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Sustainable and responsible tourism or not? [Part 2]

Small or large, all hotel groups are now invested in ESG issues. With less spending, more respect for the planet and also a response to consumer expectations, many of them have shared their objectives for a more responsible hospitality sector in 2022. Individual travellers expect concrete actions. At the same time, travel managers for leisure and corporate groups are now setting their expectations on CSR issues in response to the demands of their end customers. A virtuous chain is being set up 7 years after the signing of the Paris agreements (COP 21) in December 2015.

All the world's heavyweights have developed strategies to achieve the goal of zero carbon emissions by 2050. The tools exist but the sustainable development sector still lacks structure, leading to a test and learn approach for most accommodation professionals, including those who have been committed to a responsible approach for many years. The line between actions with a real impact and greenwashing is indeed tenuous and operators wish to set up robust, sustainable models that are consistent with the priorities of preserving ecosystems, the planet and the well-being of employees.

Operators developing sustainable business model

The hotel chain Scandic announced in early 2022 that it will build its first planet-neutral hotel, which is to open in Sundvall in 2024. Scandic Sundsvall Central will offer 210 rooms near the city's harbour. The construction will be made of sustainable wood and will be LEED Gold certified. The property will be powered by hydroelectricity and solar panels. A project that can only come about through close cooperation between the municipality, the owner, the contractors and the future operator. This future unit is a clear example of the changes taking place in the greenfield sector, where European regulations are now more stringent.

In 2018, the world's number 2 Hilton launched its Travel with Purpose programme setting targets related to respect for the environment by 2030. Four years later, the company is updating its programme with strengthened targets and the inclusion of targets related to corporate social responsibility.

“I’m extremely proud of the fact that we were the first in our industry to set science-based targets back in 2018. One of the key requirements with these targets is that we review and recommit to this goal every five years.

Since then, climate science and our understanding of our changing environment has evolved considerably. That’s why we’ve made the decision now to raise the bar on our ambition and evolve our carbon intensity reduction target from a 2°C to 1.5°C warming scenario by 2030. This half a degree difference increases our commitment for cutting emissions intensity from 61% to 75% across Hilton-managed hotels.

We know that addressing climate change will not happen overnight and through our work alone, but we recognize the need for urgency. By working across the entire Hilton organization and engaging our stakeholders with rigor and discipline, we can do our part to pave the way toward a net-zero future, while also driving sustainable business operations and cost savings for our owners.” Declared Kristin Campbell Chief ESG Officer for Hilton

The company recently opened a carbon-neutral property in the US, but does not aim to be carbon neutral by 2030. It provides its hoteliers with tools to manage and reduce their energy use, including the LightStay platform, and promotes property initiatives to help local communities.

The American company has also approached the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) to refine its carbon emission targets.

Through its Green programme, Wyndham Hotel & Resorts is helping its franchisees to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and improve their impact on their ecosystems. The American company aims to have only properties in its network that reach level 1 of the Wyndham Green programme by April 2023. The group is also developing numerous actions linked to the inclusion of all employee profiles.

Europe's leading hotel group, Accor, has been implementing actions in favour of sustainable tourism since the early 2000s. With the arrival of Brune Poirson on the Executive Committee as Chief Sustainable Officer, the group is deploying a new strategy based on the People, Stay and Explore pillars with the aim of addressing the entire value chain of the tourism supply, as Brune Poirson explained in an interview with Hospitality ON.

In April, Radisson Hotel Group shared its progress on improving the impact of its activities on the planet and its ecosystems. Think Planet, Think People and Think Community are the three pillars of the group's strategy deployed through numerous actions as a founding member of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance.

“I am delighted to announce that Radisson Hotel Group is setting emission reduction targets in line with climate science, and we are committed to decarbonizing our business. While net zero by 2050 seems far away, we need to take action immediately. Our world needs Responsible Businesses now more than ever, and we need to accelerate global climate action by 2030 in order to ensure a livable future for both our people and our planet. Much needed progress can be made by taking everyone in the hospitality value chain on the sustainability journey by setting increasingly ambitious sustainability goals. We are proud to be playing a leadership role in the development of the Hotel Sustainability Basics, which will launch later this year to establish a common industry framework to grow sustainable travel. Together with our new Build Planet guidelines to develop sustainable hotel asset portfolios, these are essential step-changes that need to be made on the route to Net Zero,” said Inge Huijbrechts, Global Senior Vice President Sustainability, Security and Corporate Communications, Radisson Hotel Group.

The German TUI announced at the end of August 2022 that it had submitted its greenhouse gas reduction targets to a scientific committee for validation. The Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) must give its opinion on the commitments made by the group between now and 2030 and their alignment with the Paris Agreements. The German giant has developed its strategy in particular for its airline, cruise and hotel activities, which represent 99% of the group's greenhouse gas emissions.

Sebastian Ebel, the Group's future CEO explains:

“Our focus on emissions is clear: We are committed to avoiding and reducing emissions rather than offsetting them. Our airlines are already among the most carbon-efficient in the world. We have continuously invested in new aircraft and today fly a very modern and carbon-efficient fleet by German, European and international standards. Our cruise ships use the latest technologies to reduce emissions. We are operating solar power systems in some of our hotels. What is clear, is that we want to and we will speed up and do more. I am convinced that sustainable transformation is not a cost factor, but that sustainability pays off – for society, for the environment and for business. We will also motivate our partners and provide more incentives to invest in sustainability, for example in the construction and conversion of hotels, transfers at holiday destinations, for the development of excursions or the purchase of food from local producers,”

Through the World of Care platform, Hyatt is centralising its initiatives for the planet and its people. Caring for the Planet, Caring for People and Caring for Responsible Business are the three axes developed by the group. The American group has also submitted its carbon reduction targets to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), which have been approved.

Margaret Egan, executive vice president and general counsel, Hyatt said:

“By intently focusing on driving progress against key ESG commitments like our environmental framework and Change Starts Here goals, we are holding ourselves accountable for continued action and progress in order to create the needed changes for our industry, society and planet.”

Riu Hotels & Resorts has built and converted all 27 of its properties in Spain and announced in early August that all of them will be powered by 100% renewable electricity. The hotel group has teamed up with energy supplier Iberdrola and plans to extend this partnership outside Spain.

Also in Spain, Meliá is equipping a large number of its properties with electric charging stations for vehicles. The first phase of the partnership will see 50 properties in Spain equipped with 100 charging stations.

Across the Atlantic, Wyndham Destinations aims to double its solar energy supply capacity by 2023. 19 of its resorts are already equipped with solar panels.

The recent arrival of the Selina Group in Costa Rica marked a commitment to integrating the group's properties in a destination where ecotourism is a fundamental part of the tourism operation. Thus, in the 10 properties of the group, several objectives have been defined.

Zero carbon emissions for the properties, with the aim of making them pilot hotels for the group's other locations. Maximisation of a circular approach in the construction or renovation of spaces and waste management on the operational side.

The Selina Gives Back Hospitality Program is designed to provide free training to underprivileged residents where the group's hotels are located. 87% of the people who completed the scheme in 2021 went on to further training in the sector according to the group's annual report.

“Selina has implemented a number of diverse initiatives related to ESG matters over the last eight years, and in 2021 we took it a step further, consolidating these efforts under a single vision that can be evolved over time. In launching our formal ESG program and releasing our inaugural report, we are holding ourselves accountable to the standards we are setting to maximize our social impact, minimize our environmental footprint and operate with high standards of corporate governance.”  Says Maya Federman ESG Director for Selina.

At Iberostar, which has many resorts in coastal areas, the preservation of marine ecosystems was a central part of its CSR commitments. In addition to this, the company added diversity and inclusion issues in the summer of 2022.

Sustainable development is no longer an option and even less a differentiating factor in 2022. In light of consumer expectations, hoteliers are demonstrating a willingness to "do their part" to fight climate change and maximise their positive impact on the ecosystems in which they operate.

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