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Environmental Mission Statements: Starwood Shows Commitment

In my last two articles, I summarized a variety of hotel environmental policies and outlined a three-step process for developing a strong environmental mission statement. The following analysis of how one lodging company has chosen to develop their commitment to sustainability will provide guidance on how to incorporate a tangible plan to protect the Earth into your own business.

Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. has published an excellent Environmental Sustainability Policy on their website:

We, at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., believe that economic growth and the well-being of society are inextricably tied to the health of the environment. Accordingly, we embrace our responsibility for environmental stewardship and are committed to integrating leading environmental practices and sustainability principles into our core business strategy.

Through collaboration with our hotel owners, franchisees, suppliers and business partners, we will actively work to reduce the environmental impact of our business activities and to continually improve and innovate on practices aimed at:

  • conserving natural resources,
  • minimizing waste and pollution,
  • enhancing indoor environmental quality,
  • establishing and reporting on key environmental performance indicators, and
  • raising environmental awareness among our associates, guests and communities.

We acknowledge that, in many ways, we, like the global community we serve, are only in the early stages of developing and implementing the many changes that will be necessary to achieve these vital goals. Nonetheless, we strongly believe that our efforts to support a healthy environment serve the interests of both current and future generations and constitute the foundation for enduring success.

Starwood’s understanding that the planet, people and profits are all inextricably linked is clear in the initial paragraph of their policy. Accepting this “triple bottom line” concept is an essential first step in developing an environmental mission statement, because it answers the question of why sustainability is important to their company. In addition, Starwood acknowledges their accountability and states their commitment to environmental responsibility in their opening sentences, which are strong points that create an impactful introduction to an environmental mission statement. Starwood has been effective in defining why the protection of the natural world is important to their organization.

In the second paragraph of their policy, Starwood’s environmental goals are presented in a clear manner and cover important “green” topics both inside and outside of their hotels. The objectives include an educational component, which is a critical piece in changing business practices and personal habits. They list hotel owners, franchisees, suppliers and business partners as the stakeholders with whom they will work to achieve their environmental objectives. Not including clients in this list of active “green” participants working toward Starwood’s environmental goals may result in their missing an important opportunity. In the past few years, there has been a surge of interest in environmental sustainability. Developing an explicit partnership with guests that goes beyond education is an important way to leverage the energy and commitment to protecting the Earth that an increasing number of clients posses. If invited to become involved, interested guests could help Starwood progress in their sustainability commitments. Those who opt not to participate will simply be aware that Starwood is actively seeking to work with all of its stakeholders to become increasingly “green.”  Not including guests underestimates the role this group can play in making Starwood’s Environmental Sustainability Policy come to life.

Many hotel companies incorporate a generalized statement about endeavoring to protect the natural world that lacks the specificity required to promote measurable change. Others claim they are currently engaged in sustainable practices, which does not provide incentives for them or their stakeholders to do more. Starwood sets itself apart by boldly stating a plan for success that seeks to “continually improve and innovate” their environmental practices. In doing so, they have set a bar they can never fully reach, creating an ideal situation that propels them ahead as they persistently explore new “green” avenues for improvement.

Unexpectedly, Starwood closes their environmental policy by acknowledging the nascent stage of their environmental efforts and admitting they have a lot of work ahead of them. Despite their identification with the many other companies that trail behind in implementing sustainability initiatives, Starwood demonstrates their willingness to take large strides toward a new way of doing business with their public statement about the many changes that are necessary in order to move their company in a “green” direction.

Starwood’s environmental mission statement includes all the three pieces of an effective statement: Why is environmental responsibility important to the company? What is the end goal? How will the business measure their success? Starwood logically outlines why they are interested in protecting the Earth, how they plan to lessen their impact on the natural world by listing their “green” goals, and explains that they will deem their efforts successful only if they work to continually improve them.

While well-crafted overall, Starwood’s policy misses a potential opportunity that provides us with another occasion to learn about effective environmental mission statements. I believe that if encouraged to become involved, clients who hunger to do more to help the environment will spend their own time working with brands they value. Some may simply tell friends and family about a new local business in which they believe and that they want to succeed. Others will do much more. Many of Starwood’s clients are meeting planners who might wish to reduce the energy and materials consumed at the events they coordinate. If asked by Starwood to engage their attendees, most planners would be happy to ensure their meeting participants are aware of the ways in which they can help minimize the impact of their conference, such as recycling and turning off lights. Customers who seek more should be offered opportunities to become involved in addition to environmental education, but exactly how companies reach out to their clients will vary depending on the organization’s “green” goals.

Matt Courtland is the Senior Consultant at 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.

Matt Courtland
Matt Courtland is the Senior Consultant at 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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5 thoughts on “Environmental Mission Statements: Starwood Shows Commitment

  1. It would have been nice to see an explicit committment to continual improvement and complianace with legal and other requirements to which the organizations subscribes…. These are required statements under ISO 14001, the worldwide standard for environmental manegement systems and “best in class” practices for environmental management, as it relates to the environmental policy or mission statement.

  2. Thank you for your comments, Jeff. Seeking ISO 14001 certification and explicitly stating a commitment to continual improvement and upholding one’s legal requirements would be an outstanding step for Starwood and other hotels companies to take. The organizations in the hospitality industry currently striving for “green” accreditation appear to be working mostly with regional or national programs because their guidelines are specifically focused on hotels and restaurants. Many of these third party verification companies are doing an excellent job guiding the hospitality industry toward sustainability; however, they lack the credibility that ISO 14001, the U.N.’s Global Compact, and Ceres’ Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) enjoy. Ideally, The Global Sustainable Tourism Criteria (GSTC), which is due to be officially rolled out later this year although the process may have stalled, will provide one clear, internationally recognized sustainability certification program for the hospitality industry. This will allow companies like Starwood to commit to the same set of “green” best practices as other hotels around the world.

  3. One aspect of Starwood’s statement that I like is that it goes beyond the letter of the law. As Matt points out, they have stated that they would like all parties in their supply chain (upstream and down) to have a similar commitment.

    Moving to “what is right” versus “what is the law” shows a seemingly open approach that hopefully is felt by Starwood’s employees.

    Typically when we are left to policing our selves (as in you the person), we tend to be harder on ourselves than the law stipulates. This is a gross generalization and their are those that won’t care either way.

    Very nice analysis Matt. It would be wonderful if all companies (and individuals) felt a true stewardship toward our one and only Earth.

  4. David, thank you for sharing your thoughts. I believe that many people feel a connection to the Earth but the prevailing economic models makes it more profitable to exploit natural resources than preserve them. This is changing rapidly as more organizations begin to include the social and environmental costs of doing business in their financial statements. I am confident that we are moving toward a new global economy based on social responsibility and environmental sustainability.

  5. When I see sites like this it reminds me why nothing is really being done to protect the planet ,people like you blow hot air up the backside of these companies by going on and on how they believe this is good and this is virtuous but without doing anything in substance. reports like yours are just a smokescreen mingled in with all the politics and waste of time in the meantime real damage is being done and time is running out!

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