June 18, 2021

Stay responsible

The pandemic has reaffirmed the commitment by the accommodation sector to cut its environmental footprint

Renewable energy, such as solar panels and more fuel-efficient waste and water systems, is the big push for accommodation. In their efforts to be more sustainable, hotels have also been busy watching food miles, installing green roofs, ventilation and air conditioning systems (HVACs), LED lighting and heating, recycling soap and promoting carbon-neutral meetings.

As 24/7 operations, hotels soak up many resources but many have deep-rooted programmes that run through employees, stakeholders, owners and contractors. Typically, global players have much-publicised schemes – Wyndham Green, IHG Green Engage and Radisson Think Planet. NH Hotels is regarded a trailblazer.

But Martin Biermann, CPO of hotel portal HRS, advises not to connect size with sustainability success as the bigger the player the more complex their business models, particularly franchise groups, and it can be harder to apply uniform practices.

“There’s no correlation between hotel size, their scope and carbon emissions but overall newer hotels are more carbon efficient.”

One caveat is that small vendors lack the resources to launch a robust sustainability programme. Biermann believes there will be a “post pandemic calibration to re-shape carbon deduction programmes”. Specifically, independent hotels are generally struggling now, just as they were before in refurbishing their properties more sustainably, he adds.

Hilton typifies the global players. In 2018 it launched Travel with Purpose 2030 Goals in to cut its environmental footprint by 50% and double investment in social impact across all 6,400 hotels and this goal remains unchanged.

“If anything, the past year has reaffirmed our commitment to our 2030 goals both from an environmental and social point of view,” says Kate Mikesell, VP Corporate Responsibility.

“There’s no correlation between hotel size, their scope and carbon emissions but overall newer hotels are more carbon efficient”

She believes sustainability can reduce costs and drive long-term business value and profitability, crucial in the current financial pressures. Hilton rose to the challenge of new Covid measures, eliminating unnecessary disposable items in operating procedures.

“New initiatives, such as Hilton EventReady with CleanStay Meeting and Event programme, have been developed with sustainability in mind,” Mikesell explains. “Through our LightStay Meeting Impact Calculator tool our customers can also request an estimate from our sales team of the carbon footprint of their event, giving them the opportunity to offset and reduce their footprint and helping to further limit the impact,” adds Mikesell.

“There may not be many positives from this pandemic, but there has undoubtedly been an increase in understanding of the importance of sustainability and supporting our communities,” she says.

Mikesell believes that as travel resumes, travellers will be more conscious than ever of their impact. Together with Accor, the Expedia Group has joined forces to expand UNESCO sustainability pledge into 96 countries, while hotel portal, HRS is also playing its part with its Green Stay Initiative, which identifies, compares and prioritises hotels that contribute to reducing the ecological footprint of the lodging portion of a typical business trip.

Bookers can look out for the Green Stay label and choose efficiency classes A, B, C or D and cross reference that with accommodation ratings and reviews.