Sustainable Hospitality: How to Create a Sustainability Plan for Hotels
Tourists and business travelers are increasingly focused on finding sustainable options when choosing to stay in a hotel. For this reason, hotels must create a sustainability plan that helps them to attract more travelers and simultaneously show their commitment to society and the environment. Hotels that do not commit to and implement sustainable strategies will be subject to uncertainty and instability as traveler demands continue to shift. Additionally, with the changing climate and increasing natural disaster events, a company that doesn’t take the steps to become more sustainable is forced to improvise in the face of climate impacts with unpredictable results.
Creating and implementing a sustainability plan will help hotels meet growing market demand, retain travelers who are increasingly aware of the need to preserve the environment, communicate social and environmental responsibility to the world, save money, and increase their resilience in the face of growing climate uncertainty.
This article will cover the following steps for creating and implementing a sustainability plan for hotels:
- Establish your hotel’s current sustainability status
- Define objectives
- Design a strategy
- Create an action plan
- Measure and evaluate your plan constantly
- Communicate your achievements and improvements
- Get help from experts as needed
- Get certified by a recognized third-party organization
Establish Your Hotel’s Current Sustainability Status
The first step is to establish your hotel’s current sustainability status. This step requires you to analyze your energy, food, beverages, water, and waste. In addition, to get a complete picture of your hotel’s current sustainability, you should calculate your carbon footprint and document any Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) practices currently in place.
Sources of energy consumption for hotels generally include indoor and outdoor lighting, elevators, water pumping, kitchen equipment, and laundry machines. Hotels buy vast supplies of food, drinks, soaps, and linens and use massive amounts of water. All this leads to excessive waste and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
Once consumption, waste, and emissions have been collected and analyzed and the hotel’s current social, economic, and environmental initiatives identified, you will have a starting point to define objectives, design a strategy, and create a sustainability action plan.
Hotel sustainability objects must be realistic, tangible, and long-term. Objectives should be selected based on company values, goals, and aspirations. The entire organization should be involved in the objective selection process, from the CEO to management to hotel staff.
A starting place to set goals is to align them with The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These 17 goals are based on environmental, social, and economic factors and are designed to secure a better and more sustainable future for all by 2030. SDG 13, Climate Action, is particularly relevant to hotels as they are responsible for at least one percent of global emissions, a number that is only increasing with demand. Hotels should at the very least aim to meet the Paris Agreement emissions goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and be Net Zero by 2050 or sooner. In addition, Sustainable Hospitality Alliance provides guides for water stewardship and human rights to help you to define your objectives in these areas.
Design a Strategy
Designing a robust and effective sustainability strategy can reduce business costs, improve reputation, foster innovation, benefit the environment, and attract new customers who value sustainability.
The most effective and important sustainability strategies for hotels include:
- Energy conservation
- Reduce overall energy consumption and switch to renewable energy where possible
- Water conservation
- Install low flow fixtures, optimize laundry machine usage, and implement proper signage to help guests indicate what truly needs to be washed
- Waste reduction and efficiency
- Apply the 6 R’s- rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle
- Promoting sustainable means of transportation
- Provide a free shuttle to and from the main town or airport, install bike racks, and encourage employees to take the bus to work with transit passes
- Shifting to eco-friendly cleaning supplies
- Ensure all cleaning supplies are chemical-free and use concentrate-based, refillable products to reduce waste
- Promoting responsible ecotourism
- Ensure your hotel empowers and benefits the local community by paying a fair wage, employing community members, working with local businesses, sourcing local food products, and putting profits back into the community
- Operational changes
- Switching to LED lights, using compostable plastic, installing drinking water stations rather than giving out water, using light sensors and timers, and instituting an at-will linen washing policy when guests occupy the same room over multiple days
Example Sustainable Waste Strategy
- Rethink your practices by using recycled materials
- Refuse all single-use plastic straws
- Reduce 25 percent of food waste in the next three years
- Design an eco-friendly linen reuse plan
- Implement recycling stations on every floor
- Analyze full life cycle costs of products, including the initial cost and repair, maintenance, and disposal costs
Create an Action Plan
A sustainability action plan identifies points for improvement, defines clear objectives, and establishes initiatives. In addition, the action plan reflects how sustainability will be incorporated into all levels of the company decision-making and creates accountability.
An excellent source to help create a sustainable action plan is the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance. It provides a clear pathway to net positive hospitality and provides tools and manuals that enable any hotel to work towards a net positive environmental impact, regardless of its stage in the sustainability journey.
The Sustainable Hospital Alliance’s Pathway guides users through four steps:
- Take stock
- Set objectives
- Make plans and take actions
- Review and report
There are innumerable benefits a hotel will incur from developing a sustainability action plan. These include:
- Higher revenues and profitability
- Cost reduction
- Better customer relationships
- Lower environmental impact
- Employee retention
Example of a Sustainability Management Plan
The Hotel Ambassade‘s sustainability plan is based on the idea that hospitality and sustainability are intrinsically linked. The plan is based on the following three pillars:
- People and the market
- Cultural heritage and the community
- The environment
Furthermore, the sustainability management plan includes a plan of actions carried out and commitments to be made in the future.
Measure and Evaluate Your Plan Constantly
Measuring and evaluating your plan is vital for establishing deadlines and ensuring you meet the objectives, milestones, and initiatives defined in the action plan. As you progress through the planned roadmap, you will also identify new areas for improvement and opportunities that you can incorporate into your strategy and plan. Likewise, the feedback from the stakeholders is essential to foster a continuous improvement process.
The four phases of implementing a sustainability action plan, defined in the Green Business Bureau executive guide, are:
- Phase1: Create a Launch Plan
- Plan creation must include employees, stakeholders, and the company’s communication plans
- Phase 2: Launch the Sustainability Program
- All the departments of the hotel should be included
- Phase 3: Monitor and Manage Initiatives
- Include areas such as energy, water, waste, supply chain, transportation, and community
- Phase 4: Review and Adjust the Plan
- Continuous improvement processes of the plan must be incorporated into the program periodically
Communicate Your Achievements and Improvements
Communicating with your employees, customers, and the community will help you position your hotel as a sustainable and responsible organization. This will enhance your value proposition as respect for the environment and social responsibility have become crucial among employees and consumers. The sustainability team and hotel employees committed to sustainability will undoubtedly be the best ambassadors for the brand and the hotel’s sustainability strategy.
Communicate your achievements through ESG Reporting
Another interesting article published by the Green Business Bureau points out the benefits of the annual Environmental, Social, and Governance report (ESG Report) to communicate the hotel’s commitments and achievements on sustainability. The benefits of ESG reporting are as follows:
- Creates transparency
- Transparency fosters accountability and improves the corporate image
- Attracts investors and financing
- Investors and lenders analyze ESG reports to assess risk exposure and determine future contingencies that could impact their financial performance
- Meets stakeholders’ demands
- Stakeholders are more likely to support companies and brands with an ESG strategy
- Helps respond to regulatory changes
- European regulators, through the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD) and American regulators through the US Security and Exchange Commission-SEC, are setting new rules for companies with ESG reporting
Get Help From Experts as Needed
Countless resources online will guide you along your hotel’s sustainability journey. Organizations such as the Green Business Bureau help companies improve their sustainability practices by providing resources and initiatives. Green Business Bureau Members utilize the GBB EcoAssessment tool to measure where they currently are in their sustainability journey and refer to the library of initiatives and expert articles to plan where to go next.
Get Certified by a Recognized Third-party Organization
Green Business Bureau has the tools and experience to advise hospitality companies on implementing the best sustainability initiatives. At the same time, the Green Business Bureau is recognized as a third party that provides certifications to companies on their progress and achievements in the field of sustainability so they can reflect their accomplishments and green business status to the world.
The time is now for hotels to become more sustainable as the tourism industry is at risk of climate-related impacts, and consumers and employees demand sustainability. Sustainability should be central to a hotel’s mission, values, and day-to-day operations to attract customers, gain profit, and be socially and environmentally responsible. Hotels must create a sustainability action plan with clear and tangible objectives that can be measured over time, optimized, compared against benchmarks, and communicated clearly to the public.
Having a plan allows you to measure progress, receive feedback, and make adjustments to achieve long-term goals. Transparency will help you become known as a sustainable company that is committed to helping the planet and the community.
“Rafael has a Bachelor of Science in Industrial Engineering and a Master in Business Administration from the University of Lima. Rafael is pursuing a Concurrent Master of Science degree in Entrepreneurship in Applied Technologies and Global Sustainability, with an Energy concentration, at the University of South Florida. Rafael has more than twenty-five years of working experience as an Executive and Business and Finance Consultant. He is passionate about applying his academic and working experience to helping people and organizations understand the importance of protecting the environment and communities. He loves to spend time with his family and attend sports and music venues.”