Rising global temperatures and the spread of natural disasters continue to lead to louder calls for all businesses to take environmental issues seriously. The hotel industry accounts for about 1% of the global carbon footprint and is happily stepping up to the challenge of reducing its impact on the environment. Many corporations have joined the Science Based Targets Initiative and set impressive reduction commitments, including of course net zero by 2050.
Ambitious sustainability goals not only stand to benefit the environment but can also enrich guest experiences and provide many other advantages.
If your business is still at the beginning of its sustainability journey, what should you focus on and what are the potential benefits? To provide some clarity, this blog delves into where the emissions come from, what the term ‘net zero’ actually refers to, why it is becoming indispensable to modern hotel operations, and how today’s businesses can stay on track in reducing their emissions.
Where do the emissions come from?
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions in your hotel business, and ultimately eliminate them altogether, one must first understand where they come from.
Emissions are classified into three categories called scopes. By measuring their emissions in each scope, companies (or hotels in this case) can understand where to focus their attention and deploy efforts for the greatest reduction opportunities:
- Scope 1 includes all the direct emissions that are produced from sources owned or controlled by the hotel. These include boilers, use of natural gas, service vehicles that run on fuel or gases leaking from AC or refrigeration units.
- Scope 2 are those emissions that come from energy that is purchased to heat, light or cool hotels.
- Finally, Scope 3 includes all the indirect emissions linked to the hotel’s operation but caused by the value chain – i.e. the activities that the hotel does not own or control. Some examples include business travel, waste (food and other), purchased goods and services (food, soap, and laundry services) and of course transport and distribution.
Scope 3 emissions account for about 89% of overall emissions for the hotel industry. Managing Scope 3 emissions can be challenging as supply chains are complex (from linens to food, soap and toilet paper, and various equipment needed to run a hotel). Often, the suppliers may not have the same level of commitment for sustainability. Food waste, and waste in general (in each hotel room, where hoteliers cannot manage the guest behavior) is also a notable challenge. Finally, lack of data on Scope 3 emissions is also a sore point and improvement in this area in the near future will help better identify improvement opportunities.
Understanding The Concept of Net Zero
Before hoteliers can devise an effective net zero strategy, they first need to understand what the term encompasses in order to commit. Net zero ultimately is a sustainability concept that centers around achieving a perfect balance between the greenhouse gases emitted and those removed through carbon offset or capture programs.
Why Net Zero Matters to Hotel Businesses
The Guest Perspective
Modern travelers are increasingly eco-conscious, seeking accommodations that align with their values to preserve resources and prevent global warming. As many as two thirds of guests in fact have stated that they would prefer to stay at hotels with clear sustainability goals. Further demonstrating the immense value of this trend are survey results indicating that 85.6 of eco-conscious guests are even willing to pay more for their stay if it translates into an enhanced ability to protect the environment. A net-zero hotel can attract and retain this growing segment of guests who are actively seeking sustainable options and who wish to travel guilt-free. Guests also value eco-friendly amenities and practices that nonetheless still result in an enjoyable and comfortable stay, representing an opportunity that industry businesses can explore in order to gain a competitive edge. Maintaining sustainable practices can often translate into positive guest reviews, bolstering a hotel's reputation and attracting a larger audience of eco-minded travelers.
Carbon reducing initiatives can include the use of energy management systems, waste reduction programs and water conservation methods, all of which can yield substantial cost savings over time and contribute to a hotel’s bottom line. According to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, industry businesses can in fact experience up to 30 percent in cost savings using such tactics.
With environmental regulations tightening globally, operating with a net zero strategy further ensures compliance and avoids potential penalties.
With hotels generating approximately 363 million tons in carbon dioxide annually, achieving net zero status across the industry would represent a vital contribution to the global fight against climate change. As eco-systems become increasingly under threat, hotel practices aimed at conserving precious resources like water, energy and forested habitats, can play a critical role maintaining the long-term sustainability of our planet.
Where to Start the Sustainability Journey for Your Hotel
The first step is to calculate the carbon footprint of the business (hotel). Using a consultant and specials tools to this effect are probably the best way to feel confident in the results. A hotel owner should not be surprised to see close to 90% of the emissions stemming from Scope 3. Knowing the carbon footprint is a great first step and now the real work begins…
Supply Chain Assessment
Setting up a sustainably responsible supply chain involves changing procurement processes and including strategies that prioritize a low carbon footprint. Supplier evaluation criteria may differ from before, the emphasis now shifting to transparency, distance (from hotel), and sustainability practices rather than just price.
Energy Efficiency Assessment
Conduct an energy audit to identify current consumption patterns and inefficiencies. Set realistic energy reduction goals based on the audit findings and the hotel's unique energy needs. Consider renewable energy suppliers, and options such as solar panels or geothermal systems that are suitable for a hotel’s location and building structure.
Water Consumption Analysis
Measure water usage across the property in order to identify any areas experiencing high consumption. Implement water-saving technologies and practices tailored to your hotel's water requirements across each department and service area. To minimize water use and waste further, hoteliers can also consider alternative water sources such as rainwater harvesting.
Waste Management Evaluation
Assess building waste generation patterns and identify any opportunities to reduce volume. One example may include developing a plan that analyzes a hotel's food waste in order to determine whether a food recycling program is viable and worthwhile. Hoteliers can also collaborate with local recycling and composting facilities to optimize waste diversion efforts and reduce the workload of property employees.
Working Towards a Global Net Zero Hospitality Industry
Achieving net zero clearly represents a greener, more responsible, and ultimately, more profitable future for hotels and resorts. The goal not only appeals to eco-conscious guests but also yields cost savings and contributes significantly to global conservation efforts. By following best practices, drawing inspiration from successful examples, and continually benchmarking performance, hotels can make considerable strides toward a more sustainable industry while providing exceptional experiences that lead to an enhanced reputation and increasingly satisfied guests.
By: Arto Koponen
Arto plays a key role in overseeing quality and environmental management strategies at ASSA ABLOY Global Solutions. Serving with our organization since 2010, Arto's focus on data-driven sustainability management ensures that our solutions and services reflect the latest capabilities in developing an eco-friendly, cost-effective and successful hospitality industry business.