Mr. Nijhawan

Eco-Friendly Practices

Reducing Your Environmental Impact

By Sanjay Nijhawan, COO, Guoman Hotels (UK)

Over the last few years we have seen a significant increase in awareness and concern regarding the environmental impact of business. It is impossible to pick up a newspaper or magazine, or watch television, without being reminded of global warming. We are bombarded with data regarding climate change, green-house emissions and pollution, and a heated scientific debate rages in public regarding the future impact of our current lifestyle and activities What everyone can agree on is that protecting our environment for future generations is our responsibility.

Every business has a social responsibility to consider its environmental impact, and take reasonable steps to mitigate it. As part of the wider travel industry, hoteliers need to be even more sensitive to their role in this area, and ensure that they take the lead in reducing their environmental impact. The current economic climate may deter some from focusing on this area, under the misconception it will be expensive, or that it is not of core importance to their business. In fact the majority of initiatives will actually reduce costs through consumption savings, so the challenging trading conditions we all face should provide a stimulus to launch environmental plans rather than a deterrent.

Throughout this article I have also deliberately focused on low-cost initiatives that can be easily implemented - in fact a lot of the steps are common-sense, which simply require focus to deliver. It is also important to remember that customers - both large business clients and individual guests - are increasingly expecting a proactive environmental policy as standard. To be able to demonstrate this is important in retaining your position and competitive advantage. Can you afford not to offer this? In this article I have therefore highlighted a number of simple steps we can all take to reduce our carbon footprint, providing tangible environmental benefits without the need for costly developments or radical changes in how we run our businesses. Encourage and empower your team

The first key step in implementing an effective environmental policy is to win the hearts and minds of all team-members to the significance of reducing your environmental impact. Employees can have the most immediate impact, via simple changes in their behaviour - imagine the reduction in energy consumption if several thousand employees focus on simple steps such as turning off lights and equipment on standby when not required - and equally without their buy-in any initiatives will have limited success. At Guoman Hotels we have empowered our teams to drive environmentally-friendly schemes in their hotels, with a Green Committee sitting every month, whilst each General Manager has environmental targets to aim for. We have also introduced internal awards to recognise contributions from our team members. Any team member can make suggestions to reduce our environmental impact, which are then reviewed by the Green Committee, with the relevant team-member recognised for all ideas that are implemented. We also run a competition for Green Champion of the Year, and Green Team of the year, to encourage healthy competition between the hotels in our group and maintain interest. Identify your targets

Having ensured team participation, the next step is to identify the areas to target with environmental initiatives. At Guoman Hotels we identified the following key areas:

  • Recycling

  • Energy Consumption

  • Electricity

  • Gas

  • Water consumption

Recycling

Set targets for the volume of waste you want to recycle, and encourage employees to segregate waste into different sections - employee buy-in is vital in implementing recycling effectively. Providing compactors at each hotel for cardboard and waste is a good investment, as it reduces the number of collections and so reduces road miles and the resulting carbon emissions. In the long-term this investment also provides a cost saving. At Guoman Hotels we have doubled the percentage of waste that we recycle over the last 12 months, significantly reducing the amount that goes to landfill.

Energy Consumption

Energy consumption is the largest environmental impact of our business and so it is important to actively explore appropriate, any initiative that could reduce your energy consumption.

Electricity

There are a number of initiatives that can help support a reduction in electricity consumption without any impact on the guest experience. Install low-energy light bulbs across all areas of your hotel(s), and ensure that these are included in the designs for new rooms. Card-operated master controls prevent electricity being wasted when guests are out of their rooms, and can be cost-effectively added to rooms and incorporated in refurbishments and new builds. Even if you cannot afford to install such a system in the short-term (bear in mind it should prove self-funding within a year, and be a cost saving in subsequent years) simple actions such as ensuring housekeeping turn off televisions in bedrooms will lead to a significant reduction in electricity being wasted whilst machines sit on stand-by. There are also systems that help reduce consumption back of house. At Guoman Hotels we have installed motion sensors for lighting back of house to ensure efficiencies. Voltage regulators on all main plant machinery, and motor controls on all pumps and air-conditioning systems, have provided additional efficiencies and are self-funding in a short period of time.

Gas

In the hospitality industry the average efficiency of hotel boilers is less than 80%, which leads to significant wastage. Automated boiler controls are a new technology that helps to improve the efficiency of boilers and reduce this wastage. Again the efficiencies and cost savings such techniques offer mean that they are self-funding within a short period of time.

Water

Society often overlooks that water is a scarce resource - particularly on a rainy day in London! However this is another area where significant efficiencies can be obtained, benefiting the environment and helping cost management. The first step is to conduct a Leak Audit, to check that water is not being wasted through broken or old pipes. Having addressed any leakage issues, consumption can be reduced by using specially-designed taps and shower-heads that do not impact on the guest experience. Throughout Guoman we have introduced water-efficient showerheads, and aerators on sink taps, reducing the flow and usage of water without impacting on the pressure or guest experience.

A green focus in all our business actions

In addition to their own actions, hotels can also drive for reductions in environmental impact through their relationships, and by responsible purchasing. It is a simple step to ensure that all your suppliers are aware of your environmental goals and have their own environmental policies in place. Such an approach helps to drive awareness of the issue into different sectors. Equally wherever practical hotels should purchase products made from renewable and ethically sound sources, encouraging suppliers to focus on their own sourcing and production stages.

With extensive experience oin working for some of the biggest brands in the business, including Hilton, Holiday Inn, Marriott and Forte, Sanjay Nijhawan has been in the hospitality industry for over 17 years. Mr. Nijhawan joined Thistle Hotels in 2004 as general manager for The Tower in central London. Earlier this year Mr. Nijhawan was promoted to Chief Operating Officer of Guoman Hotels (UK) overseeing the development of a collection of six international deluxe properties in central London. Mr. Nijhawan graduated from Thames Valley University in 1992 with a degree in hotel management. Mr. Nijhawan can be contacted at 0870 333 9280 or Sanjay.nijhawan@guoman.co.uk Extended Bio...

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