|Sustainability Is Here to Stay.|
Cornell and SAS Webcast Panel
Sunday, 11th April 2010
The contradiction of sustainable hotel operation goes like this: Guests want their hotels to maintain environmentally conscious operations, but hotels generally cannot charge a premium for "green" services and guests don't want to be deprived of room amenities.
Guests want to know what hotels are doing to be sustainable, and there is evidence that demand increases when hotels are sustainable, but hotels can be accused of "greenwashing" if they exaggerate their environmental efforts. Government incentives and regulations are numerous, yet increasingly complex, and hotels may experience conflicting local and federal standards.
To cut through many of these issues, Quaintance recommends an integrated design and operating strategy. His firm has opened the Proximity Hotel in Greensboro, North Carolina, as the first property to gain platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) New Construction (NC) program.
"Our integrated design alone contributed nearly half of our 39.6 percent total energy savings but we also are continually monitoring and measuring energy variations to gain even more savings," he said. As an example of the importance of monitoring energy use, he recalled a cold day when the hotel's chillers turned on even as the heaters were running. It turned out that the sun was streaming through windows, and heating spaces unevenly. All they needed to do was partially close the drapes to reduce the solar heat gain on the south side of the hotel.
Drawing on her experience of working with hotels to develop solutions for environmental operations, Farrell pointed to the importance of embedding environmental performance into an organization's strategy. This aligns environmental initiatives with overall corporate priorities, such as customer satisfaction and profitability.
She reinforced the importance of collecting and sharing data regarding a hotel's environmental performance with all employees. Another key to sustainable operation, she suggested, is for hotels to look at all aspects of their supply chain, and not just their own operations.
Susskind shared the initial results of a Cornell study that introduced energy-saving controls on guest-room lighting and television operation. Although the guests applauded the hotel's green efforts, they did not want to pay extra for the "green" rooms and they were not interested in programs that modified the guest experience. He anticipates that the cost of sustainable technology will decline over time, as it becomes more widely available. Based on his study, he sees guests increasingly buying into green operation as long as it does not diminish guest comfort.
All three panelists agreed that sustainable practices will become part of hotels' standard operating procedures. As Quaintance summarized the discussion: "Guests may not pay more for an eco-conscious hotel experience, but their attention to our environmental practices will push demand until green becomes 'table stakes.'" His advice: Implement a "sustainability filter" on decision making, just as we now apply a "cost filter."
As hotels worldwide seek to unravel the challenges and contradictions of sustainable operation, panelists on a new webcast from SAS and the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research explain how to successfully implement "green" operations—and avoid potential pitfalls. They suggest that the key to managing a sustainable business is to be strategic, sincere, and comprehensive in green initiatives. The webcast brought together Alyssa Farrell, marketing manager for sustainable solutions, SAS; Dennis Quaintance, CEO and chief design officer, Quaintance-Weaver Group; and Alex Susskind, associate professor, Cornell School of Hotel Administration.
This and other SAS and CHR webcasts can be viewed at no charge at:
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About The Center for Hospitality Research
A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. Under the lead of the center's 79 corporate affiliates, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operating practices. The center also publishes the award-winning hospitality journal, the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. To learn more about the center and its projects, visit www.chr.cornell.edu.