How IHG Engages Stakeholders with Green Engage

 

The hospitality industry has greatly ramped up sustainability efforts in recent years.  Early on hotels found ways to cut costs and operate efficiently by saving water and energy.  Today’s efforts are far more sophisticated and cross into every aspect of a hotel from its buildings, laundry, restaurants, golf courses, spas, housekeeping, guest services and technology systems. 

 

I recently interviewed Maury Zimring, Director Corporate Responsibility and Environmental Responsibility for Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) on stakeholder engagement for my forthcoming book The New Corporate Facts of Life.  Many business factors drive the emphasis on sustainability ranging from saving money to brand image to client requests.  One Maury mentioned was that as large corporations become committed to sustainable practices, their requests for proposals (RFP) to suppliers have moved beyond general questions about a hotel’s corporate responsibility plan.  “Now they are very specific with questions such as:  What’s the carbon footprint of an average hotel room stay?  What’s your water footprint?   What’s your waste conversion?”

 

Becoming sustainable in any business makes engaging internal and external stakeholders more important than ever before.  The hospitality industry can find this particularly challenging since companies such as IHG often don’t own the hotel properties under their brands.  IHG operates under multiple hotel brand names such as InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Holiday Inn and Staybridge Suites. With more than 3,900 hotels as franchises and managing another 678 in 100 countries around the world, IHG must influence through collaboration not by mandate.  

 

IHG uses a program called Green Engage, a comprehensive web-based sustainability system with great features to find ideas, track progress and benchmark against other properties. Maury wholeheartedly believes “Green Engage has been the catalyst for driving sustainability across the enterprise.” Green Engage shows ways to become more sustainable, save money and increase efficiency at four levels.  Level one provides recommendations that every hotel should adopt for ways to save resources and create a green team.  Level two has actions that produce a return on investment (ROI) within a year.  Level three has ideas with a ROI of between one and three years and level four represents best practices that may have a longer ROI, but within 7 years.  Green Engage provides a roadmap and a wealth of ideas to get hotel operators started and to move them further along as they become more knowledgeable. 

 

Paul Snyder, VP of Corporate Responsibility for IHG told me that as of July 2011 there were 900 properties signed up.  Today there are nearly 2300 properties, which equates to half of the IHG estate.  “It’s the most successful subscription platform in the company.”  Hotels are saving money, conserving resources and engaging employees better than ever before.  One older Holiday Inn Express near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport was signed up for Green Engage, but wasn’t using the tool.   Maury contacted them and discovered “they thought sustainability was for higher end hotels with more resources and staff.   But Green Engage was built for all brands.” Fortunately the vice president of the owner group for the property wanted to see more sustainable practices widely adopted through all their locations.  An assessment of the property revealed some behind the scenes opportunities such as replacing boilers and insulating pipes. The hotel implemented some of these and achieved a greater than 20 percent energy savings the first year.  They’ve continued to find opportunities and have recently become a showcase property for the U.S. Department of Energy's Better Buildings Challenge.  

 

Hotel green teams input their data into Green Engage on areas such as water, energy and waste and create action plans.  The tool promotes accountability by tracking and reporting progress and showing how the property benchmarks against others.  In starting a green team, each hotel identifies a Green Engage champion who is not part of leadership team.  This provides a great development opportunity to enhance skills on leading teams, communication and influencing others. An IHG property in Boston placed a housekeeping supervisor as their Green Engage champion. She works with the team to set goals, track results and evaluate what to do next.  This experience has helped her build relationships across the hotel and with people in IHG corporate and now has “green champion” as part of her title.

 

Last year Green Engage added the ability to share case studies for each action item.  This means a property can tell their stories about what they did, the challenges they faced, what worked for them and can feature people who were instrumental to making a project successful.  Maury believes “This allows experiences to be shared from one property to another.  General Managers contact each other to learn more.  It also provides recognition for those involved.”

 

The Green Engage platform launched in 2009 with a three-year goal to reduce energy across IHG properties by six to ten percent.  As of 2012 IHG exceeded the target by reducing energy by 11.7 percent and lowered their carbon footprint by 19 percent per occupied room between 2010 and 2011. 

 

On a global level IHG takes a leadership role working with industry competitors and others on the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) through the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) and World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC).  The HCMI led to a global carbon standard for hotels being introduced in 2012. 

 

About IHG:  Based in the U.K., IHG operates over 4,600 hotels in nearly 100 countries and territories under nine hotel brands including InterContinental, Crowne Plaza, Hotel Indigo, Holiday Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, Candlewood Suites, EVEN™ Hotels and HUALUXE™ Hotels and Resorts. 

 

Sources:

Interviews with:

Paul Snyder VP of Corporate Responsibility and IHG’s Global lead on Environmental Sustainability.

Maury Zimring , Director, Corporate Responsibility and Environmental Sustainability for IHG.

IHG Green Engage website:  http://www.ihgplc.com/index.asp?pageid=742

 

Home Page Teaser: 
The hospitality industry has greatly ramped up sustainability efforts in recent years. Early on hotels found ways to cut costs and operate efficiently by saving water and energy. Today’s efforts are far more sophisticated and cross into every aspect of a hotel from its buildings, laundry, restaurants, golf courses, spas, housekeeping, guest services and technology systems. I recently interviewed Maury Zimring, Director Corporate Responsibility and Environmental Responsibility for IHG on stakeholder engagement for my forthcoming book The New Corporate Facts of Life. Many business factors drive the emphasis on sustainability ranging from saving money to brand image to client requests. One Maury mentioned was that as large corporations

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