News & Press Releases
April 7, 2011
Hersha looks to take leadership position with EarthView program
Hersha founders, Hasu and Hersha Shah, and their personal volunteer efforts and their long history of philanthropy—locally, nationally, and globally— inspired the Hersha Group’s development of EarthView. EarthView is our in-house sustainability program that integrates environmental and philanthropic initiatives into the core of our business practices. Like our founders, we focused our energies on leading by example and with humility while at the same time ensuring fiscal discipline and accountability for our program.
“Our goal is not to create EarthView as a corporate initiative, but to develop it as a company-wide program whose future evolution will come from the ideas and involvement of all of our employees,” said Naveen P. Kakarla, CEO of Hersha Hospitality Management.
EarthView is a unique opportunity within the industry because it is being designed as a coordinated program between institutional ownership, a management company, and a development company. This is the first program of its kind to focus on the collective interests of all three groups and to be implemented by many different brands that have their own unique environmental standards.
The value gained through EarthView is in its ability to provide a platform through which we can standardize environmental and social best practices across our portfolio of many leading brands as well as to incubate new innovations for the hospitality industry.
Through EarthView, we recognize that environmental and social consciousness are becoming increasingly important among our key stakeholders, which include our customers, employees, investors, and governments. It is our job to ensure that we fully meet the needs of our stakeholders by managing and developing hotels that are taking positive steps toward environmental and social responsibility.
Our customer base, mostly corporate and government travelers, is beginning to look for hotels demonstrating sensitivity to these interests. It is estimated that approximately 75 percent of RFPs now include questions around sustainability metrics. We expect that questions today will transition to market and regulatory requirements tomorrow. Preparing now will ensure that EarthView designated properties are competitively positioned to respond to questions requesting sustainability metrics.
We will have these metrics because our approach is different. From its inception to its portfolio-wide rollout, EarthViewhas been developed within a focused analytical framework. This began with our partnership with Cornell University’s Sustainable Global Enterprise program and continues with our commitment to triple bottom line accountability.
As a company, we are approaching sustainability differently. We intend to reposition sustainability within the hospitality industry to show that socially and environmentally responsible programs can be dynamic, self-sustaining and even revenue-generating. Sustainability does not need to be a cost center, nor does it need to be a vehicle for cutting costs —though very frequently, environmental initiatives do generate operational savings. In the nascent stages of developing the EarthView concept, we worked with Cornell University’s Sustainable Global Enterprise (SGE) program.
The SGE program frames solutions to environmental and social problems differently by focusing on innovation and enterprise development. Our coordination with the SGE program helped to strengthen our resolve to view EarthView as a strategic opportunity for Hersha.
We worked with the SGE program to evaluate the sustainable hospitality environment and found that, as an industry, hoteliers have a significant opportunity to become innovators in this area. As we launch EarthView across our portfolio, we find that this presents us with many unique opportunities and challenges.
EarthView’s value is also rooted in our adoption of triple bottom line accountability for our company. This means that in addition to standard financial metrics, we now also measure our success as a company according to environmental and social metrics. We believe that it is important to share these metrics and to put them into terms our customers and employees understand, which is why we translate the impact of the EarthView program into measures such as “trees planted” or “cars off the road.”
Operating within a triple bottom line decision-making framework ensures that we meet each aspect of the triple bottom line and that we think about how our decisions affect each bottom line. As we developed EarthView, it was important to us as a company that impactful initiatives would not be excluded without consideration simply because they did not have easily quantifiable financial savings. Many initiatives that appear to only have an environmental or social benefit actually can result in a concrete financial benefit.
Consider for instance the financial benefits associated with increased guest and employee satisfaction. For that reason, our goal is to ensure that our initiatives on a cumulative basis have a positive return by allowing the savings from some initiatives to offset the costs of others. Approaching sustainability this way gives us the flexibility to adopt initiatives or establish partnerships that have a clear positive environmental or social impact in addition to an intangible positive financial impact.
Our company’s guiding values were what initially led us to be thoughtful stewards of our global environment and communities, and the EarthView program gives us the opportunity to publically institutionalize these values and to do well by doing good.