Home Publisher's Point of View Highlights from Chat with Choice Hotel’s Vice President, Sustainability

Highlights from Chat with Choice Hotel’s Vice President, Sustainability

Glenn Hasek

When Choice Hotels International released its 2022 Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Report two months ago, it caught the eye of many of you. (See article.) What Choice Hotels does in the ESG arena should catch your attention; the company has more than 7,400 hotels, representing over 625,000 rooms, in 45 countries and territories. That is quite an environmental impact and a huge opportunity to reduce resource consumption and waste.

Following the release of its report, I reached out to Choice Hotels and interviewed Megan Brumagim, Vice President, Sustainability for Choice Hotels. Be sure to read her responses to my questions in the article posted this past week. The following are just a few highlights from the interview.

Brumagim told me having someone at the V.P. level in charge of sustainability is important for the following reasons: “Sustainability is core to who we are as a company and while this is a new role, the ethos behind it has been alive and well for our entire history. It’s about ensuring our business—which was founded more than 80 years ago—continues to be competitive into the future. We approach sustainability from two perspectives, 1) the overall impact we have on the environment, our employees, customers, and communities and 2) how these initiatives can help our franchisees find efficiencies and potentially save money. We can’t have one without the other.”

Plenty of ‘Room to be Green’

Through its Room to be Green program, Choice Hotels promotes environmentally-friendly practices throughout the hotel system and at its corporate offices.

“The Commitment to Green program helps hotels improve their bottom line through savings, stay compliant with local regulations and make their hotel more visible to capture more business. Through this program we provide a suite of turn-key resources and tools, including our revamped Room to be Green environmental certification, solutions to navigate rebates and incentives, and more,” Brumagim said.

Choice Hotels is in the process of rolling out its Energy Collection and Measurement Utility Savings dashboard. Powered by Schneider Electric, it fully automates data collection from the hotel’s utility providers, saving them time so they can focus their attention on the guest experience.

“We started piloting this tool in September 2022, onboarding approximately 600 hotels,” Brumagim said. “We are now in the process of rolling it out to the rest of the U.S.”

Part of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance

Early last year Choice Hotels announced it had joined the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance. Why do so? “As one of the largest members of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance—which brings together an engaged network of leading hotel companies who are committed to work together to address key social and environmental challenges—Choice has access to a non-competitive forum with key industry stakeholders to collaborate on issues and create shared solutions. This allows us to influence the strategic direction of the social and environmental agenda in the hospitality sector as well as influence the wider industry value chain to advance responsible business.”

Many of the industry’s most impactful companies are part of the Alliance: Accor, BWH Hotel Group, Hilton, IHG, Marriott, and many more.

Empowering women and minorities is very important to Choice Hotels. I asked Brumagim for an example of her company’s commitment.

“In 2022, we launched the enhanced HERtels by Choice Hotels, a program that leverages a multi-faceted approach to advance and empower women in hotel ownership,” she said. “In March 2023, we hosted our inaugural HERtels by Choice Hotels Development Seminar—the first-of-its-kind seminar hosted by a major hotel company—where we welcomed nearly 40 franchise owners, general managers, and hotel associates to address the discrepancy in hotel ownership rates for women by empowering female owners with a day of training, education sessions, and networking opportunities. In addition to encouraging women owners to build confidence and leverage best practices in the lending, construction and hotel operations processes, the seminar aimed to advance the opportunity of hotel ownership by connecting prospective hoteliers with industry veterans and Choice executives. HERtels by Choice is leading the way in the hotel industry: since March 2021, more than 60 women have participated in the program, leading to 43 new female-owned hotels, and counting.

Lessons Learned from Radisson

In August of last year, Choice Hotels completed the acquisition of the franchise business, operations, and intellectual property of Radisson Hotels Americas. I asked Brumagim what best practices Choice Hotels was able to benefit from Radisson Hotel Group Americas. She told me: “Radisson Hotels Americas brought key expertise in the upscale and upper-upscale segment as well as deep knowledge of operations within its managed hotels division. This benefits Choice as we further develop our sustainability strategy and initiatives, allowing us to quickly pilot new programs in hotels that we now directly manage. For example, in March 2022, the Radisson Blu Mall of America became the first hotel in the world to install a CarbinX system, which both captures carbon to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and helps the hotel lower their heating costs. Choice can capitalize on this fantastic experience.”

Interestingly, Choice Hotels has a Franchisee Sustainability Roundtable. Brumagim explained: “Comprised of 11 owners from each of Choice’s brand segments, the Franchise Sustainability Roundtable meets several times a year and shares feedback and ideas with Choice leadership about best practices and learnings from incorporating sustainable practices into their operations. Launched in 2021, this Roundtable gave feedback that helped shape our Commitment to Green initiative and provided key early input into the development of the utility tracking dashboard.” Does your company have a similar group? I would love to learn about it.

I have been covering Choice Hotels as a journalist off and on since 1989. It is great to see the company making progress in so many ESG areas.

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