CONGRATULATIONS to the UK Housekeepers Association for taking a stand on the environment. The association's annual conference agreed to co-ordinate efforts to share "green" ideas (see page 10).
The housekeepers face a real challenge. They have correctly identified an issue which is constantly in the public eye. Almost everyone would agree that being environmentally responsible is "a good thing". Children nag their parents about it. A minority are committed to being "green" and will boycott your company's goods and services if you are not green, too.
The issue of the environment has grown out of all recognition in the past 20 years. Now every company, when it writes a business plan, must not only consider marketing, recruitment, capital budgets and projected profits, but must also ask itself what impact its operations are making on the environment.
The difficulty is that reducing those impacts is costly, not all the costs can be recovered through efficiency (though some can) and - toughest of all for hospitality - customers may be unwilling to accept degraded standards for the sake of the planet.
For this reason the association's approach of exploring ideas is a good one. There is no shortage of practicable ideas, particularly for economising on energy. Some of these can be applied without affecting guests' comfort at all.
There are also ideas which, though they may help the environment and possibly save money, will not be acceptable to guests. On some of these, some market research might be illuminating. Let's ask customers, for example, whether the comfort of a power shower is really important enough to justify squandering so much water and energy. Who knows? They might say no.
Whatever the customers say, the law will increasingly demand that industry respects the environment - and rightly so. A proposed European directive on packaging, for example, will probably make it mandatory to package food products in materials which can be recycled. The same will apply to complimentary toiletries.
All industries and their customers have to accept that the environment must be protected, and that the bill for doing it has to be paid. It is a challenge the hospitality industry can and must meet, and the housekeepers are leading the way. o