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Fairmont Green Partnership: when luxury hotels see green

The oft rewarded environmental protection program of the Fairmont Hotels & Resorts group, which received a Hospitality Award 2006 for the best social responsibility program, is interesting for many reasons: its exhaustiveness and its omnipresent will to combine human resource management and ecological concerns.

The Canadian brand’s program acts both as a precursor (already implemented in 1990) and a benchmark for responsible tourism. Its foundations lie in a work entitled the "Green Partnership Guide" the third edition of which was printed last April. It details the brand’s action in the different key areas of environmental concern such as water conservation or support for local communities. But more than a simple overview, it constitutes a veritable handbook that explains how to engage one’s hotel in a responsible process. It is surely this approach that made National Geographic Traveler write that it was "the most exhaustive and complete program in North America". In the guide, real case studies offer proof that it is possible to reduce costs and motivate personnel while adhering to an environmental program with real, positive repercussions. In this regard it addresses not only the chain’s properties and employees (at fifty hotels in ten countries), but all businesses, hospitals, schools and associations... The Fairmont Green Partnership program is no longer limited to its native Canada... Today it has ramifications in the United States, Mexico and Europe.Finally, what Fairmont has done is all the more interesting because it tries to involve its clientele in the process. At its properties, the whys and wherefores of the program are explained to guests, who are invited to participate by avoiding waste. Children’s awareness programs, such as the Beluga Club, sensitize even the very young about environmental problems through play. There are also packages that include excursions to go see local endangered species in their natural habitat. All these reasons combine to make the Fairmont Green Partnership program a partnership between the chain and its clients as well.Long concerned about problems related to climate warming, Fairmont’s president, Chris Cahill, declared upon the publication of the brand’s latest guide: "I am firmly convinced that hotels, and more generally all businesses, must be aware of how their activity affects the planet. And above all be concerned about limiting this impact". Fairmont thus plans to set an example and propagate its model, after being the first North American chain to adopt ecological constraints in a standardized manner on a daily basis. In order to improve its chances, Fairmont appointed the services and counsel of one of the environmentalists with the most media exposure: Dr. David T. Suzuk, who is known for his strong positions in the fore-front of the ecology battle. The latter summarizes the Green Partnership in the most positive manner possible: "it is a concrete example of business that satisfies everyone. It is viable from an economic point of view, and beneficial for the moral of employees as well as for the planet".Central to the program is waste treatment. During their stay, guests mostly accumulate beverage containers and paper waste. To take care of this, the brand has implemented an intense recycling program (nearly 1,500 tons last year) that is also applied in geographic areas that are not necessarily equipped for this. It even has a specific division called "eco-meeting" that concentrates on waste produced by meetings and seminars, which represent a significant share of Fairmont’s activity. The paper and pens supplied for meetings are all fully recyclable and the menus present a broad selection of vegetarian products, limiting animal proteins.In addition to actions taken with a goal to global preservation, the Green Partnership has also adopted a philosophy centered on local action. Its goal is to preserve the quality of living in places, often paradisiacal, where Fairmont properties are located. Some are built at the center of natural preserves. This is achieved by reducing the use of pesticides for maintaining gardens, protecting local fauna (golf courses are conceived as welcoming refuges for local species and the brand is proud of the elks that walk freely across its greens). At the Fairmont Big Orchid in Hawaii, for example, the brand uses nontoxic and biodegradable cleaning products in this sensitive area where coral is endangered.The work is interwoven with innumerable real examples, offering a vast glimpse of the practices adopted by the Fairmont group: it is a veritable array of initiatives for responsible business. Thus, the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto has a water management plan that, by reducing its laundry to one wash and one rinse per machine, ma-king it possible to save 500,000 liters each week. This corresponds to about enough water to supply 500 homes... Water is always at the center of concern for Fairmont Southampton, located in Bermuda. The hotel conserves water thanks to a sophisticated irrigation system for its golf course that recycles the water used by the rest of the resort. The system also takes into consideration weather conditions and the immediate needs of the location in order to minimize waste.Since 2006, the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa has elected to concentrate its economies on the energy it consumes for lighting. Last year the hotel replaced 4,440 light bulbs with fluorescent lights that use much less energy. 203,000 kWh are thus saved each year. It is a real gain for the environment, as well as for the hotel, which thus saved 61,000 dollars for the same period. What is intelligent about Fairmont’s approach is that it succeeded in associating responsibility and optimization of costs. The message becomes only more striking and catchy for tour operators who all too often believe that changing habits means additional expenses...In reality – and as long as the effort is carefully studied and planned – the opposite is true.While phase I of the partnership concentrates on four key areas: waste treatment, energy savings, buying ecological products and water management, phase II, which is active today, is related to more targeted, specific actions that are always in tune with "Think globally, act locally". The idea is to go even further. The Be-My-Beluga operation, begun at Fairmont’s Le Manoir Richelieu in Canada encourages each hotel to generate donations from clientele to symbolically adopt a beluga whale, a species that faces extinction. Today the operation has brought 120,000 dollars that have been given to a protection organization. The effort has gradually expanded to other endangered species living in zones where hotels are located: sea turtles, gray wolves, grizzlies and species of rare birds.Finally, what Fairmont has done is all the more interesting because it tries to involve its clientele in the process. At its properties, the whys and wherefores of the program are explained to guests, who are invited to participate by avoiding waste. Children’s awareness programs, such as the Beluga Club, sensitize even the very young about environmental problems through play. There are also packages that include excursions to go see local endangered species in their natural habitat. All these reasons combine to make the Fairmont Green Partnership program a partnership between the chain and its clients as well.

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