When hotels talk about reducing emissions there is a lot of talk of Scope 1,2 and 3 and how to manage each one. Here we look at what it all means.

When hotels talk about reducing emissions there is a lot of talk of Scope 1,2 and 3 and how to manage each one. Here we look at what it all means.

What are Scopes?: The Paris Agreement has a main objective to stop global temperatures rising above 1.5 degrees celsius and this means keeping Green House Gas (GHG) emissions down. Scopes are a way of categorising the types of emissions – a way of looking at a company and where the emissions are coming from so that they can be measured and reported and assessed for progress on reducing those emissions. The word Scope was used in the 2001 Green House Gas Protocol and now “scopes” are part of mandatory reporting in the UK, as well as part of the SBTi remit. Green House Gas Protocol puts it like this: “Developing a full [greenhouse gas] emissions inventory – incorporating Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 emissions – enables companies to understand their full value chain emissions and focus their efforts on the greatest reduction opportunities”.

What is Scope 1?: Scope 1 emissions are often grouped with Scope 2 but they are not one and the same. Scope 1 emissions are all about direct GHG emissions produced when running things like cars, boilers, heating etc. For hotels this is quite easy to measure.

What is Scope 2?: Scope 2 emissions are the ones a hotel might create indirectly. So when heating or cooling the rooms the energy is being created by an energy company and emissions are produced in that creation. 

What is Scope 3?: These are the emissions further down the supply chain. So for a hotel Scope 3 emissions might be those of the farmer who produces the food for the hotel restaurant, or the emissions from the laundry company who washes the towels and sheets. This includes how products are delivered to the hotel – e.g by electric vehicle or diesel truck. So it is far trickier to measure, capture and report, as the hotel is responsible for all the emissions up and down the supply value chain.

How can hotels manage and reduce Scope 1,2,3 emissions?: The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance has an industry-wide recognised standard to measure Scopes 1 and Scope 2 with its HCMI (Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative). It measures and compares Scope 1 and Scope 2 GHG emissions of hotels. The measurement includes emissions related to fuels burnt on site as well as electricity used on site. The tool is free to access and use and has recently been updated. 

Scope 3 emissions are much more difficult to track – and also the nature of them being third party, means there is a large amount of data to collect. There are many companies offering to do this for hotels. One way to track Scope 3 emissions is to ask each supplier for their emissions data and then work out how much of that product or service is used by the hotel. It relies on the suppliers providing data and someone taking the time to work it out. Of course to reduce Scope 3 emissions hotels can look at their supply chain and find the most sustainable supplier – for example Beyond Apartments uses an eco laundry company, which collects and delivers the laundry in electric vehicles. 

What are hotels doing about reducing emissions? There are many stories on our site which cover what hotels are currently doing to reduce and mange Scope 1,2,3 emissions. Let’s look at IHG, which has 358 hotels across the UK (and more than 6,000 properties worldwide). The global hotel group recently used one of its Holiday Inn properties as a case study for the white paper ‘Transforming Existing Hotels to Net Zero Carbon‘. It found there was the potential to reduce the property’s annual energy bill by £467,000 per year and cut its carbon emissions by 483 tonnes (if all measures to reduce emissions were implemented). The group is working with Arup, a company dedicated to sustainable development with a collective of 18,000 designers, advisors and experts across 140 countries. Arup is developing a tool to help IHG hotel owners measure and save energy.

In other news, Premier Inn has also just announced the opening of its first all electric property in Swindon this year. Owner of Premier Inn, Whitbread, has targets by 2030 to reduce Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 80 per cent per mand Scope 3 emissions by 58 per cent per m2 by 2030. Whitbread joined the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance in December last year.

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Wood from the Trees: Questioning carbon neutral and net zero claims in the hotel sector

The Advertising Standards Authority is clamping down on environment-focussed phrases when describing a product. What does this mean for the hotel sector?

The Advertising Standards Authority is clamping down on environment-focussed phrases when describing a product. What does this mean for the hotel sector?

Some hotels describe themselves as green, others as eco, and the phrases “net zero” and “carbon neutral” are common place. But there is some confusion generally among consumers about what these terms actually mean.

Last year, as part of its Climate Change and Environment Project, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) did some research to find out what consumers understand about certain “green” phrases.

The main phrases included net zero and carbon neutral. The results, which were published last autumn, showed that most consumers struggle with the meaning of these phrases.

A spokesperson from ASA said: “…worryingly, consumers struggled in particular with terms like “carbon neutral”… by often believing that this meant companies would be reducing their carbon emissions when this was not the case. Consumers were also confused by carbon offsets and, when the role that carbon offsets played in carbon neutrality claims was revealed, consumers told us that they felt misled.” 

The results from ASA’s research found that respondents believed when a company says it is carbon neutral it means it is actively reducing its carbon emissions. This is not actually true – carbon neutral can mean emissions are offset, so a company – or hotel – could be producing massive amounts of emissions, but offsetting them, and still be carbon neutral.

There are currently no fixed definitions that govern terms like “carbon neutrality” or “net zero” and there are no sources of authority that govern how such schemes should be delivered via agreed methodologies. Consumers who responded to the ASA research said they think that such terms and schemes should be defined and agreed, but this is not something ASA can do alone – there needs to be legislation backing up this thought.

When Sustainable Hotel News asked ASA what this all meant for the hotel sector (for hotels defining themselves as carbon neutral, or achieving net zero, and if they should be providing science-based evidence to prove these statements), ASA said it could not comment on individual sectors at the moment. 

However, the spokesperson added: “We’re currently monitoring these claims in ads, to determine what evidence advertisers will need to have to make claims about claims like ‘carbon neutrality’, and this is likely to include claims around carbon offsetting. However, we wish to emphasise that no decisions have yet been made on the forms of evidence, including off-set schemes, that are more or less likely to be considered as acceptable evidence to substantiate such claims. We’ll announce our findings in due course.”

If these terms have to be proved by hotels before they can call themselves eco or carbon neutral or net zero, there is surely a lot of unpicking to do, unless there is a clear reporting baseline to work from. e.g send in the sustainability auditors and get third party reporting on science-based evidence collected over a year, and then keep on repeating, reporting and improving year-on-year to gain a GSTC-certified accreditation.

Being carbon neutral or net zero is not something which can be proved overnight. For example, the Hotel Marcel, which is the first “Net Zero” hotel in the US has already received its Passive Building Certification, meaning it uses 80 per cent less energy than the average US hotel. It has also been certified by the Green Building Council and has a LEED Platinum rating, but it will have to take readings and measurements of its output and input (readings from solar panels, as well as waste and emissions) for one year, in order to produce a report which can verify if it is net zero. 

With the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) this year, not only will companies have to prove their sustainability reporting, but it will affect their supply chains too, such as travellers staying in sustainable hotels, so there may be the perfect marriage of CSRD making it legally binding to produce accurate sustainability reporting, and the Advertising Standards Authority saying you can’t just call yourself green, you have to prove it.

Unqualified claims are likely to breach existing rules, and the ASA will be taking proactive action immediately to address such claims. How this is directed at the hotel sector remains to be seen.

Updated ASA guidance below for advertisers in order not to mislead consumers – taken from the ASA website:

  • Avoid using unqualified carbon neutral, net zero or similar claims. Information explaining the basis for these claims helps consumers’ understanding, and such information should therefore not be omitted.
  • Marketers should ensure that they include accurate information about whether (and the degree to which) they are actively reducing carbon emissions or are basing claims on offsetting, to ensure that consumers do not wrongly assume that products or their manufacture generate no or few emissions.
  • Claims based on future goals relating to reaching net zero or achieving carbon neutrality should be based on a verifiable strategy to deliver them.
  • Where claims are based on offsetting, they should comply with the usual standards of evidence for objective claims set out in this guidance, and marketers should provide information about the offsetting scheme they are using.
  • Where it is necessary to include qualifying information about a claim, that information should be sufficiently close to the main aspects of the claim for consumers to be able to see it easily and take account of it before they make any decision. The less prominent any qualifying information is, and the further away it is from any main claim being made, the more likely the claim will mislead consumers.

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FOCUS ON: Embodied Carbon

In our new series we focus on common questions when it comes to discussing sustainability and hotels.

Today we are looking at Embodied Carbon.

In our new series we focus on common questions when it comes to discussing sustainability and hotels.

Today we are looking at Embodied Carbon.

What is it? Hotels contribute to about one per cent of global carbon emissions and most people think about this in terms of the emissions produced from operating practices. However there is another type of emission we rarely hear about. Embodied carbon is the total CO2 emitted when producing materials, which means when you build a new hotel or make extensive refurbishments or extensions you have to take into account the carbon footprint of that work. Embodied carbon is also calculated with the energy used to transport the materials as well as the emissions from the manufacturing process. 

What’s the issue? Concrete, steel, and aluminum are responsible for 23 per cent of total global emissions (mostly from the built environment). While a lot of hotels and hotel groups focus on the environmental cost of operating a property or group of properties, this is massively different from the emissions produced from building hotels. For example, the embodied carbon for room2 Chiswick, the UK’s first carbon neutral aparthotel (known as a hometel) was 2,500 tonnes of carbon, as opposed to the operational carbon for room2 Chiswick, which is 15 tonnes of carbon. A huge difference. 

How is embodied carbon calculated? Surveyors and architects, as well as designers, will be able to calculate embodied carbon at the point of design. Architects use Building Information Modeling (BIM), which is a bit like Computer Aided Design (CAD), but it has information embedded in the drawings – so if a hotel is being designed and all the materials and building management systems and material used / measurements are put into that design, BIM will be able to show the embodied carbon for the build. It kind of keeps the information in the walls of the design, which can be accessed at any time, even after the build, to be used for future measurements and adjustments.

What can hotels do about it? Hotel developers, architects and designers can keep embodied carbon emissions down by sourcing more environmentally friendly materials and products and using Passive House design principles for the most energy efficient building designs (60 per cent of operational carbon emissions come from hotels trying to regulate temperature). Hotels need to be transparent about embodied carbon when talking about sustainability. Once they have acknowledged the emissions during a build or refurb they can offer ways to offset them by operating the hotel to be carbon neutral – eg use solar / 100 per cent renewable energy, use carbon offsetting schemes and set targets to reach a carbon neutral status (which would mean being carbon neutral for both operational and embodied carbon).

Why not also check out our glossary of sustainable hotel terms for other commonly use acronyms and phrases…

Certification for sustainable hotels a “mess”

This area is complex, and the market is flooded… we look at how to navigate the sustainable certification market and what is worth a stamp of approval…

This area is complex, and the market is flooded… we look at how to navigate the sustainable certification market and what is worth a stamp of approval…

There are more than 200 companies worldwide offering sustainable accreditation and certification processes to hotels and hospitality groups. That’s a lot to choose from, and the quality and offerings vary widely from self assessment which is submitted to receive a stamp of approval, to in-depth audits and regular “health checks” to make sure the sustainability targets set are being met. It’s a headache for hotels and it’s a headache for guests looking for more sustainable stays.

Last year released its 2022 Sustainability Report with insight from more than 30,000 travellers from 32 countries. The research highlighted that for many people the impact of their trip on the environment does feature highly on their considerations when booking. 57 per cent of travellers from the UK wanted to travel more sustainably in the next year, which is a 27 per cent increase on last year’s response. 71 per cent of travellers said that sustainable travel is important to them, and almost half of all respondents (42 per cent) cited that recent news about climate change has influenced them to make more sustainable travel choices. 

This demand for more sustainable stays is unlikely to go away but the amount of different certifications for hotels makes it confusing for everyone.

Randy Durband, CEO of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council says: “GMs of hotels all over the world are confused – the big players [in accreditation] – who are the big players? There are too many of them to be big. They are all suffering from lack of scale.”

In this flooded market, there is no alignment, which makes it very difficult for hotels and guests to make sense of the different types of certification.

Of course there are a few big names which use a third party and have been around for decades, think of LEED and BREEAM, and more recently B Corp has shown it’s worth as one to be contended with (there are hoops to jump through and companies have to prove they are improving on their targets).

But what other sector allows so many award bodies to give out their own awards after “coaching” a company? For some reason hospitality allows this to happen a lot of the time without a third party involved. Some accreditation companies charge a hotel or group of hotels to fill out forms in order to get a stamp of approval. It’s like paying for a driving instructor to stamp that you’ve passed the test, after a few lessons.

As Randy Durband, CEO of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council says: “If you are going to follow international norms, we need to clean up the mess – certification is defined by ISO 17021. It is a judgement – not coaching.”

The GSTC was created by the UN to be the certifiers of certifiers. So it sets the standards for tourism across the board. Something the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance also backs.

Claire Whitely head of environment, Sustainable Hospitality Alliance says: ‘The GSTC are the certifiers of certifiers – they set the standards for what a robust certification should be and they cover environmental and social – all of sustainability and make sure certification recognised by them lives up to it. If accommodation providers are looking, I’d recommend the GSTC.”

The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, which represents over 40,000 hotels, equating to more than seven million rooms, helps hotels and accommodation providers with their sustainability goals and processes including offering the free toolkit with carbon and water measurements. The idea is the Alliance can guide a hotel or group on their sustainability journey.

The Alliance launched its Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality this month, which provides a practical framework to enable every hotel to work towards net positive impacts. It doesn’t matter what stage the hotel or group is at on the journey to net zero, the Alliance will be there, and it backs the idea of a more aligned certification process.

The sustainable certification process will be one to watch in the sector. But those who embrace alignment and collaboration, as well as globally recognised third party approved standards, will be the ones moving forward with giant positive steps.

A Glossary for Sustainable Hotels

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This is a growing tree of acronyms and information and we will be adding to it frequently.

Alternative Energy or AE: Any energy that does not harm the environment or use up the Earth’s natural resources.

Alliance: When Sustainable Hotel News talks about the Alliance we are referring to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance. We only use this shortened name if there is too much repetition with the full name.

Blackwater: Contaminated waste water from toilets, sinks and kitchens.

​​BMS systems: A BMS monitors, controls and reports on smart building technology systems to control HVAC (heating ventilation and air con) and lighting systems and efficient water systems.

BREEAM certification: Globally accepted as a certification process for a sustainably designed building. BREEAM is a certification system for a sustainable built environment with nine criteria including energy, health and wellbeing, ecology and waste. It’s a bit like LEED. They just have different processes to get to their criteria. As part of the government’s Construction Strategy, it is now a requirement for all public projects to undergo an environmental assessment; achieving an Excellent BREEAM rating.

BREEAM In-Use: With BREEAM In-Use the owner, manager or property investor fills out an online self-assessment tool. Property investors, owners, managers and occupiers determine how to drive sustainable improvements in the operational performance of their assets, leading to benchmarking, assurance and validation of their operational asset data.

Carbon Footprint: Emissions of greenhouse gases from an individual or business. Measured in tons. Most businesses are aiming to be carbon neutral.

Carbon Negative: Removing more CO2 from the atmosphere than is emitted. So for a hotel it would have to take into account not only the operational emissions but those created during construction as well.

Carbon Neutral: This is when a business achieves net-zero carbon emissions, which means it can offset or balance its carbon footprint or buy carbon credits to make up the difference.

Carbon Offset: When you buy credits to offset or balance the carbon you are producing. Some hotel groups plant trees to offset their carbon emissions.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR): Where companies and businesses take on social and environmental concerns when planning their operations. 

Earth Check a standard / accreditation for sustainable hotels which uses internationally recognised criteria to report on areas including environment, risk and quality management.

Eco Hotel: A hotel which, with its operations and practices, is deemed not harmful to the environment. Worth asking how and why they are an eco hotel.

Embodied Carbon: Carbon emissions which happen during the building, development or renovation of a building. This is by far the largest amount of carbon emissions to focus on when thinking about hotels – the operational carbon emissions are much smaller than embodied carbon.

ESG: Environmental Social Governance – this phrase is all around us at the moment and is interchangeable with CSR. It means a company has to be socially and environmentally responsible in its strategies and can be held to account by its own self governance.

EMS: Environmental Management System.

EU Ecolabel: As its website says “the official European Union voluntary label for environmental excellence. Established in 1992 and recognised across Europe and worldwide, the EU Ecolabel certifies products with a guaranteed, independently-verified low environmental impact.”

Gigawatt: a gigawatt is a unit of measurement of electrical power and is often talked about when discussing Solar energy. It takes three million solar panels to create 1 gigawatt of power (and that energy can be stored and then dispersed). A gigawatt is the equivalent to 10 million 100 watt light bulbs or 100 million LED lightbulbs.

Green Building: Any building – hotel, school, house – that creates a positive impact on the environment with its design and construction and subsequent operations. There is no global standard but there is the World Green Building Council, which supports its members to help them create green buildings suited to the environment they are in.

Green CAPEX: (capital expenditure made in environmentally sustainable economic activities)

Greenwashing: A term used when companies suggest they are greener than they are to sell their products. 

Green Key: Another award for environmental standards  – this one is a “voluntary eco-label awarded to more than 3,600 hotels and other establishments in 60 countries.” The other establishments include campsites, hostels, restaurants and conference centres. Operated by the Foundation of Environmental Education.

Green Globe: Established nearly 30 years ago this is another certification for sustainable hotel and tourism operation practices. If hotels adhere to the strict criteria they get the Green Globe International Standard for sustainable tourism.

GSTC: The Global Sustainable Tourism Council.

ISO14001: an environmental management system standard. ISO 14001 Environmental Management provides guidance on how manage all aspects of a business from building to operations to product development and more. The idea is to be more sustainable and improve environmental performance for regulatory compliance and the ability to meet supplier requirements.

LEED certification: Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design is a globally recognized green building rating system. It’s a bit like BREEAM. It provides a framework for being environmentally friendly, to produce lower carbon emissions and be healthier for people who use it and in the community. It’s a complex process but these are some of the points which have to be checked and certified. Sustainable sites, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality. You can get up to 110 points on your LEED certificate depending on what levels of sustainability you achieve. There are four levels:

  1. 40-49 points LEED Certified.
  2. 50-59 points Silver Certification
  3. 60-70 points Gold Certification
  4. 80+ points Platinum Certification

Net Zero Water: When a building or community only used the water that falls on its location.

Rapidly Renewable Materials: These are materials with a cycle of 10 years or less – so materials like cork or bamboo flooring or, wool carpets.

Renewable Energy Certificates: RECs show how much renewable energy has been generated – giving a consumer or business an idea of renewable energy options.

SATE External Thermal Insulation System: When buildings are thermally and acoustically insulated from the outside making them more environmentally friendly through saving energy and preserving temperatures on the inside.

Sustainable Hospitality Alliance: An organisation, which works with hotels and industry bodies to help the sector drive sustainability. Also known as The Alliance.

Sustainability: Achieving an ecological balance in the natural environment as resources are used. Basically keeping at a level which is sustainable for the environment. Or according to the United Nations: meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. 

Zero Waste: When there is no waste – waste might be composted or reused or repurposed but nothing is chucked in landfill.