Travel bodies issue sustainability guidance as CBRE warns industry behind the curve

While the hotel sector has taken huge strides in its approach to sustainability, the industry still has a long way to go and the hospitality industry remains above the “average line” of CO2 emissions according to a recent report by CBRE Hotels Research.

CBRE’s study, published in April ahead of Earth Day, revealed that the hotel industry sits at 96kg of CO2 per square metre, with industries such as hotels, retail, healthcare and leisure lodging all above the average line of approximately 80, albeit that hotels were closest to that benchmark.It also comes at a time when business and leisure travellers are becoming increasingly concerned about how they can minimise their environmental travel footprint and are looking for hotel and travel businesses to help them in making more sustainable decisions and choices.

While the hospitality industry as a whole has made positive steps forward, CBRE’s report cited a need for more consistent reporting within a standard framework for hotel industry stakeholders to “understand and benchmark performance in relation to ESG (environmental, social, and governance) targets.”International consultancy Greenview’s Net Zero Methodology guide and the Cornell Hotel Sustainability Index — developed by Greenview, The Cornell Hotel School and others, are among the leading benchmarks available to enable consistent reporting.

Using these methodologies, CBRE’s report showed that the US, UK, Germany and Spain are among the lowest users of energy per occupied room globally, with the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Vietnam among the highest in Greenview’s top 25. 

France, Colombia and the UK are almost among the lowest producers of carbon per occupied room, while Germany, the UK, France and the US are among the lowest on the water-usage scale per occupied room.

CBRE also highlighted some major hotel groups’ current climate targets and net-zero goals, with Hersha Hospitality Trust, Hilton Hotels Corp., Host Hotels & Resorts and Hyatt Hotels Corporation all setting targets, but not yet committing to net-zero standards. FibraHotel and Marriott International have also both committed near-term target status, with only Marriott committing to be net-zero, according to the report. 

“While many hotel brands and operators have pledged to improve ESG performance and reach net zero targets, slower economic growth in the EU, UK and Asia Pacific, as well as an anticipated recession in the US could slow near-term progress,” the CBRE authors cautioned in the report.

Finding the right path

The publication comes just a month after the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance released its latest Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality v2.0, after first launching the roadmap in March 2022. The updated version provides a “more holistic and practical four-stage roadmap” to accelerate hospitality towards a sustainable and contributory future.The Pathway includes the definition of Net Positive Hospitality and how people, planet, place, and prosperity are interrelated; an outline of the material topics for the industry; ambitions that the industry should look to achieve on its journey towards net positive hospitality; and alignment with various leading frameworks and standards.

The Pathway was developed with the industry and sustainability experts, such as EY, Considerate Group and Greenview and comes with heavyweight backers including the World Travel and Tourism Council Hotel Sustainability Basics, Glasgow Declaration for Climate Action in Tourism, Global Business Travel Association RFP template, Global Sustainable Tourism Council Criteria, Travalyst Accommodation Criteria, and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“Net Positive Hospitality is a philosophy and approach that unlocks our industry’s potential to contribute to the world’s future,” says Glenn Mandziuk, CEO of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance.

“When we look at critical global issues, both social and environmental, it requires bold and collaborative approaches. The Pathway creates an integrated and pragmatic framework which any hotel can follow to advance their sustainability journeys in a prosperous and responsible way,”

Wolfgang Neumann, chair of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, adds: “The Alliance wants to encourage all hotels to embrace the journey to net positive. Our Pathway not only sets the vision for the industry but provides a practical framework for any hotel, no matter their starting point, to prioritise and progress along measurable sustainability actions.”

The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance includes Choice Hotels International, Marriott International, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, IHG Hotels & Resorts, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Radisson Hotel Group and BWH Hotel Group.

New initiatives

The latter created a new global sustainability strategic initiative, called Because We Care, on April 18, which it said will focus on earth, people and community.

“With each passing year, the need for more responsible and sustainable travel increases in importance,” says Larry Cuculic, president and CEO, BWH Hotel Group. “We, as members of the global hospitality community, cannot afford to sit on the sidelines and wait for change to happen.”

Meanwhile, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has unveiled a scheme to establish minimum sustainability standards for every hotel, no matter the size. The WTTC’s Hotel Sustainability Basics programme comprises 12 sustainability indicators “that all hotels should implement”.

The WTTC has called on accommodation owners and providers to implement the criteria over the next three years to “raise the floor of sustainability in the sector”.

WTTC senior vice-president for advocacy and communications Virginia Messina, who leads on sustainability, says: “We need to help smaller businesses and bring everyone to the same level or we’ll never progress. We need a starting point, something basic but with science behind it, that is solid and robust enough to create an impact.”

The organisation worked with hospitality consultancy Greenview to produce tools for carbon and water measurement to produce 12 criteria, divided into three categories. Participants must meet eight criteria by the end of year one and 12 by the end of year three. Adherence to the criteria will be backed by online verification from SGS and Green Key to prevent greenwashing.

The WTTC says that it is in talks with the travel industry sustainability organisation Travalyst, the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance on how to follow up the three-year programme.

What all the initiatives have in common is a desire to standardise and simplify sustainability, giving the hotel sector