Sustainable leadership – Creating our future now

The following post was written by Joseph Sebestyen. Joe can be reached at

Sustainable leadership – Creating our future now.

The International Association of Conference Centers met in Sweden to learn more about sustainability and how we could create our industry’s future now.

Sustainability is nothing new to our Scandinavian membership; for 10 years Denmark and Sweden have been continuously improving the sustainability of their conference centers. In many cases:
– In guest rooms a key must be inserted into a slot in the room that engages the power to all the electrical outlets and the climate control system. When the guest leaves the room and takes the room key out of the slot everything powers down.
– Windows open for fresh air and some climate control systems turn off when windows are open.
Sixty-three percent (63%) of occupied guest room operating costs are energy related. The cost can be accelerated when guests turn the thermostat to the maximum setting for their immediate comfort. Engineering practices and geothermal systems for heat and cooling to take advantage of ground temperature to reduce energy consumption can save money and provide a sustainable future. Several properties in Sweden have already converted.

In addition to energy-saving methods, each guest room has one container divided into 3 sections: one for recyclable items such as plastic, metal, another for paper, and the third for refuse. Soap and shampoo are offered in wall-mounted containers by the showers and sink. Individual amenity bottles are not commonly used and if they are…they are Eco friendly bottles. The toilets have a water-saving device for liquid and solid waste.

In the conference area water filtration systems have replaced the bottled water and offer still and sparking water. Glass panels mounted on the walls in the classrooms have replaced paper flip charts. In the dining services china and glass are the standard and disposable service ware needs to be requested. I did not see large quantities of ice being used on displays. If there were not chill plates (on timers) then smaller quantities of food were displayed and refreshed frequently. Smaller quantities of food on buffets provide a fresher product and reduce excess and waste. Some properties in Sweden are composting their food scraps and showing guests how the process works. Some guests even take home a bag of potting soil that is enriched from the properties composting efforts. This process along with recycling other materials has reduced the waste management cost for the property and provided a marketing advantage.

Coffee/tea is served in copper pots on hot plates and warm milk in thermal containers. Organic wines from South Africa are well received and the cost and transportation routes are efficient and increase carbon efficiency. Guests are pleased with these sustainability efforts as long as it does not cost them more or decrease their experience.

The Scandinavian properties continue to introduce new sustainable methods and practices in stages and communicate to their guests why their efforts are being made. They are considering charging more for options that cost more or waste more resources. The paradigm needs to change to help guests understand that sustainability is positive for the guest and their experience.

Sustainable practices leadership is building a learning culture and using our industry’s influence to shape policies, customer requests, and by setting the right example. As an industry, we can create sustainable practices that save money, promote good environmental stewardship, increase our standing in the communities in which our properties reside, and ensure a positive guest experience.

Resources to consider:

Here is the link from the Bergendal property explaining their compost plan: friendly

IACC’s link to the Green Star program:

About N. Pompan

President, PHG, Inc.
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