You've responded to increasing demand from customers to be environmentally aware, but have you listened to those who know best how to implement it - your staff? asks Envirowise sector specialist Michael Savage
A rising emphasis on sustainability and growing numbers of environmentally aware consumers are increasingly influencing operators in the hotel and catering industries to take action on their use of resources.
However, effectively implementing a programme is not just about having an environment policy or management system in place it is the workforce - those people who are managing resources and waste materials on a daily basis - who hold the key to any new initiatives.
Many companies in the industry have already demonstrated a credible commitment to reducing their environmental impact. However, to achieve ever-more-challenging goals, there is no question that sustainability must be truly embedded within the business organisation and its culture.
Obtaining senior management buy-in is a crucial first step for instigating change. But only by ensuring the commitment of all employees can real results be achieved. It is often staff themselves who can identify the greatest efficiency improvements when given the capability and resources. For instance, waiting staff will be far more familiar than hotel management with the level of food wastage at breakfast.
It is also important to educate staff about the value of the materials they are handling and the cost of frequently taken-for-granted resources such as water and energy. Talking about potential savings in pounds is more meaningful than quoting percentages and helps motivate people to put a stop to wasteful practices.
This is becoming increasingly important, as from 30 October every business in the hospitality sector will be required to treat their non-hazardous waste before disposal. This could include food waste, paper, plastic and garden residue. The regulations represent the next stage in the Europe-wide Landfill Directive and will mean that all employees in your business, from management to floor staff, will need to change the way they think about and handle waste on a daily basis.
In our pressurised workplaces there is a danger that too little time or encouragement is given to individuals to think about, or take action on, waste. But by making resource efficiency a high-profile issue within your organisation and allocating sufficient time and resource, staff will have the opportunity to take ownership of - and instigate - environmental change. You will often find that this activity itself becomes a selling point, helping to draw in larger numbers of so-called "green" consumers.
It is no mean feat to bring about behavioural change in this way. However, experience has shown that there are significant financial incentives for doing so - not to mention staff motivation and retention.
• For more information on all areas of business resource efficiency log on to www.envirowise.gov.uk/hospitality or phone the Envirowise Advice Line on 0800 585794.