Web Exclusive: Concord doubles down on sustainable strategies

Fancy new products aren’t enough for consumers anymore. Today’s guests want experiences and beyond that, experiences that serve a mission. Companies are implementing strategies to fulfill these needs, and, to make the world a safer place in the process.

Hotel management and development company Concord Hospitality is one of these companies which has integrated strategies across its departments to reduce its carbon footprint.

We spoke with leaders from Concord about these efforts, which range from the design of its properties to daily operations and technology. Kevin McAteer, SVP, marketing & sales, Concord Hospitality and Matt McClelland, EVP, operations, Concord Hospitality gave us some insight:

Why is sustainability such an important cause for Concord?
McAteer: Growth for our business and our people is closely tied to the growth of our overall footprint. We make a real impact in the communities we operate in, and we work to ensure that impact is positive. Sustainability is one of those key areas we can help a positive influence in.

Why is sustainability so important to the hospitality industry?
McAteer: Hospitality at its core is about being caring, and thoughtful and developing a relationship with those around you. For Concord, we believe that relationship extends to those beyond our doors. To the community, to the planet, future generations. Those core tenets of hospitality align with the tenets of what it means to be sustainable.

Why is having a sustainability strategy so crucial right now? And why is it such an important part of travel for today’s guests?
McAteer: Guests today, more than ever before, have a better understanding of the impact they have on the environment. They are more careful in choosing brands and businesses that align with their own core values. Sustainability is one of those values. Companies that are successful in understanding what is important to their audience and adapting to align with those principles will position themselves to be market leaders. All that aside, a sustainability strategy is crucial because it’s the right thing to do.

What are some strategies Concord has implemented to reduce its carbon footprint?
McAteer: There are a lot of layers to how we’ve done that. At a corporate level, we’ve done things such as reducing redundant travel and leaning more frequently on virtual meetings to connect and build relationships. We also have many of our key leaders based directly out of the markets they oversee; we’ve found this has both environmental and business benefits. Additionally, we have instituted practices such as going paperless, installing motion-sensitive lights within the building that turn off when not in use, offering a recycling program and offering reusable kitchenware to cut down on single-use products.

How are you encouraging both employees and hotel guests to take advantage of these initiatives and to make more sustainable choices of their own?
McAteer: We proactively market a lot of these programs as having multiple benefits alongside being sustainable to help push adoption. For example, we encourage digital check-in and keyless entry as a convenient timesaver with the added benefit of cutting down on paper and plastic. We market bicycle rentals as a unique and healthy way to explore the local culture, which happens to positively impact the carbon footprint of exploring the city. Our restaurants often use locally sourced and/or organic products which are characteristically high quality and more environmentally friendly.

Do you have plans to grow these initiatives or introduce new ones?
McAteer: Absolutely. We are always exploring new ways to expand on existing initiatives while innovating new ones. It’s becoming a more prominent part of the conversation even in the branding development discussion. While we don’t have anything we are ready to announce just yet, we have a hotel with a great brand redesign in the works that is shaping up to lend itself perfectly to explore new green ideas.

What are some current sustainability opportunities in hospitality and how are you taking advantage of those?
McAteer: There are a lot of opportunities and efficiencies to be capitalized by combining digital and physical experiences. We’ve already mentioned a few examples of this such as the digital check-in process. Another example is utilizing QR codes for all of our restaurant menus. We also are moving a lot of sales collateral to the digital space. Traditionally the sales process consisted of endless paper pages of brochures, images, menus, fact sheets and capacity charts—this is an area for us that is almost completely digital now and much more interactive than in the past.

What about some challenges? How are you working to overcome those?
McAteer: Tracking the impact across all these efforts is challenging but important. The ability to measure results is improving, such as being able to precisely track areas such as carbon and water reporting on hotel stays. Many corporations are now focusing on ESG initiatives (Environment, Social and Governance) and are now indicating to their travelers whether a hotel has environmentally sustainable practices in place.

Is there anything else readers should know?
McAteer: Concord donates used soap and bottled amenities to Clean the World, a global organization that recycles hotel soap products and distributes them to children around the world affected by hygiene-related diseases. Since joining forces in 2011, we have diverted 135 tons of waste from landfills, created over $1 million worth of bars of soap from that waste and saved an estimated 300,000 lives by promoting access to cleanliness and hygiene.

What about on-property sustainability initiatives? What do you have in place?
McClelland: While it can vary from property to property at an on-site level, we have programs such as:

Food & beverage:

  • Food waste policies include food waste prevention, reduction, recycling and sustainable disposal
  • Compost and feed programs
  • Sustainable sourcing with responsible purchasing policies, using organic food & beverage and responsibly sourced seafood
  • Locally sourcing food & beverage from local suppliers and farmers
  • Limiting single-use plastics, straws or styrofoam containers
  • Some outlets solely use compostable food containers and cutlery

Water reduction and conservation:

  • Water-efficient faucets, toilets and showers
  • Towel and Linen reuse programs
  • Water bottle filling stations
  • Cleaning service opt-out

Energy savings:

  • Key card and motioned-controlled electricity for guest
  • Double glazed windows
  • Energy conversation programs
  • Energy-efficient heating, cooling and lighting systems and energy-saving thermostats
  • Some hotels have a bicycle rental program and bicycle parking

We also partner with Clean the World and have a robust toiletry and soap donation program.

Can you speak about some other departments and how each of these areas is incorporating sustainability strategies?

  • Development: We have collaborated on adaptive-reuse projects to breathe new life into existing land and buildings rather than destroying old sites and using all new materials. A great example of this is the West & Main hotel in Pennsylvania which is being partially built in a 146-year-old historic firehouse. We partnered with Marriott International to design and develop the first LEED-certified Courtyard by Marriott prototype, saving costs through smart efficiencies. Our data from the past several years shows that our sustainable development projects provide about 24% of total energy savings. Our ongoing development commitment to these new standards is augmented by operational practices centered around sustainability, evidenced by partnerships such as Clean the World.
  • Technology: Installing keyless entry and digital check-in helps us save on paper and plastic, we have a centralized server center that helps us be more efficient on cooling and power usage. We also focus on the utilization of the cloud across many tools and storage demands which give us energy efficiencies, along with using TCO/Energy Star computers. We also have green IT practices across our offices which include everything from implementing proper computer sleep settings to using shared printers and energy-efficient power strips.
  • Design: In addition to many of the programs mentioned above, which start in the design stage, we also thoughtfully build and design dedicated green spaces across our hotels, such as urban rooftop gardens. Designing bicycle parking and electric car charging stations in our hotels is another increasingly common strategy. It’s also integrated into our design philosophy to ensure water-efficient showers, toilets and faucets, energy-saving insulation, LED lights, Low E Glass Windows and automated systems to help save on energy and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Operations: Food waste programs, towel and linen reuse programs, cleaning service opt-out and recycling programs are a few of the operational strategies we have in place to help drive our sustainability initiatives. This is coupled with reducing unnecessary travel, focusing on sourcing from local suppliers and aligning with partners with similar values are small steps that add up to make a big impact.