“Stop obsessing with how personally green you live—and start collectively taking on corporate power,” writes environmental writer Martin Lukacs in a July 2017 Guardian article. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that company-wide sustainability policies far outweigh individual efforts.
With a portfolio of 50 hotels and 7,724 rooms, Hersha Hospitality Trust follows a number of protocols to ensure social and environmental goodwill. The real estate investment trust has a huge reach across the country, including urban gateway markets like Boston, Washington, D.C., New York, and Philadelphia.
The brand’s registered trademark initiative “EarthView” is spearheading the mass-sustainability movement in the hotel sector. The strategy behind the program is simple: social and environmental good results in financial good.
The initiative has since been recognized with numerous accolades, and for good reason. Guestroom recycling is a standard for every Hersha-owned property, according to SVP of Finance and Sustainability Bennett Thomas in an interview with NAREIT. A cross-functional team involving the corporate office and the hotel staff helps keep the sustainability goals tangible, yet practical.
The National Association of Real Estate Investments Trusts (NAREIT) conducts annual awards with a “Leader in the Light” category, recognizing sustainable corporate practices. The participating companies need to maintain a strong place in the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) Survey to increase their odds of winning. Hersha Hospitality Trust has been awarded four times in the Lodging/Resorts category since EarthView’s inception in 2010.
Cadillac Hotel & Beach Club in Miami Beach, Florida. Image courtesy of Hersha Hospitality Trust.
Per the latest data on the company’s website, Hersha managed to cut back 19 percent of energy consumption per occupied room in 2016 compared with 2010. The company website also states that 97 percent of properties were retrofitted with LED lights, which according to the U.S. Department of Energy are more efficient than standard CFL, with approximately 15,000 hours more bulb life. “We try to implement sustainability that is almost invisible to our guests. For example, we’re implementing guestroom occupancy sensors across our portfolio,” Thomas tells NAREIT. Occupancy sensors can detect whether a guest is in the room and turn off energy supplies such as lights and air conditioning accordingly, thus eliminating the dependence on guests or housekeeping for energy savings. Three of Hersha's hotels are LEED certified and thirteen of Hersha-owned Hyatt, Hilton, Marriott, and IHG brand properties were labeled Energy Star Certified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in 2015–16.
Source: EarthView 2016 report, Hersha Hospitality Trust
Clean the World is an initiative that gathers used hotel soaps, sanitizes, and repackages them. The soaps are then distributed to developing nations, where the hygiene-related deaths of children under five are the most prevalent. Over 3,000 properties have come on board with the organization.
Sanctuary Beach Resort Hotel in Marina, Califonia. Image courtesy of Hersha Hospitality Trust.
EarthView launched a private label water bottle made from 100 percent recycled plastic that is 100 percent recyclable and sold at Hersha properties. “For each bottle purchased by a guest, we donate $1 to help bring water to those in need through a program called WaterCredit, by Water.org,” says Matthew Lobach, Hersha’s director of sustainability. “In 2016, our donation from the sale of our bottles provided clean water to over 1,300 people for 21 years.”
The Ambrose Hotel in Santa Monica, California. Image courtesy of Hersha Hospitality Trust.
In 2011, Hersha partnered with a nonprofit organization called Clean the World. Housekeepers at Hersha properties collect guests’ used soap bars and send them to Clean the World. The partnership has helped produce 427,000 new bars of soap for communities in need around the world.
We try to implement sustainability that is almost invisible to our guests.
It all comes down to Hersha’s motto, that social and environmental good results in financial good. And since its inception, the EarthView initiative has saved them a good $6.8 million.
by Najook Pandya