Going green and sustainability, while similar, are two different concepts. I think they are, yet I receive enough press releases mixing the two that, for some, it is clearly one and the same thing.

Don’t get me wrong, I always find it good news that people and companies are rolling out green initiatives, planting trees, and getting rid of single-use plastic. It’s admirable, and long may that continue.

But let’s look at ‘green’ and ‘sustainability’ a little closer. Although sustainability is all green, being green doesn’t necessarily make something sustainable.

I risk putting my neck on the line when I say that for some in the PR and marketing industry (I did mention press releases) the choice of words – green and sustainability – is seemingly interchangeable. In my opinion, it is not difficult to see why. ‘Green’ is guest-focused, seems more appealing, and is ‘what hotel guests want’.  It’s an easy or, at least, an easier sell. And it has been said by some industry ‘experts’ that it can apparently increase footfall.

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I was sat in a hotel two weeks ago (quelle surprise!) speaking to the GM.  Although the hotel has rolled out multiple green initiatives, he said that there is no proof that ‘going green’ does increase occupancy rates or revenue. This doesn’t mean that hotels should start winding down any green initiatives; after all, if it’s good for the planet, it’s good for us all, regardless.

Sustainable practices, on the other hand, can help hotels save costs, according to Rabih Feghali, VP of investor relations at Roya, a consultancy for hotels and the hospitality industry, whom I also met at the same hotel. He said that cooling and aircon systems create the highest energy costs. But create a sustainable system, and it can have a real impact that results in cost saving, he said.

You may recall in the January issue of Hotelier Middle East, Shadi Al-Kadi, director, and programme management at Taqiti – the Dubai Energy Efficiency programme, categorially stated that “Sustainability practices in hotels are not being taken seriously by many.” A bold statement, especially judging by the amount of emails I receive announcing sustainability practices. But then again, could those emails be referring to the kind of ‘going green’ initiatives I mentioned earlier? It’s no bad thing if they are; the more green initiatives the merrier. But let’s start differentiating between the two.

One hospitality group that is putting sustainability at the forefront of its operations is Emaar Hospitality Group. The group has rolled out The Pearl Pledge, a sustainability campaign promoting marine conservation and the sustainable use of water across all group’s assets. Read all about it in on page 62 of this issue.

Going green and sustainability, have come a long way over the years. It’s much more than ‘hang up your towels’ so they are not changed daily. Today, people, including hotel guests, want to be part of it. They demand it, in fact. Sustainable practices for hotels, not only can help reduce their carbon footprint, but can also help reduce running costs. Clearly, it’s a win-win situation.

It seems everywhere we turn, somebody, companies, hotels are talking about ‘going green’ and ‘sustainability’. It may seem too much for some of us, and that there is a feeling that the subject has been exhausted. For me, I think it’s the tip of the iceberg. There is lots to do in terms of both concepts, lots to learn, and lots to gain, for both hotels and the planet. A good starting point to go deeper into these subjects, though, is to make sure we really know the difference between ‘going green’ and ‘sustainability’ and how to work them to the industry’s best advantage.

About the Author: Derek Issacs is the editor of Hotelier Middle East. He has lived in the region since 1999, in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. A journalist since 2005, he has been an editor of several lifestyle magazines, even publishing his own magazine on the men of the Middle East. He has also been the editor of several business magazines, including regional B2B hospitality and tourism magazines.