06/15/2012 12:20 pm ET Updated Aug 15, 2012

Gambling, Entertainment... Sustainability?

Sustainability provides a natural brand link in some categories. Organics are perceived as a step up in food and body care, high efficiency is an increasingly easy sell in automotive.

But casinos? It's hard to see how a happy planet could build the brand of the gambling, entertainment, and nightclub industry.

According to Gwen Migita, VP of Sustainability and Community Affairs at Caesars, the times are changing.

I was introduced to Migita through the Sustainable Brands conference, where she spoke this year. Her message is that sustainability and conscious consumption are more than an efficiency measure at Caesars: they help forge stronger ties with staff and visitors. In essence, they help strengthen the brand.


CodeGreen is a showcase Caesars sustainability initiative. Although driven primarily by employees at a grassroots level, its success has led to it being integrated at every level of the organization.

As part of CodeGreen, employees focus on implementing a piece of the company sustainability strategy every month. Powering down redundant computers, bottling water onsite, recycling soap, even planting a garden that provides the employee dining rooms with fresh produce - these ideas were all generated by CodeGreen teams. And while implementing one piece of the sustainability strategy is required, many go beyond and activate several monthly.

CodeGreen creates a better employee experience -- something often overlooked in the hospitality and casino culture.

It also provides a unique, values-based connection with guests. One property devoted part of its lobby and bus terminal to the CodeGreen brand, enabling employees to reach out to guests on more than a 'service' level. Guest satisfaction and preference rose at that property.

The Importance Of Social Responsibility

CodeGreen's success lies in its grassroots approach. For organizations that too often appear faceless, a human -- and humane -- connection are a breath of fresh air.

The importance of this new focus on people was borne out by research conducted by Brandlogic, another participant at this year's Sustainable Brands.

The study, rating the sustainability/brand alignment of 100 global corporations was interesting in and of itself.

But a small note at the end of the piece underlined the importance of putting people first in corporate responsibility. It stated that the publics involved in the Brandlogic study -- investment professionals, supply chain professionals and graduating university students -- judged companies first by their social responsibility (50 percent of the weight), then environmental (25 percent) and governance (25 percent). In simple English, they believed the ability of a corporation to treat people well was twice as persuasive as its ability to operate in an environmentally sensitive manner, or be equitable in the boardroom.

Lay this research over Caesars' CodeGreen, and the importance of giving corporate responsibility a human face and grassroots focus becomes crystal clear.

Surprisingly Unsurprising

That both employees and visitors want to connect with a large hotel/casino property on a deeper level seems both refreshing and obvious. As the Caesars example shows, enabling this connection pays off.

Caesars also provides a clear case of using sustainability to enhance the brand's 'halo.' CodeGreen is not the sole reason employees work for Caesars, nor is it the primary reason people visit. But it provides a stronger reason to believe in and show preference for the brand.

If there's a lesson in here for innovators, it would be that both socially responsible and sustainability-driven initiatives very much enhance the corporate experience.

Even in Vegas.