Sustainable Hospitality: Engaging Employees, Suppliers, and Customers on Better Waste Management

Sustainability is now becoming a big part of everyday people’s lives. CEOs, c-suite executives, building and hospitality managers must incorporate more sustainable practices into their careers and daily operations. Tackling single-use plastic waste, minimizing paper use, and eliminating food waste, are no longer just trends. Leaders in hospitality are developing new ways to incorporate sustainability and social issues to support guests that are basing buying decisions on these factors, including where to spend their vacation. Sustainability initiatives are now part of everyone’s experience. Customers, staff, vendors, board members, and investors will all need to take a seat at the table to be engaged, educated, incorporated, and given ownership in the success of sustainability initiatives.

There’s a 95% probability that for the past 50 years, human activities have managed to warm the planet. The tourism industry alone is forecast to have emissions grow by 130% between 2005 and 2035. Major hotel chains are taking on ESGs as part of their business model. And while ESG reporting is new and not regulated or mandated as of yet, hotels, lodging, restaurants, travel, tourism, recreation, and the food and beverage industry are starting to correct the environmental strains that come with doing business. As hotel management and support staff navigate their way through new sustainability initiatives and ESG reporting, it will become an effort to keep stakeholders educated, engaged, and committed to waste management initiative success.

Rise in sustainable initiatives and ESG reporting requires buy-in from all parties

Sustainable initiatives and ESG reporting for hotels have their own set of challenges. Click this link to learn more. As major hotels and the rest of the hospitality industry lean into these changes, stakeholders must be engaged for collaboration. Stakeholders include neighbors that live and work nearby, traveling guests, housekeeping staff, hotel managers, restaurant staff, CEOs, and investors. When it comes to developing effective sustainability initiatives, everyone must have their voices heard, which in turn helps management implement the most well-rounded plans. Launching engagement and education campaigns before an initiative is launched is a marker for success. That is, helping stakeholders understand the science behind the need to take action, how everything is connected, and that their participation means the difference between success or failure.

The entire hospitality industry: travel, event planners, theme parks, transportation, cruise lines, and the tourism industry as a whole will benefit from learning about sustainability from the perspective of a circular economy.


circular economy


Sustainable building materials, efficient lighting, better air quality, water conservation, energy conservation, better waste management and practices, improved recycling rates, sustainable food, better health, better social practices, sustainable supplies, and sustainable vendors are just part of offering more sustainable hospitality services. In order to adopt better practices in every area of hospitality, there needs to be a collaborative effort incorporating education from the start.

Stakeholder engagement definition in business

“Stakeholder engagement is the systematic identification, analysis, planning, and implementation of actions designed to influence stakeholders. A stakeholder engagement strategy identifies the needs of key groups and the sponsor plays a vital role in ensuring those business needs are met.” – Association for Project Management

Making changes may mean redefining who stakeholders are and how to engage with this new group to make bold moves that will come full circle economically, socially, and environmentally. Choosing what is working now and what could work at a higher level may mean looking at ROI differently.

When implementing a waste-to-energy (WtE) solution, for example, it’s important to engage with stakeholders to educate them on the system, tell them why it’s being implemented, and explain how their role in its success will mean bigger gains for the future.

Inclusivity is also a way to gather information, identify trends that may impact new activities, improve transparency and build trust with relevant individuals and groups. Support is critical to an organization’s long-term success on sustainability initiatives. Approaching sustainability in the hospitality industry in this way could spark innovation and the organizational change needed to meet new challenges and opportunities.

The 3 phases of engagement on waste initiatives

Businesses that are tackling sustainability successfully have nurtured stakeholder accountability and ownership. Moving beyond talk and greenwashing, there are three core phases that help hospitality teams reach new sustainability heights for waste initiatives.

Those three phases include an educational and learning phase, a launch phase, and an ownership phase.

Waste initiative educating and information gathering

Pre-launch requires education, and teaching stakeholders about the problems you will aim to solve. It also includes getting feedback on the methods and new waste innovations you will use to accomplish goals (click here to learn more). It might look like a crash course for employees on waste, recycling, composting, climate change, environmental health, and so on.

A pre-launch phase is a good time to nominate a green team that takes on an even greater leadership role during the launch and ownership phases. The green team can give insight and hone in on additional methods for effectively engaging the entire staff to follow through.

The educational phase will include tracking waste, assessing materials, vendors, and opportunities for improvement. It will also include goal-setting on things like greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction, food waste reduction goals, recycling rate goals, and financial goals for the programs implemented. Where could you improve? Where are there new opportunities for waste reduction? What new tools and programs could your company leverage? Holding a team huddle session to evaluate data is where engagement and education will merge to create ideas and implement waste prevention and recycling activities.

Launching your hotel waste initiative

When launching your sustainability initiatives on waste, think of it as a marketing and remarketing campaign. You want to have a launch day, reiterate the goals, highlight employees involved in success, educate customers online and via email. Think of your launch as a campaign, not so much to market how great your organization is, but to build that engagement and make sure everyone knows the goals, key roles, new technologies, new engagement mechanisms, and how to stay honest throughout the process via audits and reports. Make it simple, keep it marketable, and be inclusive.

Harnessing ownership for waste initiatives in hospitality

The purpose of engagement is to deliver as much ownership to each stakeholder as possible. That means having routine meetings, reports, friendly check-ins, scheduled emails, and in general, creating a supportive framework where participants can feel the success of their actions and when they might need to step up their actions to meet predetermined goals. There is no one-size-fits-all campaign for maintaining ownership of a waste initiative. The key is to use the pre-launch to determine the atmosphere your community will thrive in.

Educating and engaging your hospitality stakeholders on waste initiatives will lead to company culture improvements as well as environmental and financial advantages. Incorporating sustainability does not need to be an economic burden. In fact, if you look at sustainability as beneficial, with collaboration, positive gains will be seen all the way around. Customers value sustainability, companies that make good on their sustainability claims attract better, more committed employees, and in general, guests are willing to pay more for better alternatives.

Leveraging the right waste initiatives in hospitality with NWA

When hospitality leadership needs an expert on waste initiatives that make a difference both financially and environmentally, they consult with the NWA team. We consistently deliver tailored hospitality waste solutions that reduce and divert waste. Our services are worth reporting on your next ESG report. In fact, you can use the NWA reporting system to also support public relations outreach, guest marketing, and investor education. We don’t own landfills because our priority is to help you intelligently divert your waste.

Before launching your next waste initiative, let our team help you set up for success.
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