comments and agree that actions speak louder than words, I think that a strong environmental mission statement is the foundation for an effective sustainability program. A statement provides direction and allows a company to focus its “green” efforts. Check back in with Environmental Leader next month for the second article in this series, Environmental Mission Statements: How To Create Your Own.

  12. I think you’re right that organizations need to identify and proclaim a strong mission statement for their business and their sustainable initiatives. The CMI Green Traveler data from 2009 showed that most consumers check a hotel’s website first for information about their green practices. Great article!

  13. I wish that actions followed words. I took Turkish high school students on a turtle project in June in Turkey and was appalled to find the only hotel on a public beach breaking the law and interfering with turtle nesting was a Hilton! As the local biologists said, all the other hotels will soon follow the Hilton’s lead. Sad leadership!

  14. Actually the Mission Statement for the Fairmont is , “Turning moments into memories for our guests.” However, the Fairmont has put a lot of sustainability into its value statements. One comment states that the mission statement is just words. However, it is the start of the change. A company that is willing to change its mission statement is indeed making a statement. There is just too much transparency today to not be able to put your money where you mouth is. Companies that certify with ISO 14000 are growing in number, and even if they self-certify, the endeavor is substantial in itself.

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