Too keen on going green?

          This is a short essay incorporating the editor’s personal experiences from leading Asia’s environmental sustainability specialist company for the hospitality and tourism industry and sources from an article originally posted on EcoFriend.org on May 22nd 2016.

          It appears, over the past 8 – 10 years, that a shift in public awareness towards increased environmental sustainability has occurred.

          Heat waves claiming lives, droughts that drive food prices up and food security down and spawn discussions to chancel or reduce century old cultural celebrations. Disappearing islands and atmospheric CO2 levels above 400 ppm are just a few topics receiving widespread coverage in the main media.

          All the above have a direct or indirect, imminent or delayed impact on businesses.

          Tough businesses are reacting. A lot of them are taking steps to become environmentally sustainable in a bid to reduce their carbon footprint on the environment. CSR and “going green” are just a few new buzz words, manager are throwing around. However, not many of them know that talks of going green is one thing and actually taking the steps to be able to provide evidence of ones increased environmental sustainability activities is something else altogether.

          It is not their fault.

          After all, our capitalistic system has educated its “managers” to externalize environmental degradation.

          What follows are six very common mistakes businesses tend to make while going green.

          1) Underestimating the customer’s ability to understand sustainability or that the customer’s concern is easily addressed.

          The first mistake many companies tend to make while going green is to just make a single small initiative (e.g take a 3 hour trip by bus with 40 employees and freshly printed t-shirts, to plant 400 trees) and then advertise it as their move towards sustainability. Customers are no longer tricked into these green washing tactics and tend to scour beneath the surface in order to find out if the business has actually invested in sustainability broadly enough.

          So rather than doing business with a company that has only switched its light bulbs to LEDs and still run the A/C at 16 degrees every day, they will be more inclined to do business with a company that has adopted sustainability across the board via a number of initiatives supported by evidence and a transparent methodology.

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          2) Thinking of sustainability in terms of “costs”, instead of “an investment”

          Many companies consider sustainability to be an expensive venture. Although going green does require operational changes and can require investments, companies should take note first of the inexpensive measures or projects and also look for their return (ROI). This way, they can talk about projects with monetary and non-monetary returns instead of talking about “costs to go green”. Including environmental sustainability into ones business is a journey, not a destination. See the next point for more details.

          3) Doing everything at once

          Another common mistake a business usually commits when trying to go green is to do everything at once. While sustainability across the board is a great initiative, it needs time to implement such a move across the entire organization.

          Starting with small steps with regular success celebrations instead of once giant leap can help minimize mistakes along the way. Companies planning to go green should also collect ample data (e.g. Not just how much water is used, but also why, where, when and by whom) on the subject before plunging into it whole-heartedly. This will help them achieve their goal in a more organized manner.

          4) Believing in bandwagon hoppers

          A company that is planning to go green will no doubt gain plenty of supporters (aka. Stakeholders), in the form of bandwagon hoppers, who want to join in on the move from the ground level. However, not all of these will have the patience or perseverance to see the goals to the end.

          Some individuals believe in quick entrepreneurial success and or suffer from active inertia and do not wish to entertain delays, thus jeopardizing the entire setup. Having individuals who share the sustainability goals and are equally interested to take things forward is the core strength (and takes time and loads of transparent communication, see also point 6) of a business that intends to go green.

          5) Overestimating the stakeholder’s attention span

          Some companies do take initiatives to go green, but hardly or wrongly promote the same to the outside world. Thinking that a customer (aka.: stakeholder) will have all the time in the world to do research on, understand or care the same about sustainability goals of your company is a foolish step towards green marketing. In combination with point 1) it can also increase the risk of “green washing”. Companies that intend to go green will need to market their legitimate and evidence-supported steps towards a pre selected group of stakeholders so that they can fully understand about the former’s goals and initiatives.

          6) Not engaging the customers in the mission

          Some companies that intend to go green tend to just inform their customers of their plans, but do not engage or include the latter in the same. Stakeholders who are conscious about the environment are always on the lookout for ways to contribute towards protecting the same.

          As such, companies that take the route to sustainability will need to ask their stakeholders to chip in and do whatever they can to help them promote their initiatives. This can be done in the form of (in kind) donations to environmental causes or sustainability activities to promote the need for eco-friendly lifestyles among their respective stakeholders.

          Conclusion

          Hospitality companies that plan to go green need to make the appropriate strategy & plans take steps to collect data, change processes & procedures, analyze the results, improve and communicate them in order to make their sustainability goals effective. They need to stay away from the 6 aforementioned common mistakes to ensure that the motivation does not fizzle out.

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          Daniel Koeppel

          Daniel is an environmental sustainability specialist with a hospitality background. He is passionate in supporting visionary hotel companies wishing to increase their environmental sustainability know how and solutions. Contact us now for a non-committing assessment!

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