Sustainability Data: Who Cares Wins?

by: Felicity Cousins | March 14, 2024

EUROPE: Sustainable Hotel News editor, Felicity Cousins moderated a panel on Sustainability Data: Who Cares Wins, at the Independent Hotel Show in Amsterdam this week.

The discussion was split into three segments: strategy, operations and challenges and the panelists had 45 minutes to discuss how and why sustainability data should be used, collected and reported across the hotel industry.

Panellists were Bryan Orkyansky, head of sustainability Studio Moren, Sarah Whiting channel solution lead Thrust Carbon, Jo Geneen principal consultant Good&Co and Thijs Koster co-founder of the Green Hotel Club.

All of the panelists brought their knowledge and expertise to the discussion and there was a detailed chat about hotel resources around the collection of data – whose job it is and how and when can this can be achieved.

There was a general consensus among the panelists that no matter where a hotel was on the pathway, this data must and should be collected – data can fit into strategy at any point, and those who have not yet begun should not feel overwhelmed by that prospect.

As one of the panelists noted sustainability and carbon footprints are not a new idea. Everything we do has a carbon footprint and the issues around sustainability and emissions have been with us for years, it’s just that now we are feeling the intensity of it.

We also looked at the tools available to hotels for collecting data during operations. Initiatives such as food waste data collection (with tools like Winnow and Orbisk) / carbon calculators on stays (Radisson has been doing this for years, SilverDoor has just launched a carbon calculator and Bob W has asked for “naked numbers”) and building management systems – all of these tools can help hotels see where their biggest emissions lie.

As long as a property collects and measures and reports that data – and then tries to improve on it then the sector is moving forward.

I talked about my stay at The Social Hub Amsterdam City, which practices many environmental and social aspects of sustainability. Some of the environmental data collected at the hotel includes the amount of water guests use while having a shower – there is a water metre showing the litres used and how much energy is used depending on the temperature – and at the end you are given a grade A+, B– etc. The hotel restaurant also uses Orbisk to measure its food waste. Look out for our review of The Social Hub soon.

As Jo Geneen, principal consultant and co-founder, Good & Co put it: “Capturing sustainability data is important – however, more important is how you use those data points to build your strategy and communicate that data to different stakeholder groups in a way that drives real change so your hotels can be positive for people and planet.”

We talked about if change has to come from smaller independent hotels and brands and whether it was easier for them to lead the way in the sense that the big hotel groups don’t “need” to change as much. We also noted the big brands are pioneering in their sustainability work and initiatives, leading the way for everyone else with their responsible strategies.

Regarding staffing the panel voiced how the younger generation wants different things from their employers. Many young people are asking questions about the environmental and social responsibility of a hotel when they look for the brand they want to work for – it was agreed hotels who ignore this movement will suffer the most from lack of talent attraction and retention.

We covered the social side of sustainability and while hotels can’t be expected to tick all of the UN’s 17 SDGs, there are several key SDGS which do need to be addressed, and the social part is one which the hospitality industry was born to be good at – it’s all about people and community after all, and the opportunity to have a loyal and local, diverse and inclusive workforce is huge for most hotels.

Of the challenges hotels may face we agreed that collecting and reporting social data is harder to manage and communicate – but that actions do speak very loudly in this space.

We also agreed that while it may be overwhelming starting out on the collection and reporting of sustainability data, there are no real obstacles – just begin and then build on that.

Other challenges included the lack of alignment around sharing the data and how to talk about it as well as expectations across the industry from the top to the bottom – are we ready for this and are we ready for change?

Bryan Oknyansky head of sustainability Studio Moren said: “It’s possible that being a hotel expert can get in the way of starting on your sustainability reporting journey. It’s important to remember why you got into hospitality in the first place and see the bigger picture of what experience you want to deliver to inform your strategy, as you might find less experienced members of your team could be freer to come up with ideas.”

The Independent Hotel Show Amsterdam was held at the RAI exhibition centre from March 12th- March 13th and offered panels, discussions and stands with suppliers and hotels. Sustainable Hotel News is a media partner to the event.