Walk into a event at a hotel conference center and the resulting waste is often obvious: pens and notepads that are placed at each table and often end up discarded; plastic bottles of water; air conditioning fit for a meat locker; and then of course there are the supplies, which are often couriered to these events.
One hotel chain has listened to its customers and has committed itself to working with event planners in mitigating the effects that such large meetings have on the environment. Through March 2011, Hyatt Hotels, through its Meet and Be Green program, is offering clients a 3% discount rebate at most of its premium branded hotel properties if they agree to 10 steps that the chain claims can reduce energy and waste.
Some of Hyatt’s requirements are obvious: a commitment to recycling, the use of recycled products when possible, eschewing plastic bottles for pitchers or reusable bottles, and serving locally sourced products. Hyatt also insists that event organizers minimize the use of disposable products, and keep supplies like paper and pens in a central location instead of setting them out at each table and chair. Finally, event organizers are restricted to the shipment of materials: no more than one pallet per 100 rooms book can be shipped to the hotel—and only a half pallet going back home. Upon agreeing to those 10 requests, Hyatt grants clients a 3% rebate on the meeting’s final bill.
Hyatt’s Meet and Be Green Initiative may be new, but the company’s sustainability program has accelerated over the past 5 years. Yesterday I spoke to Brigitta Witt, Hyatt’s Vice President of Corporate Social Responsibility, who explained that the company has taken steps including measuring its greenhouse gas emissions, setting environmental targets, and establishing a green or sustainability committee at each of its large hotel properties. Managers throughout the company’s American locations must enroll in six hours of sustainability training, and now Hyatt is rolling the program out internationally. Back in 1994, Hyatt began a tracking system to measure energy and water consumption, and now it measures the company’s carbon dioxide emissions. Now the company is rolling out more projects focused on water reduction, waste diversion, and energy efficiency, both company-wide and at individual hotels, in improving its environmental performance.
The Meet and Be Green meeting program is an outgrowth of Hyatt’s recent efforts, and Witt insisted that the rebate program was in response to individual properties’ managers as well as guests and meeting organizers who want to lead and attend more environmentally responsible events. Justifying the costs has become easier for meeting organizers, too: as recycled products become scaled and more cost-effective, Witt explained that hosting leaner, greener events makes financial as well as environmental sense.
Video conferencing and virtual events are becoming more popular, but many in business will tell you that old-fashioned face time is still crucial for developing working relationships and still makes business sense. Hyatt’s program sends a strong message to event planners and meeting organizers that minimizing the impact such events have is the right option, morally and fiscally.
Is there more that hotel chains like Hyatt, or even convention centers, could do? Share your thoughts.