When the future of the planet is at stake, lollygagging isn’t an option, but policy is often still held up by partisan politics and the inherent lag time of gargantuan legislative bodies. It’s an era when buzzwords such as “green” and “sustainable” are tossed around without much thought—which is why it’s refreshing when private companies seek their own solutions for the growing crisis of a ravaged Earth. Inside the hospitality industry in particular, there are those who say and those who do. And in the companies of Marriott International, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, and Wyndham Worldwide, gb&d found three impressive doers tackling the problem of a calamitous environment head-on.
Innovative reuse, extensive audits, and simple stewardship
With 3,600 properties in 71 countries and territories, Marriott International’s goals for greening its multibillion-dollar supply chain are lofty: reduce energy and water consumption by 25 percent per available room by 2017 and expand its portfolio of green buildings to include 300 LEED-certified hotels by 2015. Such goals are easy to view in the abstract, but Marriott has backed up its plan with action on the micro level.
The company is so committed to conserving resources that it launched a million-dollar study to find the best showerhead to spray two gallons per minute instead of five. Unafraid to get experimental, Marriott scrapped its standard toilets, which used 1.6 gallons per flush, in favor of less wasteful commodes that use 1.28 gallons. The company’s engineers used soy paste to mimic different consistencies of human waste and to ensure there would be no loss in efficiency. And those old porcelain toilets? They were ground up and used to pave new roads.
“Our company was built on the foundation of taking care of our associates and our guests,” says Bruce Tucker, director of engineering for Marriott’s Airport Gateway Hotel in Atlanta, which opened in August 2010. “And you can’t truly do that unless you’re being a good steward of the environment.”
By the Numbers
The percent by which Marriott plans to reduce water and energy usage per available room by 2017
The year by which the hotelier plans to own at least 300 LEED-certified properties
The dollar value for Marriott’s total supply chain, which will continue to undergo substantial greening as part of its Spirit to Preserve program
It’s the simple things, Tucker says, that make the most difference—things such as making sure the landscaping irrigation is working smoothly. (Tucker had his hotel’s sprinkler system audited and is now saving nearly 200 gallons a week.) Or, it’s turning off the lights when natural sunlight will do the trick and taking food waste and composting it. “It’s definitely the idea behind being green,” Tucker says. “If you can take a product that you would normally waste and bring it back to your property and reuse it, that’s pretty cool.”
And those who think sustainability is just the flavor of the day should consider the fact that green practices actually win new business in addition to being more cost-effective. “A lot of people say that green doesn’t really catch on, but the fact remains that we have hotels that get business specifically because they are good stewards,” Tucker says. And with numerous recognitions to Marriott’s name—including a listing as one of Newsweek’s “Greenest Big Companies” and three Sustained Excellence awards from the EPA, to name a few—it would appear the rest of the world is taking notice.
Pushing beyond public policy for industry-wide change
Instead of waiting for legislators to hand down policy from above, Wyndham Worldwide is doing what makes sense: taking its proven care for guests and associates and applying the same philosophy to the Earth. “It has always been part our of core values to act with integrity and value the community,” says Faith Taylor, vice president of sustainability and innovation at the company. “And that relates to sustainability—saving today’s resources for our future generations.”
By the Numbers
The percent of construction waste diverted from landfill during the building of Wyndham’s corporate headquarters, which earned LEED-CI Silver certification
The number of indigenous plants used at its Seven-Mile Beach Resort on the island of Tasmania
Sustainability has become so important an issue to Wyndham that it’s now a top concern—up there with revenue and customer satisfaction—and an extension of the company’s count-on-me culture. Wyndham Worldwide released a 60-page sustainability report that pinpointed its global footprint (350,000 metric tons of carbon emissions across 40 countries) and zeroed in on major goals for scaling back its consumption. The company has committed to reduce its footprint 12 percent by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020.
Such grand goals can’t be accomplished without well-laid plans, but Wyndham’s attention to detail is precise. The company is scrutinizing even the small things: energy-efficient lighting, better caulking and insulation, ozone laundry systems, and solar power, among many others. The company’s hotels are paying special attention to air quality by improving their HVAC systems to eradicate floating pollens and allergens, and Wyndham is also debuting special products, such as 52 million compostable and biodegradable Eco-Cups made from recycled materials. And, in 2012, the hospitality giant plans to phase out incandescent bulbs in favor of more efficient and cost-effective light sources.
More than anything, though, Wyndham is leading the way to a better environment through its more than 350 green facilities around the globe. “We’re not just talking about it in our own back yard,” Taylor says. “We’re trying to work within the industry to set the standard.” The company’s Green Advisory Board is championing the cause and developing policies both at home—with the American Hotel Lodging Association—and abroad—through a partnership with the World Travel and Tourism Council. “It’s important for people to know private companies are doing this,” Taylor says. “We’re not waiting for a global policy to happen; it’s not going to. If you have private companies taking the initiative, that’s better than having government tell you what to do.”
An unrelenting environmental commitment from Nepal to Chile
Worm farms in Australia. High-altitude orphanages in Katmandu, Nepal. Sometimes saving the world takes a little creativity. In March 2011, Hyatt launched a new corporate responsibility platform called “Hyatt Thrive” to organize practices it has been committed to all along: reducing waste, conserving resources, and engaging communities.
“Responsible business is also good business,” says Brigitta Witt, vice president of corporate responsibility. “Any time we reduce our consumption of natural resources, there’s an impact to the bottom line.” Hyatt Thrive takes the company’s goals of reducing its environmental footprint and investing in communities and translates them into customized plans for the individual areas and neighborhoods surrounding Hyatt’s hotels. “All of our properties are focused on that goal, but the way they do it is hyperlocal and according to the needs of the community,” Witt says.
That means, for instance, that if there isn’t any recycling infrastructure in a city, Hyatt will find its own way. The company is doing exactly that in Santiago, Chile, where it’s partnering with local charities who take the hotel’s used glass, plastic, and aluminum to a plant for processing. And, the charities get to keep any money the processing plant pays for the materials.With more than 450 hotels and 85,000 associates in 40 countries, Hyatt’s concern for the Earth is truly worldwide, and it extends not just into environmentalism but also into being a good neighbor. The company’s hotel in Katmandu donates money, rice, and clean water to one of the city’s orphanages and offers its laundry services for the children’s clothing.
By the Numbers
The tons of plastic Hyatt has kept out of landfills thanks to its use of recycled plastic for bottles and key cards
The square footage of the green roof at the Hyatt at Olive 8 in Seattle
In the Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Hyatt is getting ready to reopen a renovated building nearly six years after it was wiped out by Hurricane Katrina. The hotel will draw on local talent for its employee base and for ideas to improve the surrounding area and to incorporate sustainable practices into its daily operations. Even in Chicago, home to Hyatt’s headquarters, the company is propping up the community by donating 15,000 books to 10 public schools and sending employees to paint and plant gardens.
“Hyatt Thrive is our way of taking a lot of different efforts and organizing them under a common framework,” Witt says, explaining that Hyatt has been involved in improving communities and the planet for a number of years. One of Hyatt’s most innovative projects is even using worm farms at its holdings in Australia to compost food and provide fertilizer for hotel landscaping. “Our plan is to reduce waste, energy, and carbon emissions by 20 percent and water usage by 25 percent by 2015,” Witt says. “We’re always looking for ways to do better. I don’t think this work is ever done.”