You cant stay there and you wont find it in any hotel guide, but the virtual Beacon Green Hotel by Beacon Purchasing is an innovative initiative to promote the best sustainable practice to its hotelier members.
Beacon Purchasing UK provides purchasing services for hotels throughout the UK, buying for around 2,000 hotels and using up to 130 suppliers. The company is using its role in the industry to facilitate sustainable practices in UK hotels via its award winning Green Hotel website which takes the visitor on a virtual tour of a hotel, systematically showing the steps a hotel can take to make the operation more environmentally friendly.
Diane Webster, Head of Sales and Marketing at Beacon UK, who launched the site tells Footprint: We were looking for the right way to get information about green products to our customers, but also wanted to find a way to pass on the huge amount of information that we and our suppliers have on green issues. The virtual hotel was the right solution for this and its a fun, interactive learning tool for users. Next year we want to add more areas such as the exterior of the hotel where we will explore solutions for recycling and waste management, and winning the Caterersearch Web Interactive/Innovative Award has spurred us to get started on the next stage now.
The virtual tour of the hotel covers the lobby, meeting rooms, bar/restaurant, guest rooms, bathrooms and kitchen, showing all the green practices and purchasing behaviours that can be implemented. In the kitchen area alone there are more than 15 energy saving initiatives that can be implemented, and many of these examples can be clicked on to disclose further information. These links also proved access to specific suppliers that supply energy efficient kitchen equipment and lighting. There are further links to other organisations which assist hotels in becoming more green through providing a range of sustainability products and services. Suppliers range from those buying 90 per cent recycled pens to those who can provide bulk toiletry supplies rather than individual packets. Service suppliers offer waste tracking and also a service that calculates and educates guests on the carbon footprint of their trip.
Visitors to the site can also look at one particular hotel and see what it saved in one year in waste to landfill and by implementing a range of other initiatives. Other hotel case studies show how energy consumption can be reduced throughout each part of the hotel as well as ecologically sound waste and water management, leading to reduced operational costs.
As Beacon and its supplier partners enhance their green credentials, so will the hotel develop, providing a strong foundation for the future promotion of green products and information.
However, it was very important to Beacon to ensure that it was not perceived to be a purchasing expert for green products; rather its aim was to use the website to share its own journey towards becoming a more environmentally friendly business while encouraging members to do the same. Initially focusing on a core range of products with 11 suppliers, enabled Beacon to launch the hotel with enough content to be interesting but without appearing to have all the answers. The hotel opened with five areas to explore and had a clear core range of information and easily accessible products available to purchase.
A secondary challenge has been to overcome the perception that going green is expensive a major concern during a time of economic instability. As a purchasing consortium whose business model is to leverage collective volume to drive best price for its members and therefore save money, getting members to purchase greener products at a perceived higher price was an interesting challenge. This was overcome by demonstrating that affordable solutions are available and that sometimes small steps can have a significant effect. For example, installing Hippo bags in the toilet cisterns does not mean significantly increased expenditure but does mean that a hotelier can save money and reduce their impact on the environment. Its not all about installing wind turbines or solar panels, says Webster.
Green Tourism is a key partner in the endeavour, identifying and accrediting those products and services that meet their sustainable business scheme criteria. Beacons association with GTBS is further strengthened through its sister brand, Best Western GB which selected Green Tourism as its preferred green accreditation body in 2007. Promoting the scheme through the 280 hotels in the UK, Best Western has identified green champions within each of their properties to support individuals who are important links for Beacon, in the scope, launch and ongoing development of the Green Hotel.
Beacon has also developed relationships with a number of organisations and agencies, specifically Envirowise and WRAP. The conference room in the Green Hotel website displays an Envirowise video case study which outlines best practice for sustainability within a hotel. An association with Red Tractor is also being explored by Beacon to promote licensed Red Tractor suppliers through the Green Hotel website.
Further partnerships have been developed with industry leading bodies such as the Considerate Hoteliers Association (CHA), an association of like-minded hoteliers who encourage, assist, motivate and cajole fellow hoteliers to adopt sound and sustainable environmentally friendly and socially responsible policies and practices. This year, putting its money where its mouth is, Beacon is sponsoring the Considerate Green Marketing Initiative of the Year, in conjunction with CHA to drive awareness of sustainability and to promote the green hotel website as a source of information, suppliers and green products.
The CEO of Interchange & Consort Hotels, David Clarke, is chairman of the Sustainability Committee for the British Hospitality Industry (BHA) and is a key figure in the promotion of the companys CSR aims, and the approach it is taking to put this at the heart of its business.
Its not always easy to know what practical and commercially viable steps can be taken to become green. Its more complex than we think, says Webster. Its easy to come up with a simple CSR statement but we wanted to bring our values alive and get our different stakeholders involved. Any small change in purchasing behaviour can have a huge impact on the environment. We aim to give people information about where they can become more green and then, if they choose, direct them to a directory of green products in that particular area, she says.
Study rejects Spawned By The Green Hotel
London Metropolitan Business School, as sponsor of the Shine Award for Technology and Innovation has extended a personal development/study opportunity to Diane Webster, Head of Sales and Marketing who won this award in 2009, in recognition for her work on the concept and launch of the Green Hotel website. This will be geared toward the best use of digital and social media to promote the Beacon Green Hotel website and create an on-line dialogue around sustainability. Beacon is also exploring future projects to promote and engage the hospitality industry in the development of environmental management systems.