Kick-start your ESG program

By Chuck Hurchalla

Sustainability is no longer just a piece of positive press or simple footnote in an annual report; in fact, it may seem as if a hotel can no longer survive without seriously considering its impact on society and the environment. Like many others, your hotel may be feeling the pressure to become “more sustainable” or reduce your carbon footprint but struggle with competing demands on your resources and don’t even know where to start. With a few basic questions, you can kick-start an environmental, social and governance (ESG) strategy that is simple, strategic and straightforward.

The first question is why. Maybe you’re getting started because companies with strong ESG strategies outperform their peers, effective ESG initiatives lower costs or because ESG maximizes workforce productivity. Many find that investors, lenders, customers and prospects demand sustainability information. Perhaps you’re focused on reducing costs with energy efficiency; improving appeal to investors; increasing brand loyalty and customer satisfaction; or complying with best practices and building mandates. For some, an ESG program reinforces an organization’s mission and core values. It could be as simple as being a good citizen and doing the right thing. After all, the most significant driving force for sustainability is being a steward of the community and taking better care of our planet for future generations.

Once you determine your “why,” the second question is how—how do we manage this initiative now, and how will we manage it going forward? Most likely, there are already projects that contribute towards ESG goals but aren’t synthesized in a meaningful way. For example, a focus on operational efficiency, waste management, green energy purchasing, employee training, employee benefit programs, compliance standards or regulatory requirements may already exist within your organization.

As part of the assessment of current sustainability initiatives, take an inventory of buildings and consumption:

  • Which have completed projects like LED retrofits or HVAC upgrades?
  • Do any hotels have certifications such as ENERGY STAR or LEED?
  • What is the annual energy consumption, and where is it being purchased from?
  • Is consumption data already being reported to meet a local mandate, such as NYC Local Law 84, Philly Building Tune-Up or Boston’s BERDO?
  • How much water does each hotel use, and is there irrigation?
  • Has an audit been done to identify opportunities to reduce consumption?

While it may seem cumbersome, the data points are simple and easy to find. This fact-finding mission is essential because it builds a baseline upon which future sustainability goals will be measured and helps build the future approach.

It’s critical to gather data to identify the potential of the sustainability program. These data points are also basic information required for benchmarking, disclosures and certifications. Setting expectations of budget, timeline and required resources helps foster management buy-in and provide clarity to stakeholders from the beginning.

Ready to begin your ESG journey? With these two questions answered, you have the mission and vision to get started on a course of action that will deliver powerful results for your organization.

Chuck Hurchalla, president, Evolution Energy Partners, has more than 30 years of experience in the deregulated energy markets, including natural gas, electricity and petroleum products.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.