On the sustainability front, the global hotel industry has largely taken an evolutionary approach: measured technological, organization and social innovations and gradual improvement of products, processes and strategies to deal with environmental, social and economic challenges. Data on industry emissions [1, 2] suggest that this approach has been largely insufficient in light of required decarbonization. However, a turning point has been reached with a growing number of prominent hospitality players demonstrating commitments, ramping up efforts and fostering greater collaboration across the supply and value chain with climate neutrality as the overriding goal. This is equally about safeguarding the license to operate as it is about seizing product and market opportunities. Beyond net zero, there are calls for the hospitality sector to harness its 'regenerative' potential by supporting communities and restoring ecosystems where it operates - whether that is in remote places or urban centres. We may be experiencing more transformational changes in the way we understand, conduct, manage and market hospitality but the path is filled with roadblocks and obstacles.
From your perspective:
- In your organization, which sustainability goal(s) are you excited about?
- What or who drives the sustainability agenda in your organization?
- What are the predominant roadblocks ahead to succeed in this sustainability transformation?
Radisson Hotel Group has a long history of being a responsible business and has an ambitious and award-winning program. We believe in conducting business ethically in all we do, and aim to be a thriving, sustainable and responsible business for people, the community, and our planet. Our team members live Responsible Business every day–at home and in their local communities where we strive to build and create a better future and a better planet for all.
As a company, we remain committed to our corporate responsibility targets outlined in the 2020 Responsible Business Report, including the reduction of the company's carbon and water footprint by 30% by 2025, aligning with science-based emissions reduction targets, removing single use plastics, and continuing to drive best practices in responsible consumption behavior in line with our three pillars: Think People, Think Community and Think Planet.
We are proud to set the standard for carbon neutral meetings by being the only hotel group that automatically off-sets the carbon footprint for every single meeting and event at our hotels worldwide at no cost to delegates or organizers. Earlier this year, we upped the ante with our Carbon Negative, Planet Positive initiative to make meetings and events at 400+ EMEA hotels carbon negative by offsetting double the CO2 emissions.
One of the main challenges for the hospitality industry is the need for a coordinated, industry-wide definition of hotel sustainability, so all hotels can work within a coherent framework for action which can be easily understood by travelers and stakeholders. The best way to make a strong impact is to work together with all players in a non-competitive way to meet the hotel industry targets for decarbonization outlined in the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance's Decarbonization report.
This begins with providing transparency to travelers and help to increase the demand for green travel. We need to focus collectively on the Net Zero target, and also offer a starting point and a clear pathway for those hotels that are just getting started on their sustainability journey.
We believe that with the assistance of leading associations such as the WTTC, it is possible to advance to Net Zero in a non-competitive way and to achieve sustainability in hotels. This is the reason why Radisson Hotel Group is proud to support the Basic Hotel Sustainability framework. The framework delivers a common starting point for hotel sustainability accessible to all hotel actors worldwide– whether they are part of large international Group or independent hotels.
By providing this common understanding accessible to all hotels and clear to the travelers, we can have a positive impact on our planet and drive real change by stimulating the demand for responsible travel. The full Basic framework is currently under development and will be released in March 2022.
Caring for our people, communities and planet has been at the heart of what we do for many years at IHG Hotels & Resorts; it's how we operate and it's what we're known for.
We know that how we work through the recovery will help shape the world for generations to come, and I'm proud that we're committed to responding in a way that recognises the environmental and social challenges that existed before the pandemic and will persist afterwards.
Last year we launched Journey to Tomorrow, our 10-year action plan of clear commitments to drive change for our people, communities and planet, aligned to the UN's 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Through it, we're working with our hotels to reduce carbon emissions in line with climate science, eliminate single-use items, reduce food waste, and collaborate with local stakeholders to tackle water sustainability issues in areas of greatest risk.
Whilst we're delighted with the reception it has received, including at COP26 in Glasgow in November (in the run-up to which we joined the UN's Race To Zero), it remains clear to me and everyone at IHG that we simply can't act alone as we seek to achieve our aims and support a responsible recovery on a broader scale. Collaboration is key.
It's an ethos that's very much part of our culture at IHG, where our Green employee network – one of our many and diverse voluntary groups that provides members with connections and support – is going from strength to strength, showing the commitment to this agenda among our colleagues. Inspired by them, we're holding discussions with governments around the world to highlight our work and consider how we can support their own sustainability objectives. In the UK, for instance, we're playing a leading role in the development of a more sustainable tourism sector through our leadership of the Tourism Industry Council. I'm proud to say we were the first hotel group to join the UK's Zero Carbon Forum, joining forces with other businesses to create an industry roadmap to reach net zero at pace.
It's vital that the partnerships we form make a genuine difference at an operational level, and I've been delighted with the early success of our relationship with Schneider Electric through which we're offering our hotels a free way to measure, track and report on their utility usage via our IHG Green Engage platform.
We must continue to recognise the challenges our hotels face in the current trading environment, and our open dialogue with the IHG Owners' Association, which represents 4,500 owners and nearly 3,600 operators of IHG properties worldwide, is invaluable. Together, we have established an Environmental Sustainability Committee focused on reducing carbon and energy in hotel operations and we're working together towards key milestones and shared responsibility for common goals.
So, while we continue to blaze a sustainability trail, it's the collaborations we're undertaking, and our collective actions at every level, of which I'm most proud. Together, we're working towards a more sustainable future.
There are two ways to look at Activating Action: The prevalence of 'greenwashing' calls for greater accountability on part of businesses that label themselves sustainable; there is a need for a Transparency call and holding the Enterprise world to be more responsible.
There is an industry consensus that we ALL need to shift towards Walking the Talk, as guests, consumers and multiple stakeholders, are missing crucial information and feasibilities to prove the commitments and goals set by businesses. Sustainability is not just a trend and it is here to stay!
Ways to turn goals into (traceable) actions.
Going beyond sustainable certifications
Joining key action-orientated alliances and sustainability organizations has proven to be more beneficial in some cases rather than simply chasing after certifications, and global endorsements. Through memberships in alliances we all get access to thousands of research resources, and practical, useful information in terms of sustainable development and progress. Such partnerships provide feasible support in truly transforming properties and economies to be sustainable for the long term. In many instances, depending on factors such as location, opportunities from surrounding communities etc, chasing certifications may actually not be the perfect fit for the business.
Commitments, plans and goals must coincide with local needs rather than chase after certifications. What matters is tangible output and impact.
First, businesses need to really rethink and relook Locality! What we implement in our project in Georgia, may not necessarily be exactly alike with the actions we take in Jeddah and vice versa. We all need to address the opportunities, challenges in terms of procurement, availability of supply, conduct feasibilities and further investment options before jumping straight to certifications.
Companies should first focus on truly becoming sustainable throughout all hotel operations – to protect the environment, local biodiversity, and aid in community and economic development. A property that is genuine in their sustainable developments, will naturally gain the global seal of approval over-time through proven successes as true sustainability will be seen!
Taking it a step further – Accountability for Sustainability promises
Today, it is a must to incorporate sustainability as a long-term, strategic goal and business value. It's time to act for impact. A company should not get away with sustainability branding and associations with only having adopted simple measures such as removing single use plastics, planting trees, and basic energy efficient kitchen appliances – innovation and commitment are a staple. Action means showing up and following through with sustainability promises; finding options and solutions to completely divest in fossil fuels, renewable energy solutions, energy storage solutions, locality pushed to the max in all fields; investment in and developing local communities & entrepreneurship, protecting environment & biodiversity, advocating for community & humanitarian issues.
NEED for Transparency – Public Reporting
The truth and proven action behind promises rests on transparency and reporting. True sustainability should always be traceable through documentation of practices, processes and their corresponding impacts/benefits to the environment, communities, stakeholders and to the hotel business itself. This can be produced through yearly, sustainability reports and updates that is accessible to the widespread public. Sustainability reports that are containing promises, practices, developments, impact on all stakeholders (environmental, social, community), carbon footprint, protected environment & biodiversity updates, future planned developments, and especially how the public can become involved.
For reliable access to sustainable practices, hotels can really invest in digital and social platforms to have a widespread, constant outreach and knowledge exchange.
This now ties into a business development for the hotel, in investing and truly transforming and influencing user experience on their own websites. Hotel websites should be the go-to-place for everything sustainability, business & leisure related. Guests should not only be encouraged to book directly – (which lessens dependency on OTA's $$$) - but should use the website as a portal to find everything of importance.
Governance principles & guidelines, ethical and operational policies, operational flows, sustainability standards, sustainability plans & developments, community engagement, KPI's with results, environmental impact (carbon footprint), climate change mitigation plans, areas & plans for sustainable improvement and development – just to name some of the basic reporting hotels can be providing to the public through their website.
There will always be another best practice since research is endless. The key for hotels is to stay adaptive, flexible, willing to make a change. Hotels should really take the initiative to engage publicly, to show their efforts and willingness to transform into a sustainable industry, and economy. We are ready to commit, are you?
The hospitality is facing some major daunting tasks in the coming years, can we bring back enough staff to run the hotels, can we financially get performance ramped back up to pay for Capex and backlog and can we answer the sustainability question.
Before answering the 3 questions, I believe it shouldn't be about sustainability alone, but rather ESG. Environmental and social is the key, ticking boxes is not enough or sustained.
1. In your organization, which sustainability goal(s) are you excited about?
citizenM has since 4 years a ESG officer reporting directly to the CEO. The company effort was quite impressive before the hire, yet no score keeping was taking place. So we didn't know how we stacked up against the industry, had a good measure ourselves and definitely not enough collective and joint focus. Sadly there is no good measure available in our industry, so we resorted to using "GRESB" (https://gresb.com/gresb-real-estate-assessment/) from the real estate industry and started our tracking.
Now more than 4 years into it, the entire company knows where we stand, where our focus sits and how everyone individually and with their departments are meant to contribute.
The overall impact is huge and in all areas of the organisation and have we all learned and are proud of our accomplishments.
To be honest our institutional investors and banks required us to do a better job and we have taken it collectively to heart.
2. What or who drives the sustainability agenda in your organization?
The agenda is mostly set by the overall ESG targets and detailed contributions throughout the organisation. Our ESG officer obviously advices, but it has become an involved and collective interest and goals setting.
Actually this is the only way that the backlog has changed by a quantum leap.
3. What are the predominant roadblocks ahead to succeed in this sustainability transformation?
Well we have done all the low hanging fruit and relatively low investment aspects. Next the budgets will need to increase as well and this will largely deal also with our recovery from the covid pandemic and recovery. We are dedicated and will not slip or give up to progress, speed is the only real question.
My advice to organisations that need to start with ESG, turn to the Sustainability Hospitality Alliance (https://sustainablehospitalityalliance.org/) and be guided. Don't take it lightly and join it with your targets and KPI's.
The drive for sustainability is no longer a mere part of corporate social responsibility. Sustainability has become a business imperative and innovation opportunity, now more than ever, with heightened awareness through the pandemic. Businesses must make intentional investment in solutions that will create long term value and social impact.
As a key player of the hospitality industry, Pan Pacific Hotels Group has led in the area of sustainability, aligned with UN Sustainability Goals in five main areas: biophilic design, reduce, recycle, green design and food management. This is fuelled by a strong drive through our parent company, UOL Group Limited.
We are proud to have our PARKROYAL COLLECTION hotels as game changers in the industry. Since the opening of PARKROYAL COLLECTION Pickering in 2013 and the most recent addition of PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay, we have adopted radical change opportunities including innovative building design such as reducing greenhouse gas emissions through biophilic design. The hotels incorporated 15,000 square metres of vertical gardens and 2,400 trees forming a “garden-in-a-hotel” respectively. Beyond these, the hotels leveraged alternative energy sources with the installation of solar panels, and use of low emissivity glazed glass, incorporating natural air and lighting. These contribute effectively to reduction of energy usage thereby having strong positive effects on decarbonisation.
In addition, our company plays a part in driving a "domino decarbonisation effect" through downstream and upstream supply chains management, ranging from use of electric vehicles, purchasing from sustainable sources to responsible waste management. The hotels feature urban farms, which supplies up to 20% of the ingredients used in restaurants and bars.
The drive for sustainability is not without a cost, which could be a barrier for owners and partners alike. These efforts must be considered with a long-term view in return of investments for businesses. The journey on educating our consumers in sustainability could be challenging.
Entrenched travel habits and mindsets must evolve to embrace a sustainable lifestyle. In this aspect, the new generation of travellers have shown themselves to be more open minded, with a willingness to, and even demand for responsible travel.
In your organization, which sustainability goal(s) are you excited about?
Remington along with our ownership groups have ongoing conversations about opportunities we have across our portfolio. Just the fact that we are having conversations and there is interest by owners is exciting. Now that we are starting to see a return to full operations in our properties there is renewed emphasis on taking into account how we can minimize impact on our environment vs. going back to the way we have always done business.
What or who drives the sustainability agenda in your organization?
Earlier this year our CEO Sloan Dean launched an exploratory committee to evaluate ESG Initiatives. We began with gathering the best practices and actions already in place by our brands as well as peers and evaluate not just where we could implement changes, but also how we could thrive and lead the industry among our management companies.
We have identified a number of areas where we can make an impact short and mid-term as we continue to evaluate how we can meet or exceed the long term ESG goals.
What are the predominant roadblocks ahead to succeed in this sustainability transformation?
Climate change is certainly the largest roadblock as it often requires government regulations, investment in capital as well as change in human behavior. At Remington we have focused on a number of initiatives to reduce waste and improve recycling practices wherever possible. As an example, here is a list of some of the initiatives we have already implemented since the beginning of the year.
- Cold water wash program, Low flow sink & shower heads to reduce water consumption
- Linen-less banquet tables to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all [UN SDG 7]
- LED lighting conversion to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts [UN SDG 13]
- Installing bulk bath amenities dispensers and creating QR codes, getting rid of menus, in-room compendiums
We have always believed that sustainability has to begin locally; you have to give your team in the hotel the power to act and to act in the best interests of its community. Only the people in that community know where you can source the best local products and find the best local suppliers.
At Magnuson Hotels we have never focused our business on the long-haul market, but looked more locally, for that business which is sustainable in every sense of the word. We have many repeat guests who stay for essential travel trips, or when they're visiting friends and family and come because they are assured of a warm welcome which has only a positive impact on the community and planet around them.