Hoteliers and Corporate Travel Buyers Partner In Major Environmental Effort
Leading representatives of the hospitality industry, corporate travel buyers, government and environmental experts gathered in Atlanta, initiating a project to increase the supply and demand of environmentally friendly hotels. Never before have both procurers and providers of the lodging industry spearheaded such an effort.
Convened by Ceres, a network of businesses and environmental organizations that advocate corporate responsibility, the symposium attracted senior representatives from Ford Motor Company, Nike, Bass Hotels, Starwood Lodging, Saunders Hotel Group, and Swissôtel. Also in attendance were representatives of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Co-op America, Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration and Green Seal.
General Manager, David Gibbins of Swissôtel Boston noted, "I believe this was a watershed moment for the greening of hotels. By addressing the demand side, the supply side will follow."
Numerous consumer, business and environmental groups spoke to the need for increased supply of environmentally friendly, or "green" hotels, noting that the choices are limited in the U.S. Despite the fact that more and more consumers consider environmental criteria in their purchasing decisions, the U.S. lodging industry has failed to capitalize on this potential market.
Lack of awareness about the consumer demand and financial benefits of green hotels contributes heavily to the U.S. lodging industry's widespread resistance to environmental innovation. Many hotels consume conspicuous amounts of water, energy and waste intensive products. Environmentally friendly hotels reduce wastefulness and its associated costs by offering options such as bathroom amenity dispensers, low-flow showerheads and toilets, energy-efficient lighting, and optional daily washing of linens.
To help stimulate the green hotel market, one strategy - upon which the Atlanta symposium was based - is to engage major corporations in communicating their preferences for environmental criteria when selecting hotels. This goes beyond individual consumer choices , as business travel and meeting contracts represent the bulk of the hotel industry's income.
A complimentary effort includes educating both hoteliers and corporate travel planners about the mutual benefits of green hotel options. Barry Dimson, the innovator developer of the Sheraton Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, a leading environmental hotel, believes that operation changes resulting in improved air quality, water and waste reduction, and energy efficiency can be easily achieved with bottom-line savings.
Tedd Saunders, President of EcoLogical Solutions and V.P. of Saunders Hotel Group, whose Lenox and Copley Square properties pioneered the greening of hotels, stated, "With the muscle of Ceres' companies behind this unprecedented effort, it will undoubtedly be a wake up call to the hotel industry that environmental management is a critical path to ongoing success."
Ceres, a coalition of more than 60 investor, environmental, labor and public interest groups, convened the symposium in an effort to improve environmental performance within the hotel industry. Ceres and its members advocate environmental protection through corporate responsibility. More than 50 companies have endorsed the Ceres Principles, an environmental code of conduct, and engage in constructive dialogues with Ceres Coalition members and other stakeholders. By building more strategic partnerships within its network, Ceres hopes this collaboration will stimulatemarket demand and ultimately help lead the effort to green the hospitality industry.