Over the past decade, hotel companies have implemented programs to reduce the waste generated and the energy used in their daily operations. Many have been successful in saving both resources and money as well as attracting environmentally conscious guests; however, the industry as a whole has yet to make sustainability an integral part of its strategic plans. The Two Tomorrows sustainability agency’s latest survey, the Tomorrow’s Value Rating (TVR) from 2009, indicates that the world’s ten largest hotel companies “are only just beginning to address the wide range of social and environmental challenges facing the sector.” Climate Counts, which scores corporations on the climate impact of their business, found similar resultswhen researching six major hotel firms. “The world’s largest hotel chains may be seeking practical ways to address a range of broad environmental impacts in their operations . . . however, few appear to be aligning such actions as part of a larger and more comprehensive carbon management strategy. An average sector score of 19 out of a possible 100 suggests the sector has much work ahead.” Now that the low hanging fruit that has enabled hotels to claim they are going green has been picked, it is time for hotel companies to evolve their sustainability programs in order to address the new phase of challenges and opportunities they currently face.
After several years of running environmental programs, hotels need to evaluate if their current organizational structures supporting these projects continue to be effective. Early green programs were often developed in the Environmental, Health, and Safety department. Their initiatives to protect workers and the Earth from dangerous chemicals evolved into projects to reduce waste and operating costs. Other sustainability programs were managed by the social responsibility team, run through the Human Resources department, which focused on giving back to the community. As a result, many sustainability officers now reside in Operations or HR. These alignments made perfect sense ten years ago when changing out light bulbs and cleaning up local parks represented major sustainability programs within a lot of hotels. The benefits of these initiatives are real but, as our world enters a new era where stakeholders are demanding more transparency and third party certifications are evolving and becoming a requirement to conduct business, keeping these programs in their original locations is often limiting.