ISHC - The International Society of Hospitality Consultants |

Sustainable investment and ROI: What all hoteliers should know | By Kit Cassingham, ISHC

20 November 2009

Making use of basic business principles is smart business, and sustainable development relies on basic business principles. Furthermore, sustainable development requires communication of your intentions and attitudes, actions, successes and failures.

Herve Houdre, former general manager of the Willard InterContinental Washington, D.C., said in the opening paragraph of the 2008 Willard Sustainability Report, "Contrary to popular belief, an SD [Sustainable Development] strategy keeps us on the right path of revenue development and expense control. Those who take the current crisis as an excuse to not act or to withhold their efforts, are missing an enormous opportunity to differentiate their business and to be closer to their customers, their employees and the world we shape for future generations."

While my consulting focus is primarily on bed and breakfasts, I have worked and interacted with enough hoteliers in North America to know hotel properties of all sizes benefit from focusing their operations on sustainability. I see properties around the world adopting sustainable development strategies.

It's important to not get so caught up in making money for your investors that you lose sight of the basics. If you forget the elements that go into making a profit, you'll miss basic business principles and sustainability. The people involved in your hotel, the planet and the economics of profit are all important elements in hospitality profits.

The first, and least expensive, steps you can take toward making yours a sustainable hotel are to go for the low-hanging fruit of sustainable development, like:

Consumption in the form of waste is found throughout hotels. There are inexpensive and expensive ways of reducing or stopping this consumption. Expensive ways that pay for themselves through time are possible. Here are some actions I've seen various hotels take to stop or reduce wasteful consumption. Maybe these examples will trigger ideas you can implement in your hotel to start your sustainable development program.

No cost:

Low cost:

Medium cost:

High Cost:

In a basic way, sustainability is about stopping the leaks found in hotel operations. These leaks can take the form of dripping water faucets and water lines, energy drains from old appliances and equipment, supplies being delivered in excess packaging that you have to then recycle or throw away, and even un-needed furniture after redecorating projects. Refuse to allow those leaks to drain money from your profits by reusing what you can and donating what you don't want so others can reuse it, repairing as much as possible and re-purposing what you can.

Sustainability is also about rethinking how you do things around the hotel. Get stakeholders involved in coming up with ideas and solutions to garner buy-in and loyalty. How can you make operations more efficient? There are thousands of ways, and staff, guests and vendors have numerous ideas to share.

Sustainable development means going beyond the low-hanging fruit and the various certification programs. Acquiring certification by any of the leading programs means following checklists for actions to take in building or renovating, and purchasing specific types of appliances/equipment or cleaning supplies. But sustainable development requires thinking outside the checklists, going beyond the minimum requirements for certification, thinking of new actions all the time, and acting on them.

Benchmark your existing consumption is an important first step in business basics and in sustainable development. Measure how much you use. List ideas of what you can easily do to make changes, and then work toward more challenging actions. Choose one place to start your sustainable development program. Set goals for it. Act now.

I see commitment to sustainability by hotels around the world. They have increased earnings, decreased costs and improved stakeholder relations. This is sustainable development and business basics that create better profits and stakeholder loyalty.

This is how your hotel competes in today's market, how it survives down markets, and excels in up markets based on sustainable actions you can take in rooms and facilities. The next article in this series takes a look at F&B, and particularly at sustainable operations in the Mmeeting/event segment of F&B. It effectively transforms F&B operations from a poor cousin of the hotel (because of low profit margins) to a value-creating profit partner in garnering a competitive advantage.

Kit Cassingham, (, a member of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants, is chief sustainability officer of Sage Blossom Consulting in Ridgeway, Colorado.

The International Society of Hospitality Consultants, ISHC, is a professional society of 200 members in 22 countries who are leading consultants in the hospitality industry. The Society is dedicated to promoting the highest quality of professional consulting standards and practices for the hospitality industry. Membership is by invitation only. ISHC as an organization represents a one of a kind collection of experience and expertise in the hospitality industry. ISHC members have expertise in over 30 different specialty areas in the hospitality industry and collectively have experience with over 50 hotel companies and nearly 100 brands worldwide. Additionally, ISHC members represent numerous prominent independent hotels throughout the world. ISHC members' clients include domestic and international, public and private hotel owners and investors, many leading financial institutions, Fortune 500 companies, food and beverage service firms, airlines, cruise lines, time share and vacation ownership companies, universities, state, national and international convention, hospitality travel and tourism bureaus.

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Sage Blossom Consulting
P.O. Box 668
USA - Ridgway, CO 81432-0668
Phone: (970) 626-6057

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