Name: Andrew Mims
Title: Vice President of Sustainability
Organization: Gaylord Entertainment
Years with Gaylord Entertainment: 1.5
Primary responsibilities: “I created and now run Gaylord’s sustainability department—with efforts ranging from environmental initiatives to social responsibility. Ultimately, for the company to maximize the impact of the program, it needs to fit seamlessly into our overall strategy and become a central component of our culture. I report directly to David Kloeppel, our president and COO, and meet regularly with Colin Reed, our CEO, and they both understand the growing importance of sustainability in the marketplace and the value that it can bring to our company. And I am confident that we will be able reach our ultimate goal of being one of the most environmentally- and socially-responsible businesses in the industry.”
Organization’s most significant environment-related accomplishment so far: “Compared to 2009, we as a brand have achieved a 10 percent reduction in energy consumption. At the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Spa we have achieved a 15 percent reduction.”
Organization’s most significant environment-related challenge: “Implementation of our green initiatives. We’ve got 10,000 employees. Bringing it into the heart of our culture—making it the DNA of Gaylord Entertainment. Execution and implementation is very hard.”
NASHVILLE—When his second child was born a couple of years ago, Andrew Mims knew it was time to make a career change. Having kids does that sometimes. In his case, Sims wanted to find a position that would allow him to combine his passion for the outdoors, his experience in business and, most importantly, his interest in corporate responsibility. His timing was perfect as he ultimately landed his current position as vice president of sustainability for Gaylord Entertainment. Gaylord currently has four upscale, meetings-focused resorts in Nashville, Washington, D.C., Orlando, and Dallas.
Mims’s start with Gaylord was an interesting one, to say the least. Not long after beginning work, the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center in Nashville was flooded by the Cumberland River. That flooding closed down the almost 2,900-room hotel until November 2010. A total of $270 million was spent on the landmark property’s renovation.
While the flooding was tragic, the Opryland emerged from the waters as a much greener, more efficient property. As mentioned above, energy consumption at the property is down 15 percent from 2009.
“We did some lighting,” Mims says. “We did little things throughout the property. We rebuilt our cogen facility, laundry facility, and overhauled our chiller facility.”
Cogeneration Engine Produces Less Emissions
The 4.5 megawatt cogeneration engine that now generates 35 percent of the electricity for the Opryland was shipped to Texas and rebuilt. It is now 10 percent more efficient and produces 40 percent less NOx emissions. In the laundry, the old tunnel washers were averaging 3.5 gallons of water used per pound of laundry. With the new washers, that number is now down to .6 gallons per pound. Water is reclaimed at every stage of the laundry process. A heat reclamation system captures the heat from “waste” to pre-heat incoming water, significantly reducing the amount of natural gas required in the process. Similarly, reclaimed heat from the air exhausted in the drying process is used to further reduce energy requirements.
Mims’ initial focus has been on energy and emissions reduction but in early 2012 that will expand to waste, water and procurement. “We have a couple of big announcements that will come out of our procurement group,” he says.
Mims says that by focusing first on energy consumption, a natural byproduct is a reduction in emissions. “I am a believer in efficiency first,” Mims says. “At some point soon, renewable energy will make sense.”
All of Gaylord’s environmental efforts are now part of GET Green, a corporate sustainability program that was announced in April of this year. (See related article.) As part of GET Green, Gaylord has a goal of reducing energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions per square foot by 20 percent by 2015, and pursuing LEED certification for all future developments, including major additions and new builds.
Oversees GET Green Teams
One important part of his job is overseeing the GET Green teams that are at each property. These meet at least once each month. Hotel managers are executive sponsors of the teams that are made up of Gaylord employees—a.k.a. STARS.
“We don’t have full-time persons at the property level in charge of sustainability,” Mims says. “All the green teams are made up of volunteers whose plates are already full.”
Mims, who earned his bachelor’s degree from Princeton University and his MBA from Dartmouth College, also oversees the work of Gaylord’s Engineering Council.
“Corporate responsibility is a topic that has always been very interesting to me,” Mims says. “Corporations have a responsibility to all stakeholders. The business rationale [for sustainability] is very compelling. We have already saved millions of dollars by reducing consumption. We will see those savings year after year. Unless you make operational changes today, you could get caught in a bad place down the road. Our group business is increasingly demanding information about our green initiatives.”
What He Enjoys Most About His Work
Mims says that what really keeps him going is knowing that the work he and the 10,000 STARS at Gaylord are doing is truly making a difference. “Also spending time with our green teams,” he says. “That recharges me.”
Prior to joining Gaylord, Andy worked at ABS Ventures, a mid-stage venture capital firm in Boston, Thomas Weisel Partners in San Francisco and in the Mergers and Acquisitions Department at Deutsche Bank in New York.
While having a second child led to a career change, having a first child led to a sea change in thinking.
“I really started focusing on environmental issues when my wife and had our first child,” Mims says. “I stopped taking a lot of things for granted then—like the importance of clean air, safe food and the importance of a good night’s sleep.”
Click here for more information on GET Green.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.