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The Dollars and Sense of Going Green

The Dollars and Sense of Going Green

Rishi Shah is dedicated to being as eco-friendly as possible. As the asset manager of the Wyndham Philadelphia in Mount Laurel, N.J., he’s figured out ways to make his interest in sustainability improve the property’s bottom line. This year, the 243-room hotel will save an estimated $65,000 thanks to a new solar carport that has 265 parking spots and covers 70 percent of the lot. The electricity the carport produces will help reduce an estimated 1.6 million pounds of CO2 emissions—the equivalent of removing 131 cars off the road annually or planting 168 acres of trees.

“On that project, we were saving money from day one,” Shah says. “It was a zero investment, and it provides the hotel with half of the electricity we need for a year.” Before going solar, the hotel was spending roughly $235,000 in electricity annually. Shah entered into a solar power purchase agreement with Solar Max Technology, a company he contracted to design, finance, build, and maintain the solar system. The hotel agreed to purchase all the electricity that it produces at a fixed rate for 20 years. “This rate represents a great savings from our utility pricing,” Shah says, “which will flow straight to the bottom line.”

Shah, a member of Wyndham’s Green Franchise Advisory Board, confides that his three young sons have influenced his growing interest in sustainability. “I started to realize that we need to make changes in our lifestyle and behavior, both professionally and personally, to make sure we have something left for our kids in the future,” he says. “We also embraced sustainability in our hotel because our guests have been asking for it.”

From cutting-edge solar energy panels to LED lighting and enhanced eco-friendly awareness, innovations in sustainability have impacted the hospitality industry in recent years on many different levels. Hotel companies have implemented brand-wide programs to find ways to reduce their carbon footprint globally through a series of property-level initiatives that lower monthly electric, gas, and water bills by using less resources and taking advantage of government incentives and rebates.

Through mindful strategic planning, Wyndham Worldwide has become a leader in these creative conservation efforts. Wyndham’s hotel portfolio across 17 brands includes more than 7,000 franchised properties globally with 618,000 rooms. Wyndham also has a time-share corporation, so it’s not surprising that the organization’s sustainability program has a far reach.

LEAP OF FAITH
Faith Taylor, Wyndham Worldwide’s senior vice president of sustainability and innovation, successfully lobbied to implement a corporate-wide strategic eco-friendly program about seven years ago, while working on a hospitality consumer research study on green programs. As she tracked research on the market segment focused on healthy and sustainable living, an estimated $290 billion consumer sector that spends on everything from shopping at Whole Foods to buying Prius Cars and staying at green hotels, Taylor realized how fast this market was growing. She also read climate change reports about changes to the environment and carbon emission increases. “This helped me to understand and believe in the need for sustainability,” Taylor says. “I became committed to being a part of the solution.”

Taylor’s vision enabled Wyndham to launch a sustainability program that encompasses education, improving the environment, supporting global and local communities, and delivering economic benefits at the property level. “The business case, along with the positive impact to the triple bottom line—our people, planet, and profits—made me even more passionate about making this my everyday job and focus,” she says. “Our hotels and properties are a critical part of the solution, so we need to focus our impact at the property level and, most important, the people who work and stay with us.”

Now, the program is a strategic priority within the company. Wyndham’s goal is to reduce carbon emissions 20 percent by 2020. “In 2011, we delivered a 5 percent reduction goal of our owned, managed, and leased assets around the world,” Taylor says, “and we set guidelines for our franchisee population and have been continuously improving that program.”

Wyndham’s commitment to sustainability was rewarded the past two years with a number one ranking in Newsweek magazine’s annual green company survey in the category of hotels and restaurants. And its 5 percent reduction in carbon emissions in 2011 earned the company recognition as a carbon disclosure leader as part of the Standard and Poor 500. “We are fortunate that we have a culture of core values and improving the community,” Taylor says. “Sustainability fits right into that.”

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