Amidst the wanton extravagance of the Las Vegas Strip, Caesars Entertainment is making notable strides in reducing its environmental impact. Estimates find that for every $10 million in revenue earned, Caesars produces fewer than 1,300 metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which monetize at less than $28,000 in environment costs (compared to an average 3,800 metric tons for S&P 500 companies, which monetize at over $80,000 in environmental costs). Caesars has received over 50 environmental awards and certifications, including the Silver IMEX Green Supplier Award awarded by IMEX and Green Meetings Industry Council, the LEED Silver Certification from USGBC for the Octavius Tower at Caesars Palace Las Vegas and the "Gold Certification Award" from Travelife for commendable environmental and social sustainability practices.
What can the rest of us learn from the Caesars case? The magic behind Caesars' outstanding environmental stewardship appears to be, in part, leadership that is both strong and flexible.
Sustainability is not merely a buzz word at Caesars. CodeGreen, the company's comprehensive sustainability program, has a sturdy organizational backbone that runs from the very top of the organization to the individual department by:
- Positioning sustainability at the C-suite level. At Caesars, the Vice President of Sustainability reports directly to the CEO when it comes to CodeGreen strategy and operational resources. This is not merely a paper relationship; CEO and President Gary W. Loveman receives monthly updates on the company's sustainability efforts and is the guiding force behind them.
- Building what's missing. Caesars will create what it needs to achieve its sustainability vision. For example, the Caesars Foundation funded the construction of a new Las Vegas processing plant for the nonprofit Clean the World Foundation. This allows unused soap collected by hotels throughout the western United States to be diverted from landfill and, instead, be sterilized, recycled and distributed to impoverished families at risk of contracting infectious diseases. Caesars also built a solar plant at Harrah's Rincon San Diego North resort to offset the resort's energy consumption.
- Hard-wiring sustainability into business functions. Caesars leadership is not shy about inserting CodeGreen into operations and operations into CodeGreen. Caesars newest leadership training, Sustainability Leadership Academy, gives employees involved in CodeGreen the opportunity to develop their leadership potential at Caesars. Another instance of merging sustainability and operations is the CodeGreen Meetings & Events certification training that all meeting and banquet managers are required to complete.
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While Caesars leadership around sustainability provides a clear vision, firm direction, a concrete plan, quantitative goals and strong structure, it also encourages employee grassroots innovation, including by:
- Drawing from employee genius. The Living the Code Employee Community Involvement Big Idea Program evaluates and selects employee community involvement and environmental sustainability ideas. This program resulted in a virtual warehouse for used property furniture, fixtures and equipment through which items are posted online and traded between regions and potentially distributed to nonprofits.
- Allowing for local interpretation of corporate leadership. CodeGreen Teams at each property are charged with implementing a piece of the enterprise-wide strategy each month. However, properties are encouraged to develop local programs important to their community. CodeGreen in New Orleans, for example, focuses on rebuilding the city, while CodeGreen at Harrah’s and Harveys, Lake Tahoe, focuses on preserving the lake.
- Rewarding employee initiative. Through Caesars' CodeGreen at Home program, employees submit home conservation projects to qualify for Total Return credits redeemable for dining, shopping, entertainment and other goods and services. Employees have been rewarded for choosing carpet pad made from recycled tennis shoes, for refinishing old trophies and donating them to a local nonprofit and for many other conscious actions.
Caesars' C-suite-level buy-in and support for employee action toward sustainability appears to result in employees taking CodeGreen seriously. Indeed, the majority of Caesars employees participate in CodeGreen and rate the program as having the highest level of importance and giving them the highest level of pride (ratings of 5 on 1-5 scales in an employee survey).
Caesars' corporate sustainability success appears to be, at least in part, the result of leadership that is both strong and flexible and, therefore, promotes a workplace culture vibrant with environmental stewardship.