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CHRS Conference Proceedings Dig into Sustainability Strategies

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ITHACA, N.Y.—The international hotel and restaurant industry has been working toward sustainability in operations, and industry executives are making every effort to report their sustainability results. At the 2012 Cornell Hospitality Research Summit (CHRS), several presenters offered their analysis of both sustainability strategies and related reporting approaches. The sustainability presentations are summarized in a new conference proceedings, “Toward Sustainable Hotel and Restaurant Operations,” by Glenn Withiam. The proceedings document is available at no charge from the Cornell Center for Hospitality Research, where Withiam is director of publications.

Much of the research presented at the CHRS addressed the conflicting messages that customers send about sustainability. While it’s clear that sustainability has become a business driver, guests’ actions on sustainability remain difficult to predict. For example, one study found that the only sustainability-related element in the purchase decision is a “healthy room.” In determining their hotel purchase, some guests take note of internationally recognized certifications, including LEED, ISO 14001, and Travelocity’s Green Hotel directory.

A particular challenge in sustainability reporting is that benchmarks are difficult to determine. Carbon reporting seems to be one item of particular interest. SABRE, for instance, has developed a CO2 reporting standard that varies by country. For restaurants, one issue of particular interest is customers’ reactions to the use of packaging for carryout and drive-through operations. Using recyclable materials influences guests’ purchase behavior at the drive-through, for instance. Overall, such efforts as the Global Reporting Initiative are assisting hotel firms in developing sustainability standards.

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