The hotel/hospitality industry has long been a leader in the “green” movement. Years ago, when I was better known as the “Father of Green Cleaning,” I applauded the hospitality industry in North America for the many steps they have and were taking to provide healthier indoor environments for their guests. They did this by transferring to green cleaning.
However, they were certainly not doing this just for my approval. As more and more of their corporate clients insisted on selecting green hotels for their visiting business guests, being green meant money in the bank. Because the corporate sector is so vast and lucrative for the hospitality industry, most of the major (and not so major) hotel chains in North America soon transferred from conventional to certified green cleaning products, procedures, and equipment.
Now many prominent hotels in North America and around the world are taking their green efforts a major step further and focusing on sustainability. And once again, there are monetary reasons for this movement.
For instance, in India, now considered the second fastest growing tourism market in the world, some hotels are reporting they have reduced energy consumption by as much as 40 percent because of various sustainability initiatives. This sizable energy reduction means once again, money in the back for these hotel properties.
Because sustainability is certainly paying off for hotels in India, let’s take a closer look at what other sustainability initiatives and strategies they are taking. Among them are the following:
- Over the past decade, many of the top hotels built in India have been built seeking LEED certification or built to LEED standards. This means, among other things, they are using energy, water, and fuel more efficiently and responsibly, which invariably translates into cost savings. Plus, these same initiatives are helping to reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere.
- Beginning in 2014, a campaign now supported by many hotels in India has been working to clean up public spaces in the country, especially public restrooms. Called Swachh Bharat Adhyayan, the campaign is also working to clean up littered roads, eliminate public garbage burning, protect air as well as water supplies, and improve the cleanliness of large public centers in the country such as sports venues. While the goals of the program are to present India as a cleaner and more environmentally healthy place to visit, a significant side benefit of the Swachh Bharat Adhyayan campaign has been to help protect the health of the Indian people. Helping the local community, by the way, is one of the three pillars of sustainability.
- While some hotels in India are built to LEED standards, another program some hotel properties in India are involved in is called Ecotel. This program, which started with a New York hotel in 1994, awards “Globes” to hotels that meet stringent certification standards in these five key areas: energy conservation; water conservation, solid waste management; environmental commitment; and one which is very important, employee education regarding environmental and sustainability issues. Employees are required to be taught why sustainability is so important for hotel properties. When they understand the “whys,” invariably new ideas and strategies emerge that advance sustainability.
- Water is a scarce commodity in many parts of India. This is true around the world, but with an estimated population of 1.3 billion people and relatively poor (and sometimes, non-existent) water infrastructure in much of the country, water has become a “risk factor.” No water means no hotel guests. As a result, several traditional and not so traditional steps are being used to reduce water consumption. For instance, some major hotels in India have their own sewage treatment plants. Recycled water from these plants is being re-used in chillers to air condition the hotel. But, that’s not all. The chillers generate heat. That heat is now being used to warm fresh water delivered to faucets throughout the hotel.
Earlier we used the term “risk factor.” In many ways, this is key to the entire sustainability movement in Indian hotels as well as hotels around the world. At one time, risk management in a hotel referred primarily to safety concerns related to food and beverages, cleaning or construction, and in recent years, terrorist attacks.
While these still are key concerns for hotel properties, an additional risk has now evolved and that involves environmental issues. Those hotel properties that can use water, fuel, and energy more efficiently, not only can reduce operating costs, but are far more likely to keep their doors open when there are power and water shortages, hurricanes, and similar disruptions. This means sustainability initiatives will increasingly be a crucial factor in the profitability and success of Indian hotels as well as hotel properties globally.
Stephen P. Ashkin is president of The Ashkin Group, a consulting firm specializing in green cleaning and sustainability. He is considered the “Father of Green Cleaning,” is on the Board of the Green Sports Alliance, and has been inducted into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame (IGIHOF). He is now helping organizations around the world turn sustainability into cost savings. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.