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Mitchell Parker: The Parker Company

As one the industry’s major procurement firms, Mitchell Parker a partner at Miami, FL-based Parker Company, continually has numerous high-end hospitality projects on his plate. However, few of them are being deemed ‘green,’ a fact he attributes to lack of demand and product.

“After the big initial push for sustainability two years ago, things seem to have waned a little in my opinion. Green has become more sizzle than substance,” Parker said. “We’re really not seeing significant pressure for sustainable hotels from our clients…and that’s kind of scary considering we do a lot of projects.”

As a purchasing agent, Parker noted his place on the green continuum is seeking out sustainable furniture, fixtures and equipment, a task that comes with a significant set of challenges. “Our biggest contribution is the role of finding competitive green products and then educating the client about the differences. But there is not enough comparable green products in the market,” he said.

And comparing the products themselves is no easy task, particularly in the high-end segments where the majority of furnishings and fixtures are custom. “Among owners there is still the assumption that green costs more, but compared to what? That is our big question. It’s very hard in the luxury market where there is so much custom product required—there’s no base for comparisons because there are so many different factors to consider,” Parker said. Further complicating the matter is the simple fact that when it comes to value engineering a hotel project, very often the FF&E is first on the chopping block. “After the huge expense of design and construction, FF&E is the last money spent,” he noted.

Parker commented sustainability is not being ignored in the industry, but presently, making it a reality is easier said than done. “There are good intentions. Most people care about the environment and say they would like to use green products. But do they actually use them? It’s the same as wanting to buy only U.S. manufactured products,” he said. “The problem is, if you want green products is the capacity there? Who’s going to make them? When clients are making their budgets, I doubt many of them are factoring in green products.”

Right now, Parker stressed the downturn in the market is also causing one of the major road blocks for the sustainability movement. “Green really has to take a back seat to the credit crisis. Yes, the major hotel companies and manufacturers have launched green initiatives, but the economy is at the forefront right now,” he said. “It’s a tough sell when everyone is looking for business wherever they can get it.”

While Parker noted legislation may eventually be what causes sustainable hotels to become more widespread, even that is going to be a very difficult obstacle. “Historically, yes, legislation is what it will take…but think how complicated that will be [when it comes to sustainable product]. There are no guidelines as to what labels a product ‘green’ and if there are, who’s going to monitor that? I think government pressure is pretty far away. In the near future I think sustainability is going to have more of a marketing and awareness pressure that our clients will recognize as an opportunity,” he said.

—Lauren Esposito