Some of the biggest operators in the hotel sector are getting serious about sustainability, not only because it can save serious money, but because it’s proving a magnet for green-minded guests.
This year has been declared International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the United Nations. The UN’s World Tourism Organization estimates that tourism is responsible for about five per cent of global CO2 emissions, with accommodation accounting for 20 per cent of those emissions due to requirements for heating, lighting, airconditioning, and the operation of bars, restaurants and pools.
Some companies in the sector are already ahead in the game, including Accor, Marriot and Intercontinental.
Accor’s Planet 21 approach
Since 2011, AccorHotels globally has had a strategy in place called Planet 21, which focuses on corporate social responsibility across people and planet.
One of its goals is to achieve carbon neutral buildings.
In 2016 the group cut energy consumption by 2.4 per cent and carbon emissions by three per cent – even though demand for airconditioning and heating increased by four per cent due to adverse global weather conditions.
In Australia, its hotels – which include Sofitel, Grand Mercure, Novotel, Mercure and ibis – have been embracing solar, with more than two megawatts of solar installed on hotels around the country during 2016.
It is also about to open a new hotel, Sofitel Darling Harbour, at the new International Convention Centre precinct in October this year. As well as being located in the 4 Star Green Star – Communities rated precinct, the hotel development is targeting a 6 Star Green Star Design & As Built rating.
The group undertook research with customers last year, and found that guests were looking for sustainable hotels. Key areas they see as important in their own lives that are reflected in the group’s own strategies are better management of waste, reducing energy consumption and an appetite for local, “wholesome” products.
The group has placed an emphasis on local food production, with a target of 1000 edible gardens worldwide by 2020. Already some of the Australian properties have established garden-to-plate operations. The Sebel Kirkton Park Hunter Valley, for example, is sourcing up to 30 per cent of the menu from its 70 acres of grounds, which include a vegetable garden and cattle and pigs managed by a local farmer.
It has also cut food waste by more than 30 per cent across all its Australian hotels.
According to its 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report, low carbon transport is also on the menu, with nine of the group’s hotels in Australia now having electric vehicle charge points installed, and more expected.
Other initiatives include the use of eco-labelled cleaning products, working with suppliers to drive ethical and eco procurement, and a strong focus on workplace wellbeing and diversity.
Global giant Marriot Group, which operates brands including Sheraton Hotels, is also on the journey.
It has committed to working towards 17 of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and put a number of strategies in place across both properties and people. Earlier this year it was named one of the world’s most ethical companies by the Ethisphere Institute.
By 2015 it had 142 buildings either registered for LEED Certification or already certified. More than 275 electric vehicle charging stations have been installed, including one at the Melbourne Marriot.
The company participated in 2016 CDP reporting, achieving a Band C Performance grade.
It has a goal of reducing energy use across its portfolio by 20 per cent by 2020. In its 2016 Sustainability Report, it showed a three per cent reduction in energy use over the past 12 months across its Asia-Pacific properties, including Australia.
Many of its hotels report on carbon footprint, energy consumption, water usage and waste generation for both room bookings and event bookings through the Carbon Accounting Company’s Green Hotels Global tool and environmental performance database.
Information on the performance of properties is made available free of charge to corporate travel organisers and events planners.
It is information they are increasingly seeking. For example, the Global Business Travel Association now has a standardised request for proposal that includes metrics such as carbon footprint, water usage per room and sustainability features such as bike racks and the use of eco cleaning practices.
But very few get NABERS ratings
For all the focus hospitality operators are placing on reducing energy use as part of their CSR strategy, there are currently only five published NABERS ratings for hotels in Australia.
They are Crowne Plaza Canberra, the Duxton Hotel in Perth, Amora Hotel in Sydney, Quality Hotel Downtowner on Lygon in Melbourne and Accor’s Novotel Sydney Central.
Intercontinental gets it too
Crowne Plaza is operated by InterContinental Hotels Group, which also operates hotels under its own brand name in Australia.
IHG has its own toolkit, Green Engage, which it is rolling out across all its brands.
These set greenhouse gas reduction and water use reduction targets. Overall, the group aims to reduce the carbon footprint of each occupied room by 12 per cent by 2017 from the 2013 baseline.
To date, it estimates hotels using the toolkit have saved the group close to $85 million.
Mulpha-owned InterContinental Sydney won the Green Hotelier Award for Asia Pacific in 2016.
Using the Green Engage program, it undertook a suite of sustainability upgrades that have resulted in savings of $500,000 a year on energy and $150,000 on water. In volume terms, energy use was cut by almost 50 per cent, and gas and water by about 30 per cent.
Sub-meters were installed to monitor energy and water use, and waste audits undertaken.
A Building Management System has been put in place, two high efficiency chillers installed along with variable speed drives, a total LED retrofit undertaken, and voltage stabilisation and power factor correction technology put in place.
The push and the pull of it all
The big driver for the sector is not so much the individual green traveller.
“Corporate clients are definitely influencers, because they’re having to report their own emissions and carbon footprint and demand the information from hotels; but it is investors and markets that are the strongest drivers,” Siobhan O’Neill, editor of Green Hotelier, a program of the International Tourism Partnership, told The Hotel Conversation.