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 Booking.com 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.

The Eden Hotel Collection achieves zero waste and launches Green Champions

UK: Boutique hotel chain, The Eden Collection, has achieved its green goal of zero waste going to landfill over the last year.

UK: Boutique hotel chain, The Eden Collection, has achieved its green goal of zero waste going to landfill over the last year.

The group is now taking steps to get the accreditation by Green Tourism.

The Eden Collection recycled 313 tonnes of waste across all of its hotels in 2022. Of that 30 per cent was recycled, and 50 per cent was converted into renewable energy through incineration. The final 20 per cent of the group’s waste was food waste and this was broken down to create organic matter through the process of anaerobic digestion – where the bacteria breaks down waste in the absence of oxygen.

The group has also announced the launch of its ‘Green Champions’ at every hotel, which achieves the Green Tourism accreditation this year. One member of staff from each of those hotels has volunteered to be responsible for taking the lead on environmental initiatives. This includes using more energy-efficient light bulbs, sourcing local produce, and encouraging paperless bills. 

Jayne O’Malley, group operations manager at The Eden Hotel Collection said: “We are so proud of the work that has taken place across the Group over the past 12 months and we’re really looking to build on that in 2023. We are aiming to be a collection of environmentally responsible hotels, providing intelligent luxury and to assist in achieving a cleaner, safer and healthier world for ourselves, our families and that of future generations.”

The group is working with the Carbon Trust and 1st Waste Management Consultants Ltd, as well as in tree planting and wind turbine projects in the UK.

The Eden Hotel Collection has hotels across the UK, including Bovey Castle in Devon, The Greenway Hotel and Spa in Cheltenham, Brockencote Hall Hotel in Kidderminster, Mallory Court Hotel and Spa in Leamington, and The Arden Hotel in Stratford.

In other UK hotel news, Kent’s first eco hotel opened late last year.

Image: Bovey Castle, Devon – The Eden Collection

Relais & Chateaux publishes first sustainability report

FRANCE: Relais & Chateaux, the French association of 580 luxury hotels and restaurants, has just published its first sustainability report.

FRANCE: Relais & Chateaux, the French association of 580 luxury hotels and restaurants, has just published its first sustainability report.

The document, which has been written after analysing results from half of the 580 properties which took part in the report, looks at the environmental, social, and societal impact the group has on the world, and defines 15 goals for 2025 and 2030 based on three core pillars: environmental conservation, sustainable cuisine and social and societal empowerment. 

The 89-page Sustainability Report: In Search of Hospitality in Harmony with the Natural World (baseline year 2021) aims to measure and share the association’s progress, as well as focusing on the positive impact its independent chefs, hoteliers and restaurateurs can have on sustainability.

Philippe Gombert president, Relais & Chateau and owner Chateau de la Treyne said: “I am deeply proud our association of 580 independent hoteliers, restaurateurs and chefs appreciates that hospitality must operate in harmony with the natural world. We have been working regeneratively long before that became a buzzword. Now, as the world faces the grim realities of climate change, it is time to consolidate our progress and accelerate the pace of change as we enter a new, critical phase in humankind’s relationship with nature. Against this context, our first sustainability report is published so that we can openly and transparently share our successes, acknowledge our challenges, set ambitious new goals for all our properties and showcase to the world the positive contribution that hospitality can–and must–make for future generations.”

The report provides a comprehensive snapshot of members’ sustainability practices and has sections on progress, such as how many of the United Nation’s SDG’s the group is meeting with a score against the ones they are committed to.

Page 23 of the report also has a detailed map – that of a tree dissected, with the growth rings showing the complexity of the process to cover all aspects of the groups’ impact on the environment. 

Not all properties in the 580 have replied to the first round of sustainability questions for the report and it is the hope of Oliver Roellinger, vice president, Relais & Chateaux, cook and owner Les Maisons de Bricourt that all properties will be part of the process for future annual sustainability reports.

Roellinger said: “It was a great success that half of our 580 properties responded to our first questionnaire, which measured activity in 2021. But it’s our ambition that all member properties respond each year, to reach the goals we are setting for ourselves. We want the data to be accurate and as robust and reflective of the association as possible– that way we can drive the necessary transition into a regenerative future.”

With the adoption of their sustainable development action plan, Relais & Chateaux will measure the progress of its members in a comprehensive annual report developed with engineers and sustainable development experts. 

The full report can be found in full on the Relais & Chateau website’s Sustainability section.

In September luxury hotel group Kempinski also published its first ESG report.

Responsible Stay initiative launched by the American Hotel & Lodging Association

The American Hotel & Lodging Association AHLA has announced its Responsible Stay initiative.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association AHLA has announced its Responsible Stay initiative.

The industry-wide initiative aims to make meetings, events and guest experiences in America’s hotels more environmentally and socially responsible.

Responsible Stay is focused on prioritising hotels’ environmental sustainability efforts in four key areas:

Energy efficiency: optimising energy efficiency through operational improvements and adoption of clean energy technologies

Waste reduction: investing in waste reduction programs and new, innovative alternatives to reduce, reuse and recycle waste across properties

Water conservation: ensuring the reduction of water usage by implementing water-efficient practices in core areas like laundry, food and beverage, and landscaping

Responsible sourcing practices: sourcing responsibly and prioritising sustainability in supply chains to prevent harmful environmental and social impacts

Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA said: “The hotel industry has shown a longstanding commitment to sustainability, and many of our member companies have been on the leading edge of these efforts. We’re thrilled that the industry is committed to this critical issue that will shape how we travel for years to come. The launch of Responsible Stay is the next step of our industry’s sustainability journey, and we are uniting as an industry to provide a responsible stay for our employees, guests, communities and our planet.”

Responsible Stay aims to advance environmental initiatives and help hotels shift operations to be more sustainable. This commitment to provide a ‘responsible stay’ builds on existing initiatives by AHLA to support industry efforts to reduce carbon emissions, water and energy usage, waste and more, including:

AHLA’s Sustainability Committee, comprised of industry leaders, communicates, educates and advocates on behalf of the lodging industry to showcase environmental efforts and elevates environmental sustainability and resilience;

AHLA’s new partnership with the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance works to amplify, collaborate on and support hospitality sustainability programs and solutions;

AHLA’s long-standing partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and the Hotel Kitchen programme, which uses innovative strategies to engage staff, partners and guests in curbing food waste from hotel kitchens;

AHLA’s ongoing partnership with the Department of Energy Better Buildings Initiative highlights energy efficiency and drives leadership in energy innovation in the hospitality sector by accelerating investment and sharing successful best practices;

AHLA’s newly-formed research initiative with GreenView helps quantify and benchmark sustainability practices across the hotel industry in the US, which will allow for better insights, best-practice development and sustainability progress tracking over time.

Responsible Stay has elicited broad support across the sector, with members, state association partners and other industry stakeholders endorsing the programme and its principles.

Image: Responsible Stay

Whitbread joins the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance

UK: Whitbread, which owns Premier Inn as well as a range of pub and restaurant brands, has joined the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance.

UK: Whitbread, which owns Premier Inn as well as a range of pub and restaurant brands, has joined the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance.

Through its sustainability programme ‘Force for Good’, Whitbread is aiming to have a positive impact on its guests and the environment. 

To deliver this vision, the company has set long-term strategic targets, including reaching net zero by 2040, eliminating unnecessary single-use plastic by 2025 and cutting food waste by 50 per cent by 2030. 

Whitbread owns and operates the majority of its properties with over 800 hotels and 400 restaurants in the UK and a growing footprint in Germany.

By becoming part of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, Whitbread is joining a global network which represents almost 40 per cent of the industry by rooms and brings the hospitality industry together with strategic and supply chain partners to work collectively on issues affecting the planet and its people.

Glenn Mandziuk, CEO of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, said: “We are delighted to welcome Whitbread into our growing membership. Their prominence in the UK market, combined with their strong focus on their people, local communities and the environment, will bring valuable insight and practical expertise to our community of responsible hospitality leaders. By working together as an industry, we can ensure that we are giving back to society and local destinations, and make net positive hospitality a reality.”

Rosana Elias, head of sustainability at Whitbread said: “We’re incredibly pleased to be joining the Alliance. ESG is a really important area of focus and we’re clear that by working together with our peers, innovating and collaborating, we will all stand a better chance of driving forward positive change. We’re delighted to continue our work in this area as part of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and support the move towards a net positive hospitality industry”.