Case Study: Sustainability Making Headway in the Hotel Industry

We interviewed Andrew Buwalda, VP of Finance and Operations at Hotel Association of Canada and Alison Hunter, General Manager of Hyatt Place Ottawa West to share the stories of their organizations and the sustainability initiatives they are pushing forward.

Environmental stewardship is a topic on many managers’ minds these days. Consumers are becoming more conscious of who they are supporting with many basing their choice on environmental standards. Looking beyond the dollar value of being sustainable in practice, committing to sustainability shows a commitment to the community your business operates in, as a long-term investment in the health and betterment of your neighbours. Having sustainable business practices is the goal of many organizations, however getting there is not a linear process, and it can be costly. Often, organizations need help and guidance from other leaders with experience.

Providing the Guidance

The Hotel Association of Canada (HAC) has existed for quite some time, dating as far back as the 1920’s. Their mission throughout has remained the same: To enhance the prosperity of the Canadian Hotel and lodging industry. They do this by engaging with members, promoting advocacy, and supporting programs and services valued by their membership. One of these programs is the Green Key Global Program. The Green Key program is a worldwide effort to make hotels sustainable through certification that requires meeting strict criteria and implementing modifications as needed. The program helps organizations reduce their carbon footprint through improvements to infrastructure, reducing emissions, and improving wasteful processes. The Green Key program has helped over 1,500 hotels worldwide with their sustainability initiatives, including several in Ottawa, notably our partner, Hyatt Place Ottawa West.

Living the Example

Opened in May 2021, Hyatt Place Ottawa West was one of the first hotels in the world to open with a 5 key rating on the Green Key scale, impressive on its own but the achievement feels greater against the challenges they faced because of the pandemic. To achieve this 5 key rating, Hyatt had to rethink the traditional hotel – literally from the top down. Outside, the hotel roof is covered in 225 solar panels, as well as a sizeable bee colony. Inside, the hotel uses eco packaging where needed, including in their store, where products in individual use plastic are being phased out. There is a local approach too, from art like the Ottawa River Mural made by a local resin artist Helen Wright to the PPE they use purchased from a veteran owned local company. The commitment to sustainability and their community is reflected in their motto “Locally owned, sustainable and community oriented.” Hyatt’s support for their neighbours in Ottawa is unwavering and it was clear this passion was shared by the entire team as we spoke with Alison Hunter, General Manager of Hyatt Place Ottawa West.

Alison highlighted how amazing the core team is, that is was “hard to put in words how committed the team is to their shared mission of sustainability” and how humbled she is to have such a dynamic, versatile and committed team who’s willing to do whatever is needed to ensure guests have a great stay.

Working with Green Key Global

Before the pandemic, Green Key certifications were highly interactive and hands on, however that has changed to keep all parties involved safe. Green Key has moved to a flexible work environment, helping hotel partners receive certifications virtually, only having in person meetings when necessary to ensure their sustainability mission continues. Their rigorous certification program is continuously being updated to keep pace with industry standards and to adapt to changes that may come. For hotel owners, working with Green Key is a rewarding experience, as the certifications validate the work put in to make hotels sustainable. Green Key supports clients for long term success too, providing a playbook for implementing sustainable practices in the future. All the recommendations are made by people who know how hotels operate, which is very much appreciated by the hotel owners. Customers are looking for Green Key certifications, with 81% of global travellers intending to stay in sustainable accommodations (Bookings.com Sustainable Travel Report 2021).

Feedback from guests of Hyatt Place Ottawa West makes it clear that the Green Key certification does make a difference. Comments Alison’s team have received include guests consciously choosing to book because of the Green Key as well as others who have found out during their stay and want to come back again specifically because of the program.

Our Connection

As you’ve read above, HAC is doing dynamic work trailblazing the sustainability of hotels, motels and resorts within Canada with the Green Key Global program. After previously hiring for HAC, our Managed Recruitment team partnered again when it came time conduct the search their new VP of Finance & Operations this past year. We are highlighting HAC and Green Key’s recruitment accomplishments to celebrate the success of a vital organization in Canada and to help show similar businesses that virtual recruitment is not nearly as overwhelming as it may feel, especially when supported with a team that cares, and that it’s certainly worth it.

Andrew Buwalda was successfully hired as Vice President, Finance & Operations and has since been an integral part of the HAC and Green Key team. The Green Key team, including Andrew, have helped champion hotel sustainability and have found it inspiring to see new members get certified, such as Hyatt Place Ottawa West.

The Future

Hyatt Place Ottawa West’s efforts to obtain a 5 key rating will not go unnoticed. Already, they are attracting clients who want to stay at hotels that are committed to sustainability, proving that it pays to go green. If you’re interested in knowing more about Hyatt Place Ottawa West and their initiatives, you can learn more here.

The hotel industry saw a lot of turbulence in 2020, with many being unsure about the long-term success of their organization. Green Key Global was there to accommodate and will continue to work with hotel owners through this pandemic. If you are a hotel owner who wants to pursue a commitment to sustainability, HAC is here to help you get there. Simply reach out to them here to get started.

If your business is unsure how to navigate recruitment, we invite you to connect with our Managed Recruitment team.

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