In-depth training of hotel employees on environmental issues are pivotal for hotels implementing environmentally sustainable programs a university study has found.
The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) School of Hotel & Tourism Management surveyed ten Hong Kong hotels, eight of which were four or five star and two of which were three star hotels. Half of the respondents were female, and the majority were aged between 20 and 49. Fewer than half had a Bachelor’s degree or higher level of education, and just over half had worked for their current employer for more than five years.
The survey aimed to identify how employees’ attitudes and behaviour influence their efforts to implement eco initiatives.
With a rise in environmental consciousness within the travel industry and travellers, the study authors identified that hotels are becoming more concerned about balancing “environmental performance, limited resources, public legitimacy, burdensome litigation and profitability”. The an increasing number environmental policies being implemented within hotels, the study highlights the successful implementation of these policies lies with hotel employees themselves.
The PolyU study distinguished between the environmental knowledge, awareness and concern, and how these related to the employees’ actual behaviour and intention to implement green practices in the hotels they worked in.
Environmental knowledge is likely to affect behaviour, note the researchers, because people tend to avoid situations where they do not have “enough knowledge to guide their behaviour”. Conversely, having more knowledge about environmental issues motivates people to engage in environmentally responsible behaviour. Greater awareness of the effects of human behaviour on the environment should also motivate people to buy products with eco-labels and participate in recycling programmes.
Environmental concern refers to the beliefs and attitudes that people have towards environmental issues. Although it might be assumed that people who express greater concern will behave accordingly, the researchers point out that the attitudes that people hold do not always predict how they will actually behave.
The researchers thus sought to determine whether hotel employees’ knowledge, awareness and concern was associated with their actual ecological behaviour, such as how often they reused shopping bags, recycled paper and tried to save energy. The aim was to discover whether the extent to which individuals practised such ecological behaviour would influence their intentions to implement green practices in the hotels.
According to the study authors, the researchers suggest several strategies for hotels looking to make their businesses more environmentally friendly. For instance, when hiring staff, human resource managers could find out more about applicants’ “eco-friendly practices and environmental experiences” to ensure they hire people with good green credentials.
Likewise, managers should “share their company’s green culture with potential employees”, because many applicants would prefer to work for environmentally friendly companies.
The study suggested that employees who follow eco practices are more likely to follow those practices in their workplace, and be motivated to work for environmentally friendly companies.