Episode 1: Deliver Increased Profit By Reducing Environmental Impact with Jeff Slye
“Deliver Increased Profit By Reducing Environmental Impact” with Jeff Slye, the “Green Hospitality Guy”
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Mark Lewis: Hi! Welcome to Money, Mission, and Meaning: passion at work, purpose at play, where we explore how to integrate our personal values and professional skills to create a life that we can't wait to get up to.
Jeff Slye: "... When I started discussing the importance of the environment and what type of legacy and contribution I wanted to leave behind I had this image of being able to solve that problem. ...So, once I had my boy, that whole feeling and sense of legacy, and what's the planet going to be like in fifty years from now and what are we going to leave behind, became that much more important to me and that much more top of mind in the importance of the work that I'm doing.
Mark Lewis: I'm your host, Mark Michael Lewis, C.E.O. of Smart Energy Enterprises Incorporated, or SEE, Inc., “A beautiful future now.” Today's show focuses on the role that businesses play in creating sustainable environmental practices and reducing the environmental footprint of Western Culture. Our guest is Jeff Slye, C.E.O. of Business Evolution Consulting Services, which assists hotels and restaurants in becoming both more environmentally responsible and profitable at the same time. So, welcome Jeff.
Jeff Slye: Thank you, Mark.
Mark Lewis: Jeff Slye is known for both his passionate love of the environment and the planet, as well as a profound respect for the success and importance of business, most importantly some practical insights that he uses to teach businesses how to do both at the same time. I'm pleased to have him with us today. I think our listeners really care about being environmentally responsible and want to know more about the role that business plays in the impact that human beings are having on the planet. So today, Jeff, I want to talk with you about your experience in greening hotels and restaurants, the business case for going green, and what it's meant for you personally to integrate your passion and your profession with such intensity and focus. So let's start with a few questions about your experience with various hospitality enterprises, and perhaps the first question to ask is, why is it that they call you the green hospitality guy?
Jeff Slye: Well, if you look at the environmental footprint today in terms of organizations and companies that have become green, I think you can trace a lot of the spirit and the inspiration behind the movement to organizations that I like to call organizations that were born green. These would be folks like [inaudible], or Patagonia, or Ben and Jerry’s if you look back a bit. Within their own value statement and mission statement when they were born was a sort of sustainable or green mission. Well, when you start looking out from those organizations to other industries, into the hospitality industry, for example, there really wasn't anybody who was sort of a born green hotel company, certainly with any sort of presence in terms of number of locations and that sort of thing. And I was fortunate enough to get connected with the folks at Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants who have forty-two hotels and about thirty-six restaurants across the country, and they were interested in becoming sort of the first green company, after being in business for many decades, and sort of converting their culture and their operation, or I like to use the word evolving their business, becoming a green and sustainable enterprise. And so I was engaged by their organization to help them follow that process and introduce different products and practices to become green, while protecting and preserving their existing business culture, operational infrastructure, and of course bottom line. And through this work I have essentially greened over seventy hotels and restaurants, which is the connection to me being the green hospitality guy.
Mark Lewis: That makes a lot of sense. One of the things that I’ve loved about researching what it is you’re up to, is I came across a book called Natural Capitalism about a decade ago, by Amory Lovins and Paul Hawkin. And in it they talked about not only how business could begin to transform itself such that it was more environmentally friendly, but how they could do it in a way that's profitable. Now, I understand that one of the reasons why you get called back to company after company, is that when you’re going in there you’re not only helping them become more environmentally friendly and doing some humanitarian act, but you also add directly to their bottom line. Could you tell me a little bit about how you do that?
Jeff Slye: Sure. Yea, the kinda crazy thing about this environmental movement is when you start really looking under the covers, a lot of the things that we think are being done to be green truly are good for business, and all it takes is a sort of different set of eyes and a different view of how things were done historically to all of a sudden have a new model to follow that translates into bottom-line benefits. And I'll give you one example that emerged through some work I did with the National Restaurant Association. This was with the folks at McDonalds. So, McDonalds for many years had their orange juice shipped ready to use, so it came off the truck, into the restaurant, into the machine, and off it went. Well, when they were starting to assess sort of their environmental footprint and some of the environmental pressures that were brought at them in the Eighties, they decided to look at a lot of different components of their business. And they realized, well wait a minute, what would happen to the amount of transportation that would be needed, the shipping, etc. etc. if we had all the orange juice shipped in concentrate form and we added the water on-site? Well, low and behold, it didn't take much of a pilot project to demonstrate that there was millions and millions of dollars to be saved, not to mention of course, the energy and the infrastructure needed to ship all of those products, and they immediately went to a company-wide program of all of their orange juice done via concentrate. That's one example of how a business saved millions of dollars in reassessing the way that they do business. And now there's many different touch-points when I go into a company besides looking at what suppliers may be involved with their business, but also just looking under their own roof, whether it be energy-efficient lighting that they have not audited and taken a look at in many, many years, waste management is another area that gets sadly not a lot of attention, but is an easy way to add dollars to the bottom line by just simply revisiting how items are being thrown out and how waste is being managed.
Mark Lewis: Excellent, so when you go into a business, if a business were to call you in and say, “We want to go through one of your auditing procedures,” where you go through and actually measure the types of waste they're producing, the types of energy they're using, the lighting, and things like that, you give them a comprehensive report. And then, do you help them plan what their next step would be if they wanted to move forward and make their business less environmentally toxic and more profitable?
Jeff Slye: Well, it really just depends on what’s the business needs for that particular organization, and what’s essentially their depth of available resources and expertise to undertake such a project, and which varies from organization to organization. Our feeling is, we want to make sure that every organization gets the opportunity to take another look at their business operations and sort of highlight and call out some of the areas that they may not have looked at or addressed that could be improved, that would be beneficial for the environment and can translate into business benefits on the back end. The next stage, which to me is a very important stage and actually one of the greatest challenges today, which is taking that information and actually bringing it into implementation. And what we've discovered is there's quite a bit of work being done today that is helping with operational assessments and audits and just sort of a view of the business world for a particular organization, but the implementation side is sort of falling flat a bit. And that’s where we feel like we have a nice unique value proposition in helping organizations, at least guiding them to take those insights and implement them. And at the foundation of that methodology and that approach, is our strongest recommendation, is to implement or roll out in little stages at a time. Whether you believe in this or not, what do they say, God created the world in seven days or something like that? If it took Him seven days, it's going to take us quite us quite a few days to sort of shift our way of thinking and shift our cultural relationship to our business operations when you're going down a green path. I think that a key component that needs to be introduced to any business that’s considering or contemplating an environmental program is to not bite off more than you can chew, and just start the process with one phase at a time.
Mark Lewis: Right, so it's not that you go into a business and you end up reworking their entire business. You go in there and find one or two things or build a whole plan for them to move forward, and then you walk them through the steps. Now, I understand that you actually have a software program that can help them track how well they're implementing the suggestions that you've given them. Is that right?
Jeff Slye: Yeah, well we use a sort of a proprietary tool that helps us assess how we're doing, both in sort of two different areas. One is how we're doing in terms of the original state of the union that we started from, to kind of kind of the targets that were set when we started rolling out or implementing the program. The other software tool that we utilize, particularly with organizations with multiple locations, is to sort of gauge and track how the program's being implemented at each location, to make sure that when we’re releasing an environmental program, one location isn’t getting left behind as the different phases are sort of rolled out or implemented.
Mark Lewis: Great, well that makes a lot of sense. We're going to take a short break; support our sponsors. This is Mark Michael Lewis. This is Money, Mission, and Meaning. I'm with Jeff Slye and we'll be back in just a moment.
Mark Lewis: We're back with Money, Mission, and Meaning. I'm Mark Michael Lewis and we're talking with Jeff Slye, about how businesses can become both environmentally responsible, and add profit to their bottom line. Before the break, we were talking about what it takes to actually move from an assessment of what’s possible in the business, in terms of increasing their environmental responsibility and their bottom line. And we were talking about the implementation of that, and how to move from the idea to the implementation and track that. Now, Jeff, I’m imagining that when you introduce these kinds of ideas into a business that wasn’t born green, that in an interesting twist of terms is becoming born again green. When you’re introducing them, I’m sure there's some cultural challenges that come about with that, both in terms of people getting really excited, and in terms of addressing the kind of way that you’ve been doing things, the normal way of business, and interrupting that. What do you provide in terms of helping the business deal with that transition?
Jeff Slye: That’s a great point Mark, that one of the key components for undertaking an environmental program or being born again in a green fashion certainly requires an education and training component, and I think along with that requires an empowering component. What I mean by that is on the educational and training side, a lot of people hear a lot in the news in a general sense of the different issues from a very high level that relate to the environment. But when you get to the actual implementation level and actually speaking to employees or executive management teams, the education has to shift a little bit and give in to, how is our environmental program doing good for your business, and for the environment? So it does need to be catered to each different organization, because we have to remember most of them are in the business of making wages or whatever product that they’re trying to sell or service they’re trying to sell. Their mind is going a million miles a minute in many different directions. So it really needs to be targeted and focused and supportive to what they are undertaking, and recognizing and appreciating this may not be a core brand element to their organization. The educational training piece is very important and it must include not just the sort of financial possibilities, in terms of business value, cost savings, new revenue opportunities, but it must also speak to why this is the right thing to do from an environmental and a green standpoint. And the second point I mentioned in terms of empowerment, what we’ve also learned is that there are people within every organization that do have, maybe a higher level of energy or enthusiasm or interest in the environment. They’re sort of the sleeper cells or the dormant folks that are ready to really empower their own organization if they just had access to the channels to do so. And we found that’s been particularly important and a facilitator to program success, by trying to find and opening up sort of a team or committee, and allow these people who are sort of green that are within organizations to get involved and support the actual roll out, education, implementation of such a program. So they become sort of the owners by default of the growth and development of the environmental initiative.
Mark Lewis: And that reminds me. I have a friend who’s working in a company, and the company decided it was going to start making changes and to start becoming more green. And they got really excited about it. They really became champions for that within the company. And this show’s called Money, Mission, and Meaning. It’s about how do we bring more meaning to our work, and use the skills and capacities that we gain through work in order to make our lives better. And for this person, when they really became a champion of that environmental program, it really gave them a new kind of lease on their job, a new commitment to the company. And I’m curious, how does this work in terms of employee retention, and if people become champions, how it leads to recruiting and various things in terms of the employees side of the business. Do you have much experience at that?
Jeff Slye: Well, what we’re seeing is nothing but positive results from employees by rolling out such a program. One of the hotels that we worked with; their executive housekeeper has said it is so great to see for the first time - and this executive housekeeper has been in the business for twenty-five years – It’s so great to see for the first time in my career that the company that I’m working with is doing what I already do at home at their offices, or in this case, at their hotel. And this was actually triggered by the introduction of in-room recycling bins, for example, at the hotel.
Mark Lewis: Right…
Jeff Slye: And in …
Mark Lewis: Oh, please.
Jeff Slye: We’ve seen it on the other side as well. We’ve seen it in the Topaz Hotel in Washington, D.C. Their head engineer, who never really had a sort of a spirit or an interest in the environment, who was just happy going about his day-to-day job, all of a sudden started learning more about this environmental program, that the company or the hotel rolled this out, and went home and all of a transformed over time the way that he lived at home, and had reported back how empowering it was to take this sort of sense of environmental responsibility and stewardship back home to his wife and kids, that never really would have happened before. So, in both instances, the relationship and the sense of purpose at work, absolutely have been highlighted and enhanced from such an effort.
Mark Lewis: I think that’s fantastic. On the other side of the equation, I’m also imagining that, I know that I know quite a few people who prefer to patronize businesses that are explicitly green, that are out there making a difference. And when a company takes on this kind of greening process, I’m imagining there’s quite a few public relations and marketing opportunities for them and it must bring them new business. What’s been your experience with that?
Jeff Slye: Well, we’re tracking that very carefully, and we’re extremely enthusiastic by the results that we’ve seen. Some results are as simple as we’ve launched a vegetarian day menu special across multiple different restaurants, and one of the restaurants, Bambara Cambridge Restaurant in Cambridge, Massachusetts, ended up getting a piece in the Boston Globe Newspaper. And low and behold, before they knew it, they sold out of their menu special that day, which had not happened previously. That’s sort of a simple example. If you want to get to the more grandiose examples, we’re seeing businesses, at greater than ten percent from a survey that one of my clients ran, stating that they have selected that business over alternatives and competitors because of their environmental program. And these are sort of the silent killers for potential businesses before maybe they get under a spotlight or scrutiny, is customers will slowly migrate to other like-minded businesses, from what we’re seeing, and not necessarily notify the previous vendor that they used to be working with, or in this case in hotels where they used to stay. They’ll just switch businesses around.
Mark Lewis: Right.
Jeff Slye: Furthermore, we are seeing on a greater than a majority basis, RSPs coming through from meeting planners, for both restaurant service, as well as hotels, meeting space, requiring in their to RSPs to declare and state what their environmental impact is. And it’s no longer a ‘do you have a green program, yes or no?” It’s “Explain your energy management policy. Explain your waste management policy. Explain your toxic and air quality policies.” It’s getting much deeper and much richer in terms of what customers are starting to demand from the people that they’re spending their money with.
Mark Lewis: Right. Your environmental impact and the fact that you’re taking it seriously; the fact that your company’s taking a stand on it and is taking concrete action towards it is becoming more and more important. I’ve got a few more questions for you but we’re going to take another short break. This is Mark Michael Lewis with Money, Mission, and Meaning. We’re talking with Jeff Slye and we’ll be back in just a moment.
Mark Lewis: And we’re back with Money, Mission, and Meeting. I’m Mark Michael Lewis. We’re talking with Jeff Slye about how businesses can become more environmentally responsible and profitable at the same time. Now, Jeff, I know we’ve been talking a lot about the business side of this equation in terms of what is possible for businesses, both in terms of the cost-savings they can get, the additional publicity and the additional business they can get, as well as the positive results internally with their employees in knowing that they’re doing something to make a difference. In terms of making a difference, I know, for you to get into this business, was something you were charting unknown territory. You’re creating your own path. What was it that inspired you to take the risk to do this kind of work?
Jeff Slye: Well, I think it’s a culmination of things, but I remember vividly that… I should point out my history and background. You know I didn’t run out of a tree house in the redwood forest here and say I want to save the planet. Um, ten years of business experience in a more traditional high-tech sector and sort of had the, I guess your traditional path of pre-secure career path, good money, but just not in a line of work that was fulfilling my purpose on this earth, and passion for my legacy that I want to leave behind. Just felt really disconnected. And thinking about my career now that I have the consulting firm, one moment actually in time sort of sticks out which is sort of interesting. And it occurred during a trip to a village that’s in a remote area of Guatemala. Doesn’t sound like your typical place for inspiration, I’m sure, but here in this village I saw villager after villager walk over to the bridge and take a basket full of all of their garbage, and just dump that right off the bridge into the river below, which low and behold, was where another set of villagers were washing their clothes. As I watched all of the non-biodegradable, certainly toxic waste just floated right down the middle ultimately into the ocean. And frankly at the time I didn’t think much of it. But when I started the importance of the environment and what type of legacy and contribution I wanted to leave behind, I had this image of being able to solve that problem and being able to envision a world where you would have waste that would be actually of value, or would decompose and wouldn’t cause problems for our land and our water supplies, and our air and all of these things that we sort have taken for granted up to date and now are trying to find solutions for us to try out.
Mark Lewis: Yeah, well I think that’s great. You know, I think about myself and my own footprint, and the various things that I can do in terms of recycling and choosing the products that I’m buying recycled materials, and the small things like sometimes I look at the impact of the major businesses around the world and I think about what they’re doing versus what I’m doing. And the fact that you’re going out there actually working with the business that are generating huge amounts of waste and using tremendous amounts of energy and helping them do that, in a way that reduces the impact I think is a great example of what this program is really about: about really finding what it is that excites you, what it is that gives you a sense of meaning and purpose and going out in the world and affecting it through business in a way that touches hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people. And I’m curious. I imagine that you look back on, you know, you’ve greened over seventy hotels. You’ve worked with various businesses. You created dialogs that I’m sure inspire who you haven’t worked with directly. What does it mean to you personally in your life that you’ve gone out and made this difference?
Jeff Slye: Well, it almost has been too early for me to really grasp the impact that I’ve been having but for me, you know, I used to drive home from work every day and question, you know, what path am I on? Am I making the kind of difference that I’d like to be making? And frankly, the answer usually wasn’t that pretty. And now, I come home every day from work and have a renewed sense of living a life of purpose and meaning, and making a contribution that I know goes well beyond just my immediate circle of clients and has a rippling effect and is touching your point, you know, hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people. Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants are my largest client. They have over a million guests at their hotels every year. So just from that perspective alone, I step back from my busy day and reflect. I think that Wow, here’s a million people that are being touched by the efforts that myself and my team and my firm have undertaken. I take a step back and look at the National Restaurant Association, another one of my big clients. And we’ve just put together a sustainability report for that association, and they have twelve-and-a-half-million employees in the industry, and they have half a trillion dollars in sales. If we impact that industry, we’re impacting tens of millions of people, maybe even hundreds of millions. So it’s just is a warm and rich experience to know that when my day is done, whether I’ve gotten everything done whether I’ve done everything right, at least the path that I’m on feels good, and feels rewarding and enriching, and I should point at that it has been exacerbated that much more by having a new son. I have a three-month old son.
Mark Lewis: Yeah, and I’m again imagining that as you look at your son, and as you look at what it is you’re doing in the world, there’s got to be some sense of connection of the world that you’re attempting to leave for him.
Jeff Slye: Yeah, well that was part of thinking about my purpose on earth that when I went through this exercise of shifting careers and starting my consulting firm, that it really wasn’t so much about the immediate. It was about what’s going to be left when I’m gone. And this was even before I had a child. I was feeling connected to that. I kinda called the sort of the alien experience. If an alien came and visited this planet, would they feel we as a species are on the right track, taking care of our own, we’re taking care of the planet, we’re evolving. That’s why I call my firm Business Evolution Consulting. You know, evolving as a species and for me the answer kept coming up now, well, maybe we’re evolving but just not in the right direction. It felt like for me, that once I had my boy, that whole feeling and sense of legacy and what’s the planet going to be like in fifty years from now, what are we going to leave behind, became that much more important to me and that much more top of mind in the importance of the work that I’m doing.
Mark Lewis: Well, I think that’s great. I want to thank you for being on our show today. We’re at the end of our time. Jeff, if people want to get in touch with you, they go to businessevolutionconsulting.com, is that right?
Jeff Slye: That’s right, it’s just one word.
Mark Lewis: Business Evolution Consulting?
Jeff Slye: It’s a long one, but it’s just one.
Mark Lewis: But it’s easy to remember.
Jeff Slye: Yes.
Mark Lewis: I’m thinking about your tagline, “Good for people, good for the planet, good for profits.” And what I want to say is really, good for you, Jeff, for really taking this on and really working to make something happen. I want to thank you for being a guest on our show. This has been Mark Michael Lewis with Money, Mission, and Meaning. “Passion at work. Purpose at play.” Join us next week when we talk with Aaron Pava, cofounder of Civic Action, about the power of living your purpose to sculpt a life you can’t wait to get up to while making a positive difference in the world. For text and transcripts to this show, and the other shows on the Personal Life Media Network, please visit our website at www.personallifemedia.com. This is Mark Michael Lewis. If you’d like to contact me, you can email me at [email protected]. Have a fantastic day, and as we like to say, create pleasure and profit in the business of life.