Simply paying lip service to CSR schemes will no longer do, says Michelle White, environmental affairs manager at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
In today's hospitality industry, many companies are creating corporate social responsibility (CSR) schemes for branding purposes or as a way to boost customer loyalty. Some companies have done this successfully, while others have paid only lip service.
CSR programmes have taken many forms over the years, but it's the environment that has been singled out as an area of particular interest in recent times. Initiatives in the hotel sector have included the adoption of linen exchange programmes, environmentally friendly cleaning products, and supplying facilities with renewable energy.
While interest in environmental sustainability is certain to grow, it's important that companies fully recognise what they're committing to when they roll out CSR schemes.
It's not enough for senior management to simply think of new ways to engage customers - they must involve employees at all levels to make these programmes work. This means ensuring that all colleagues are informed about CSR policies and practices and are involved in implementing them.
New recruits at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts are given full information on its Green Partnership endeavour as part of their induction. People within the organisation must be empowered to carry out the mandate - and more important, someone needs to be responsible for ensuring promises are carried out.
Many companies fail to realise that promoting CSR initiatives without ensuring that they're implemented and measured can seriously damage the company's public perception and, in many cases, shareholder value.
To remain viable, CSR must be merged with business strategy and grow to incorporate an ever-changing regulatory environment with pressing issues such as climate change hanging overhead.
It's not just about compliance - research has indicated that travel-savvy consumers are more environmentally aware and that having environmental and social programmes in place are a consideration in selecting accommodation.
It's our responsibility to be clear in our communication and more importantly to follow through with our own CSR programmes and policies.
Trust me, guests are looking and listening.