Cornell Sustainability Roundtable: In Search of the "Green Bullet" to Aid in Green Hotel Efforts
Conflicting demands and fear of "greenwashing" inhibit hotels' efforts toward sustainable operations
"Sustainability has emerged rapidly as an industry concern," Sherwyn pointed out. "Ten years ago, if we said we were going to have a discussion about sustainability, and if we told them that we were going to have a roundtable with twenty-five participants from top-level global companies, they would have told us we were insane. I credit three of our graduates, Eric Ricaurte, Walker Lunn, and Crist Inman, that we are now in a position to hold an annual sustainability roundtable."
While participants agreed that the industry needs to improve the environmental performance of its operations, most hotels encounter substantial barriers to implementation. Hoteliers still need to determine exactly which "green" hotel practices are most effective, for instance, and they must consider payback periods to demonstrate the value of financing such initiatives. Practices with a payback period exceeding three to seven years are difficult to contemplate and finance.
Consumers are the great unknown in this equation, particularly because they may conclude that some hotel practices amount to "greenwashing," which involves exaggerating the environmental value of certain hotel practices. In that regard, some hotel operators have quietly focused on the triple bottom approach to sustainable development, to avoid the greenwashing accusation.
Roundtable participants recommended that the hotel industry develop clear indices of sustainability, even though that means combining the sometimes competing interests of owners, management firms, and guests. This would be prudent however, given the alternative of individually addressing the national and global proliferation of regulations, standards, and certifications. "We have all heard that 'if you can't measure it, you can't manage it,'" said Eric Ricaurte of EnviRelation, LLC. "But managing all the measurements of sustainability is now just as daunting a task for the sustainability officer." Thus, participants suggested developing a "green bullet," a realistic measure of sustainability that would involve creating and sharing effective sustainability models to move the industry forward and to develop a realistic measure of sustainability.
As explained by associate professor Alex Susskind, sustainable operations is a key area of research at the School of Hotel Administration. Because of the importance of guests' opinions, the Center for Hospitality Research is working with Philips, a CHR partner, to assess the impact of sustainable operations on guest satisfaction at the Statler Hotel (the school's teaching hotel). CHR is also working with data from PKF Hospitality Research, a CHR friend, to determine the financial impact of sustainable projects, as explained by professor Rohit Verma, CHR executive director.
About CHR Roundtables: CHR roundtables are a meeting place for invited senior-level hospitality industry executives and Cornell faculty members. Each roundtable lasts one day and is divided into four or five sessions. Sessions begin with a short research presentation (by a Cornell faculty member, faculty from another institution, or an industry leader) that lasts five to ten minutes. Immediately following, one or two industry discussants either support or contest the researcher's hypothesis or conclusion. The conversation is then opened up to the entire roundtable for discussion. For more information on roundtables, please visit: .
Cornell Hospitality Research Summit (CHRS)
About the Center for Hospitality Research
The purpose of the Center for Hospitality Research is to enable and conduct research of significance to the global hospitality and related service industries. CHR also works to improve the connections between academe and industry, continuing the School of Hotel Administration's long-standing tradition of service to the hospitality industry. Founded in 1992, CHR remains the industry's foremost creator and distributor of timely research, all of which is posted at no charge for all to use. In addition to its industry advisory board, CHR convenes several industry roundtables each year for the purpose of identifying new issues affecting the hospitality industry.
Center Members: Accenture • Access Point Financial, Inc. • Barclaycard US • Cvent • Davis & Gilbert LLP • Deloitte & Touche USA LLP • DerbySoft • Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts • Fox Rothschild LLP • Hilton Worldwide • Host Hotels & Resorts • Hyatt Hotels Corporation • IDeaS Revenue Solutions • InterContinental Hotels Group • Jumeirah Group • Marriott International • NTT DATA • Preferred Hotels & Resorts • priceline.com • PwC • The Rainmaker Group • RateGain • ReviewPro • Revinate • Sabre Hospitality Solutions • STR • Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces • Tata Consultancy Services • Wipro EcoEnergy • Wyndham Hotel Group