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Hospitality Industry Developing Tool for Greener Supply Chain

<p>Marriott, InterfaceFlor, PE Five Winds, Valley Forge Fabrics and other firms have launched the Hospitality Sustainable Purchasing Consortium to improve the sustainability performance of the hospitality supply chain.</p>

The hospitality business is following in the footsteps of the consumer products and outdoor industries by developing a tool to move the sector toward a more sustainable supply chain over the next two years.

Several companies across the hospitality value chain -- including hotel giant Marriott International, carpet manufacturer InterfaceFlor, upholstery supplier Valley Forge Fabrics, and consulting firms PE International and Five Winds -- have launched the Hospitality Sustainable Purchasing Consortium with the goal of developing a Hospitality Sustainable Purchasing Index to guide purchases from furniture, fixture and equipment suppliers.

The Index will be based on an existing tool from consulting firm MindClick SGM, which is leading the effort. It's essentially a database or repository -- not a standard -- that will constantly evolve to reflect sustainability advances in the market, said MindClick CEO JoAnna Abrams.

"We're creating an information management tool that facilitates the purchase of sustainable products," Abrams said. "We are in essence aggregating from other standards that exist and applying them in a way that makes business sense."

The move follows similar developments in the consumer product and apparel industries. In 2009, for example, Walmart grabbed headlines when it announced it wanted to create a Sustainability Index to assess the environmental attributes of the products it sells, leading the way for the creation of the Sustainability Consortium, now a multi-stakeholder effort with dozens of members. The Outdoor Industry Association and the European Outdoor Group also developed the Eco Index to improve sustainability in the outdoor products supply chain. 

Here's how MindClick's existing Sustainable Purchasing Index works: Participating suppliers receive performance ratings on the sustainability of their products, operations and company after filling out an extensive questionnaire. The ratings are awarded on a 0-5 point scale based on three components: corporate social responsibility, environmental impacts, such as carbon, energy, water and waste, and product sustainability.

The Consortium will expand and adapt the Index to reflect hospitality product categories and various levels of sustainability adoption and knowledge. Over the next several months, founding members will offer feedback on the questionnaire and the framework used to evalute performance. At the same time, they will incorporate feedback from select manufacturers who pilot-test the questionnaire and complete the performance assessment.

Membership costs vary, depending on membership level and company size. Participation in the Consortium’s pilot program starts at $7,500, covering the commitment through the end of 2012.

Once the Hospitality Sustainable Performance Index moves beyond the pilot program, the cost to use it will be subscription-based and vary depending on the depth of information being accessed, Abrams said.

The customization period should extend through the end of the year, or early 2012, with a beta version rolling out next year, and a massive roll-out in 2013.

Ultimately, Abrams and others believe the tool will save industry players a lot of time and money by avoiding the duplication of efforts.

"By partnering with an industry consortium, we're excited about having an independent party to support us in this effort so we don't have to reinvent the wheel," said Dave Lippert, Marriott's vice president of architecture and construction procurement.

Marriott first heard about the Consortium from one of its vendors and was immediately interested because it meshed well with the company's core sustainability efforts.

"We liked the idea of having a multi-faceted tool that could look at all areas that are important to us as a company," Lippert said. "We're interested in energy savings, water and waste reductions. This tool really provides us with platform to assess all these factors across the board."

The founding Consortium members are Marriott International, Audit Logistics, Benjamin West, Delta Faucet Company, Innvision, InterfaceFLOR, PE International Inc., RTKL, Sera Architects and Valley Forge Fabrics.

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