The business case for green marketing is strong – so what will it take to get you to “green up”? We ask Leigh Tymms from Green Edge Environmental how improving your green credentials could rejuvenate your marketing campaign.
Hotel-industry.co.uk: What are the key marketing benefits of improving a hotel’s green credentials?
Leigh Tymms: Enhancing environmental performance is a method of differentiating a hotel, and forward thinking hoteliers can successfully use this differentiation to deliver a competitive advantage and increased revenues. It enables them to generate additional positive publicity and engage with existing and new target customers.
Having an effective environmental management system in place is becoming crucial for any business seeking to win business from the corporate business and public sector markets – many of whom will screen suppliers for proof of environmental policies and performance.
Hotel-industry.co.uk: Your recent research showed that many hoteliers are slow in seeing the benefits of attaining a GTBS award. Why do you think this is?
Tymms: We contacted over 200 hotels last summer and found that many were fully engaged with responding to the challenges of the recession and keeping overheads down. Unfortunately this often meant that environmental issues were given a low priority – ignoring the fact that there are often cost savings associated with such things as improved energy and waste management. There were of course some who bucked this trend, typically the larger hotel groups, and are making great strides through GTBS or their own approach to environmental management.
We found it interesting that in many of the hotels that we reviewed, the employees and the hotel managers were very keen to make real environmental progress. However, when it came to private owners being prepared to consider making an investment in green improvement, this was considerably more challenging; and we were surprised to find how many of these owners lived overseas.
Hotel-industry.co.uk: Is their solid evidence to suggest that guest preferences are “going green”?
Tymms: There are a number of surveys that demonstrate such a trend for the hotel marketplace and these support wider UK research of an increasing environmental awareness in both consumer and business buying decisions. One survey by Devon County Council showed that many guests consider environmental issues when booking a hotel and that three quarters think a green business is likely to be more quality conscious. A Travelocity report, stated that 80% of travellers are willing to pay extra to visit an eco-friendly destination or business. Exact figures vary survey to survey but together they do show a fundamental shift in peoples buying behaviour.
Hotel-industry.co.uk: Marketing aside, is it easy to measure ROI on green initiatives?
Tymms: It is possible for every hotel to measure their ROI from green initiatives, both in terms of the sales/marketing benefits and cost savings.
Whether the cost savings focus on water, waste, electricity (or almost anything else used or produced in the hotel), environmental management will measure these, before, during and after steps are taken to reduce the associated environmental impact. The most important measurement will then be visible directly on the bottom line – how much is financially being saved. The Carbon Trust point out that with a few no-cost measures hotels could save 10% of business energy costs in the short term; and with a few low-cost options this could improve still further to around 20%.
Hotel-industry.co.uk: Do you have a word of warning for hoteliers that repeatedly ignore the green market?
Tymms: I would anticipate that hoteliers who rely on business trade may be the first to start seeing customers staying elsewhere if they aren’t making any efforts to demonstrate environmental responsibility. Bingham’s hotel in Richmond report their environmental position is key to winning new business customers and this is something that is continuing to rise in importance. Such an approach will also become an increasing important factor in the consumer market. However, any hotelier who is ignoring the wider environmental issue is missing an opportunity – there are numerous cost savings to be made as well as the marketing and revenue benefits.
Hotel-industry.co.uk: What would be your advice for hoteliers looking to improve their green credentials for marketing purposes?
Tymms: It is important that hoteliers look at their proposition as a whole, and make sure their green marketing effort is supported by real green diligence. Failing to do this would be a sure-fire way to put their brand at the risk of ‘greenwash’ accusations. This is why we developed Green Edge, to support organisations consistently across both environmental management and green marketing activity.
I would recommend that organisations demonstrate their commitment by starting with action – reducing the hotels consumption, waste, energy and building a good base of local sourcing. Following the GTBS structure is a good start. When marketing, be aware of the Advertising Standards Authority guidance on the use of ‘green claims’ like ‘sustainable’, ‘zero waste’ and environmentally friendly’ – make sure any claims are sincere and well substantiated with evidence.
Look at the hotels that are doing it well such as Stratton’s in Norfolk; and consider how you are going to reach the growing number of customers who are making green choices.