CEF Spotlight

We’re All Guests On This Planet

By Denise Naguib, Vice President, Sustainability and Supplier Diversity Global Operations Services, Marriott International

Naguib,Denise 1 (1)As our chairman, JW Marriott, Jr. says, “We believe the future of this business is green…because we’re all guests on this planet.”

Indeed, the planet is the ultimate host for not only us humans, but over 8 million other species! So, when it comes to us taking care of our host when we travel, what are we to do? How do we ensure we are staying at a “green” hotel?

This is by far the most common question I hear from corporate travel buyers, meeting planners, and individual guests in my role at Marriott. Everyone is looking for a simple answer—a list of “green” hotels. Unfortunately, there is never a simple answer—it really depends on what matters to you!

First, one would need to have a clear, uniform definition of “green.” In my vernacular, green is a color, so let’s gently substitute the word “sustainable” into the conversation. Sustainable hotels come in all shapes and sizes. Since one size doesn’t fit all, here are some things to consider when determining whether your hotel stay is sustainable:

  1. Does the hotel have a label?
    While there are hundreds of eco-labels for products, the good news is there are only a few dozen for hotels. Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is the most challenging to attain. In 2011, there were less than 100 LEED-certified hotels. Today Marriott alone has 30 certified and an additional 100 registered. TripAdvisor’s new GreenLeader environmental rating puts the sustainability practices of hotels front and center for the individual consumer to view. There are other great rating systems, such as Green Key, Green Globe, ISO’s 50001, and other regional labels.
  2. Does the hotel have visible environmental practices?
    The list of environmental practices is long, and the value to any one person varies. For some, low-flow and energy-efficient lighting are the most important; for others, it’s recycling. The important thing is for the guest to be able to see some of these practices in action. The most ubiquitous practice is the linen and terry reuse program. Marriott implemented this across all brands globally, and we have seen some measurable reductions in energy, water, and laundry detergent simply by allowing guests the opportunity to reuse their towels and have their sheets changed a bit less frequently.
  3. Is the hotel buying products that support a sustainable supply chain?
    Hotels buy thousands of different items. The largest spend at full-service hotels (those with restaurants, in-room dining, spas, etc.) is food and beverage. Are menus highlighting local produce? Is there a sustainable seafood program in place? Are they offering organic, fair trade, shade grown, or other “labelled” foods? Guest preferences spur changes in hotel food purchases that then drive the market to more sustainable products. Collaborating with suppliers and MindClick Global, Marriott utilized the Hospitality Sustainability Performance Index to assess the sustainability of products in the furniture, fixtures, and equipment category. We then set a goal of devoting 75% of our spending in this category to suppliers that were rated through the index. As more suppliers become rated and focus on improving their products, the entire industry benefits.
  4. Can the hotel provide you with carbon footprint?
    In 2012, 23 hotel companies agreed on a common methodology for measuring carbon emissions for hotel stays and meetings. The Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative makes the comparability of data across the industry real. This methodology is free, so hotels of any size can calculate their footprints and provide guests with the data. Watch this video to learn more about this great initiative. 
  5. What happens behind the scenes?
    Many efforts that hotels have implemented to reduce energy and water are not visible to guests. Some are fascinating and high tech—from laundry systems that utilize the final rinse water for the first wash water, to HVAC systems that adjust automatically based on peak loads. For anyone interested in these details, there are many engineering leaders that would be proud to show off their innovations.
  6. What is the hotel doing to support the local and global community?
    The innate desire to serve others is found in associates throughout the hospitality industry. Some participate in community efforts on their own, while others host annual events such as Marriott’s Spirit To Serve Our Communities day. One can also look at the efforts by larger companies to support social and environmental responsibility beyond their own local communities. From protecting the rainforest in Brazil to water conservation efforts in China, hospitality companies can be part of the solution in protecting our planet.

In summary, sustainability in the hospitality business takes on many forms. What matters to one guest may not matter to another. But in the end, we all have a say in what we want to take place in our home away from home. I encourage you to pick something—anything—and make an effort to observe, question, celebrate, and do your part to move the sustainability needle with each and every hotel stay!

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