Cornell Roundtables Look at Sustainability and Healthcare

Dec 22, 2011

Contact:  Jane Henion, 607.255.9780, jmh222@cornell.edu

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Cornell Roundtables Look at Sustainability and Healthcare

Ithaca, NY, December 22, 2011 -  The fall 2011 Roundtable season at the Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration was capped by the third Sustainability Roundtable and the inaugural Roundtable on Healthcare and Hospitality. Both sessions aimed at breaking down barriers to progress and putting emphasis on the key elements that will advance the industry.

Sustainability: A Topic of Increasing Customer Interest

Co-Chaired by Eric Ricaurte (Research Associate, CHR) and Rohit Verma (Professor, Executive Director, CHR), the Sustainability Roundtable addressed several complicated issues as proposed by hospitality industry practitioners. One goal of the roundtable was to address topics that could become the subject of further research.

For hotels and other businesses interested in sustainability, one of the greatest challenges is the astonishing number of certifications, frameworks, standards, and regulations that an operator faces in various jurisdictions and countries. As presented by David Jerome, senior vice president of corporate responsibility at InterContinental Hotels Group, the result has been the evolution of the corporate responsibility and sustainability departments to handle numerous diverse issues.

Developing measurements is critical, due to the increased sustainability expectations by guests. In this context, Susan Robertson, president of the ASAE Foundation, led a discussion by presenting some key figures which indicated that the majority of associations and association meeting planners are currently incorporating or will incorporate programs related to green meetings into their professions within the next year.

Jerome cited three myths that need to be corrected for the hospitality industry to advance. Myth one is that "green is expensive," when in fact many sustainability initiatives clearly save money. Myth two is that guests do not care about sustainability, but in fact, many guests want hotels to be sustainable, and corporate travel and meeting planners expect hotels to communicate their sustainability efforts. Myth three is that the industry can wait to make changes, but delay is expensive and problematic.

A subsequent discussion led by Paul Hildreth, Director, Engineering & Facilities Management, Global Operations Services, Marriott International, examined the calculation of carbon footprints of hotel stays based on prior CHR research on a sustainability performance measurement framework. As a reference, the usefulness of the EPA Energy Star program and its Portfolio Manager was discussed as one basis for a consistent approach to sustainability measurement. The Energy Star program's greatest drawback is that it is a U.S.-based approach. Further research is needed to address the problem of common measurement through multiple sustainability standards and audiences.

In conjunction with the Sustainability Roundtable, student teams were invited to develop and present a corporate sustainability report for an invented global hotel company. The winning student team, "KCI Hotels," created a company with four hotel brands and addressed a common industry issue, lack of coordination between owners, operators, and the brand. Their proposed solution was to align sustainability policies among all three parties, including incentives for achieving sustainability goals. The KCI Hotels team, which won a $2,000 first prize, comprised Ilana Edelman '12, Kimberly Schlossberg '13, and Chad Wemischner '13.

Healthcare and Hospitality: Instilling a Culture of Success

The first-ever meeting of practitioners and researchers in the healthcare and hospitality fields highlighted common issues, despite the obvious differences between hospitals and hotels. Both industries face three challenges that are difficult to resolve: ensuring customer satisfaction, improving employee retention, and controlling operating costs (coupled with uncertain revenues). A discussion led by Gerard van Grinsven, formerly of The Ritz-Carlton Company, and now CEO of the Henry Ford West Bloomfield Hospital System, highlighted a focus on a culture of engaging all stakeholders as a key element of success. This roundtable was co-chaired by Brooke Hollis (Director, Sloan Program in Healthcare Administration) and Rohit Verma (Professor, Executive Director, CHR).

By making sure that employees are encouraged to grow in their jobs, both hospitals and hotels can reduce turnover. The focus must always be on making work worthwhile by ensuring that employees and clients alike know that they are valued. More than one participant cited constant measurement as essential to ensuring that customers are being served and employees' needs are met. It makes little sense to wait for a quarterly or annual review, suggested John DeHart of Vancouver-based Nurse Next Door Home Care Services. Instead his firm makes daily telephone calls to assess their clients' and employees' rating of the service and their jobs. For this they use a Net Promoter Score approach in which anything less than a 9 or 10 out of 10 is not a sufficiently high score.

Participants cited two major sources of cost and waste for U.S. healthcare. First, they believe that the overall focus should be on health, rather than sick care, since keeping people healthy is far less expensive than taking care of them after they are sick. Second, they believe that costs can be substantially reduced by eliminating duplication and making sure that all parties use available communication technology. Simple changes to facilities that reduce a clinical décor can also improve patient success and employee satisfaction.

About CHR Roundtables

Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) roundtables provide an interactive and engaging meeting place for a small number (approximately 25 or so) invited senior-level executives, Cornell faculty members, and research scholars affiliated with CHR.  There is a pre-roundtable  session and reception which includes a group of students interested in the topic the night before. The actual roundtable session follows the next day. Each roundtable lasts one day and is divided into three to five focused sessions.  Each session typically begins with a short research presentation, open-ended remarks, or guiding questions offered by the designated moderator. After the initial remarks, one or two other participants are invited to offer their comments to either support, contest, or add to the initial presentation. The conversation is then opened up to all the participants of the roundtable for discussion. Given the relatively small number of attendees, all participants are given ample opportunity throughout the day to engage in and participate in discussions during various sessions. Cornell students and other faculty members often sit in the audience and listen to the roundtable discussions. They interact with the invited panelists during session breaks.

For more information on roundtables, please visit: http://www.hotelschool.cornell.edu/research/chr/events/roundtables/.

About The Center for Hospitality Research
A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. Under the lead of the center's 78 corporate affiliates, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operating practices. The center also publishes the award-winning hospitality journal, the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. To learn more about the center and its projects, visit www.chr.cornell.edu.

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