Club Owners Value Green but Doubt Its Business Benefits


BOSTON — A majority of club operators say that they think positively about implementing environmentally friendly practices in their businesses, but a majority does not think that doing so will lead to more members or more profits, according to a recent survey by the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA).

More than 70 percent of 130 IHRSA-member health club operators surveyed said that they had a strongly positive perspective about implementing green practices. Green practices were a moderate priority for 54.7 percent and a high priority at 33.1 percent. Sixty-five percent said sustainability practices would set them apart from competitors.

However, only 35 percent said that green practices would increase membership, 38.8 percent said it would increase membership retention and 48.9 percent said it would increase club profits.

“Across all industries, green is down and on the back burner,” says Will Phillips, CEO of Rex Roundtables and founder of “It never really got on the front burner for clubs.”

Unfortunately, he adds, the club industry tends to follow rather than lead in the area of green, so even though it is considered cool to be green, most in the industry do not consider it to be exciting.

Phillips says that the club industry has two groups driving what green movement there is in the business. The first are owners who have a green value set, and the second are owners who want to save money. Phillips says that going green may mean an initial upfront investment, but the efforts will pay off with lower costs in the long run. Some of the efforts even save thousands of dollars each month.

Green business practices include improvements as small as recycling and cleaning with non-toxic products, to larger construction projects using building materials with low volatile organic compounds, using post-consumer recycled materials, i.e. rubber flooring, and installing Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems in clubs.

Despite Phillips' dire assessment of the green efforts in the industry, Jay Ablondi, IHRSA executive vice president of global products, says that going green is a hot topic in business, and interest and awareness from the club industry are growing.

“Club operators are increasingly paying attention to member concerns regarding environmental issues, exploring green business opportunities and implementing appropriate programs: both formal and informal,” Ablondi says.

Bruce Buckbee, managing partner of Leisure Green LLC, who collaborated with IHRSA on the survey, says, “The world's increasing need and focus on environmentalism presents health club owners and operators with the opportunity to improve the health of the environment as well as that of their members. Going green can have a positive impact on a club's image, establish them as leaders in their communities, positively impact its recruitment and retention of members and employees, and improve its bottom line.”

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