Title: Director of Sustainability & Community Engagement
Organization: Caesars Entertainment Corp. (formerly Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc.)
Years with Caesars Entertainment (& Harrah’s): Seven years
Years with current title: Less than one
Primary responsibilities: “Overseeing sustainability strategy and programs for Caesars Entertainment. I focus on social responsibility, corporate philanthropy and employee voluntourism policies.”
Organization’s most significant environment-related accomplishment so far: “Since 2003, we have invested more than $60 million on more than 100 projects. This investment has resulted in $20 million in savings each year. We are saving enough energy to run three mega-resorts annually.”
Organization’s most significant environment-related challenge: “Making sure we are at a leadership level in the gaming industry.”
LAS VEGAS—In a hospital, “code red” or “code blue” indicates a heart-related emergency. In naming its sustainability program “Code Green” four years ago, Caesars Entertainment recognizes there is a sense of urgency and a strong business case for reducing its environmental impact. The “doctor” caring for Code Green is Gwen Migita, a Hawaii native and currently director of Sustainability & Community Engagement.
Migita works with Code Green leaders at both the property and corporate level to assist them with meeting the company’s aggressive environment-related goals. Leaders at the property level are required to report monthly metrics that are inputted into a scorecard. “The scoreboard is a dashboard where we pull up monthly or quarterly numbers—utility costs, recycling program results, and employee engagement activities around Code Green,” Migita says.
Earlier this year, Caesars Entertainment announced its U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) approved commitment to reduce its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and carbon inventory by 10 percent from 2007 to 2013.
“During the past seven years, our environmental stewardship has evolved into a momentous sustainability effort including more than 110 energy reduction and conservation programs implemented daily by our dedicated employees in our 39 domestic casino resorts,” said Gary Loveman, chairman, CEO and president of Caesars Entertainment, in a press release announcing the GHG reduction goal.
Focus on Reducing Electricity Consumption
Migita says Caesars Entertainment’s current energy reduction efforts are focused on reducing electricity consumption. Throughout all properties, millions of light bulbs have been replaced with energy efficient lighting, saving more than 50 million kilowatt hours each year. A steam turbine in Atlantic City Showboat generates electricity as a by-product of the normal steam production at the resort. Use of the steam turbine produces an annual savings of 2,283,041 kWh and avoided emissions of more than 1,077,685 pounds of carbon dioxide and other gases.
At the Harrah’s Rincon Casino & Resort in Valley Center, Calif., a 1 megawatt solar plant provides enough power to run approximately 90 percent of the resort’s heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems. The plant reduces grid consumption, curtailing enough energy to power about 2,200 homes. The 3,936-panel solar field produces enough energy to offset almost a quarter of the casino’s total power consumption.
With so many properties in Las Vegas—Harrah’s, Caesars Palace, and Paris Las Vegas are just a few examples—water conservation is also a priority for Caesars Entertainment. A recently redesigned North Las Vegas laundry facility that supports eight resorts has reduced its water consumption by 30 percent even after expanding its capacity by 40 percent. Migita says low-flow fixtures at resort properties have also contributed to water savings. According to Caesars Entertainment’s 2009-2010 Environmental Sustainability and Community Engagement Report, the company’s water consumption was down by 3 percent between 2008 and 2009. (Caesars Entertainment’s next sustainability report will be issued later this year.)
EPA WasteWise Member
From a waste management perspective, Migita highlighted the fact that Caesars Entertainment is the only national gaming company to be an EPA WasteWise member. Last year two of Caesars’ Las Vegas properties won EPA WasteWise gold achievement awards for waste-cutting efforts that include recycling 75 tons of paper, 18 tons of plastic and nearly 13 tons of glass. The company as a whole has almost doubled the recycling of yellow grease from 340,000 gallons to 640,000 gallons.
New filtration and bottling systems at Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas produce premium mineral water on-site. Packaged and served in reusable glass bottles, and sold as an environmentally friendly alternative, the mineral water has greatly reduced the volume of glass water bottles that go to recycling. Served in eight Bally’s and Paris Las Vegas restaurants and another 20 Caesars restaurants across the United States, the water now outsells premium brands. An additional benefit is reduced shipping, which has cut carbon emissions by an estimated 25,000 pounds a week.
Caesars Entertainment is using its commitment to sustainability to help bring in new business. The company has its own green meetings certification program for employees. They can become certified by attending a one-day course on green meeting planning strategies and initiatives and completing a comprehensive sustainability exam, which they must score 100 percent on to obtain the certification. There are 12 employees in Atlantic City and more than 200 employees in Nevada who have received the certification. They are working with companies to plan events with minimal environment impact and waste.
Guest Education a Priority
Migita says Caesars Entertainment is also working to educate its guests about its sustainability efforts through in-room videos and front-of-the-house branding. Recycling containers, for example, include the “Code Green” logo. “On customer satisfaction feedback surveys, there are several questions around Code Green,” she adds.
From a green building perspective, Migita says Caesars Entertainment will consider LEED certification for all new-builds. Recently, Caesars Entertainment’s Octavius Convention Center expansion project was awarded LEED Silver certification by the U.S. Green Building Council and Green Building Certification Institute for its green design.
Just as overseeing Caesars Entertainment’s environmental programs is a part of her role, so too is handling the policies and strategies surrounding community involvement and working with nonprofit partners. In 2009, Caesars Entertainment employees spent more than 100,000 hours volunteering in their communities. The company also makes financial investments in its communities. In 2009 combined corporate and foundation giving totaled more than $67 million.
Being born in Hawaii and having lived in Guam, Migita says she has always had an appreciation for the environment.
“In Hawaii, you are part of the island,” she says. “From there grew my interest.”