A new study has documented an unexpected benefit when hotels earn a certification for environmental sustainability: they tend to run more efficiently.
In the study, Cornell's researchers tested the operating efficiency of U.S. hotels using financial performance data from PKF Hospitality. Hotels that had earned the "Eco-Leaf" designation from Travelocity.com were more efficient in several areas of resource use than hotels that did not have eco-certification.
"As we all know, the hotel industry has been hoping to see improved sales or market position from environmental sustainability, but maybe we have all been looking in the wrong place for the benefits from eco-certification," said Verma. "The intriguing thing here is that this study shows a benefit from sustainability initiatives that has been hidden in plain sight. The fact that eco-certified hotels are more efficient is even more interesting because many hotel operators were worried that sustainability would be more expensive, not less."
PKF Hospitality, which is a CHR Friend, provided data on hotel spending. The study examined both guest-related expenditures (which are driven by guests' activities) and the hotels' own operating expenditures. Expenses in both categories were significantly lower in eco-certified 4-star hotels. The effect also occurred in 3-star and 5-star hotels, but the difference was not as strong.
Travelocity.com is a subsidiary of Sabre Hospitality Solutions, which is a CHR Partner. As part of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council, Sabre has developed an eco-certification program which is the basis of Travelocity's Eco-Leaf label. This designation is given to hotels that have earned any of several second- and third-party environmental certifications, such as EnergyStar, LEED, or the U.K.'s Green Tourism Business Scheme. The key requirement of all eco-designations is that the certification can be audited.The study, "Exploring the Relationship between Eco-certifications and Resource Efficiency in U.S. Hotels," was written by Jie J. Zhang, Nitin Joglekar, Rohit Verma, and Janelle Heineke. Zhang is an associate professor at University of Vermont, Joglekar and Heineke are professors at Boston University, and Verma is a professor at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration. The study is available at no charge from the CHR.