Going Big Is Where Innovation Happens: Catherine Greener, Xanterra Resorts

(Photo Credit: Mark Goh)

by | May 21, 2018

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When setting energy or environmental management goals, companies may gain by being aggressive. At the Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference last week, goal-setting was a topic that was raised several times. “Going big is when innovation happens,” said Catherine Greener, VP of sustainability with Xanterra Resorts, for example.

While aggressive goals may not always be met, they force you to think in new ways, she said. Still, be aware that while aggressive sustainability goals can lead to innovation, business goes on as usual. Xanterra started off as concessioners of the country’s national parks, but “then our CEO wanted to go into cruise ships. We got diesel engines, railroads…obviously we didn’t meet our CO2 goals,” Greener explains. “You have to be aware that goals might not always be met, because business happens.”

When it comes to CO2 reductions, Xanterra has already plucked the low-hanging fruit that’s easiest to harvest – in other words, made the obvious, simpler changes that lead to big reductions – but Greener has still set an ambitious goal of reducing emissions by another 50% in the next decade. “The CFO looks at me in a stern, CFO-way, and asks me how on earth we are going to meet a fifty percent reduction in ten years. And I said, ‘We are going to do it with technology that hasn’t been invented yet.’ And he goes, ‘H’m. Okay.’” 

And speaking of low-hanging fruit, consider taking the metaphor further when it comes to energy and sustainability management. “I like to think of it as apples, carrots and coconuts,” Greener explains. “Apples are the low-hanging fruit. Carrots are cheap and easy; they don’t have a lot of payoff but they’re still worth doing because of incremental improvements. Coconuts are the really tough nuts to crack but worth it because the good stuff is on the inside. So we’ve got the apples, now it’s time to go for the carrots and the coconuts.”


More about Xanterra’s energy management initiatives:



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