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Natural Step works for European hotel chain



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"One thing we did very early, was when we became aware that chloride chemicals are not food for the environment," says Ivarsson. "In Scandinavia, we have about 20,000 hotel rooms, and lease out the laundry functions for these rooms to a supplier. We went to the supplier and said to them that within a couple of years, we expect you to take the chloride out of your laundry process.

"Obviously they said this isn’t possible, we can’t do it, we’ll just give you grey bedsheets, and we said, sure, yeah, grey is fine. First we told them to look into the pulp and paper industry in Scandinavia, which has many ways to bleach paper without chlorides. Within the time frame we agreed upon, the laundry supplier came up with a solution.

"During the process they realized that it may be a competitive advantage for them to also run an environmental program. Now they are more than ever before the market leaders, they have trained staff, and have adopted the Natural Step philosophy."

Ivarsson says that suppliers and companies can work together to create win-win situations if the will is there. When the word gets out, it can actually increase business for all parties involved – given the choice and the knowledge, most customers prefer the environmentally-friendly alternative, when cost is not an issue.

And as your pro-environment reputation builds, so does your commitment: new Scandic hotel rooms are now 97 per cent recyclable, from the second-growth wood flooring to the cotton and wool sheets.

When Whistler makes The Natural Step part of its municipal environmental strategy, Ivarsson says the town will be able to count on the support of the people to make it work, even if suppliers and business partners are skeptical.

"What you can expect is that public appreciation of this program will be much bigger than you think. We have seen, for example with our company, that when you give people a good explanation of how they can participate in making the environment better, it creates a tremendous amount of energy amongst lots of people. You will see people join together. When they see how they can make a contribution, it’s much easier to contribute."

For Whistler hotels that are considering The Natural Step, it’s a good idea to let the guests know why things are being done differently, says Ivarsson.

"When you’re a part of the program, you perform services in a new way – not necessarily a more unfriendly or worse way, but differently. People need to understand why you’re doing this.