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Reducing Carbon Footprint in Hotels: Tips to Meet Carbon Accounting Standards

In confronting the reality of climate change, we are increasingly witnessing the profound impact of extreme weather events such as heat waves, storms, floods, and droughts. These natural disasters are no longer distant anomalies; they are urgent crises directly affecting human activities and businesses across the globe. The alarming escalation in both frequency and unpredictability of these events imposed several impacts on nearly every industry, including the important sector of hospitality.

In this blog post, we focus on the hospitality sector, a domain extremely vulnerable to climate change impacts. Imagine yourself planning your dream holiday that ends with an unforeseen storm, leading to missed flights and undesired disappointments. Such scenarios are becoming increasingly commonplace, disrupting not just individual plans but also the entire global tourism industry.

Why reducing carbon foot print in hotels is important?

The rising frequency of heatwaves, particularly in European summers, is a strong example of climate change reality. These uncomfortably hot conditions have not only resulted in tragic loss of life but also pose a significant threat to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of southern European nations. For these regions, where countless livelihoods are intertwined with the rhythms of tourism, the stakes are immensely high. The stability and sustainability of tourism are not just economic metrics; they are lifelines for communities.

The hospitality sector involves a range of high-emission industries, including transportation and building, which are among the top three sectors in terms of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per person per year (Figure 1). This significant environmental impact derives the industry towards sustainability, aligning with directives like the Corporate Sustainability Report Directive (CSRD) and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), with a strong emphasis on environmental reporting and improvements.

Figure 1. (GHG) emissions per person per year in different industries.

Within this broad sector, a major component is the operation of buildings and assets, including hotels, restaurants, bars, tourism agencies, and various cultural heritage buildings. However, this post is focusing on hotels. 

For hotels, reducing carbon foot print in hotels and understanding environmental performance of the assets is essential. This isn't just about 'going green'; it's about a comprehensive assessment of their impact - from energy and water use to waste generation. Here's how this insight can transform your hotel:

  1. Target Environmental Efforts Effectively:

  2. Discover Cost-Saving Treasures:

  3. Track Progress & Celebrate Milestones:

  4. Boost Your Brand & Guest Appeal:

To get started on sustainability in your hotels, focus primarily on measuring carbon emission.

  1. First, establish a recent baseline year with reliable data, avoiding pandemic-impacted years.

  2. Choose appropriate Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), like total energy used or more insightful like intensity-based KPIs which quantify impact per unit (e.g. occupied room, floor area, profit) to account for changes in the business.

  3. Gather data from meter readings, invoices, and suppliers. Utilize standard and sustainability compliant tools for carbon footprint measurement.

  4. Finally, benchmark your hotel's performance using resources like the Cornell Hotel Sustainability Benchmark Index and the Green Lodging Trends Report to understand your environmental standing compared to others in the industry.

Carbon impact measurement tools for hotels

Within the last decade, the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) emerged as a crucial tool for hotel managers in this context. It's a unique methodology and a free tool, tailored specifically for hotels to measure and manage their carbon footprint. HCMI allows hotels to:

  • Measure the total carbon footprint of their property.

  • Calculate daily carbon footprint per occupied room.

  • Determine carbon footprint per area of meeting space on an hourly basis.

  • Assess renewable energy and electricity consumption in relation to the total consumption.

HCMI primarily relates to Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions in the context of ESG reporting:

  1. Scope 1 (Direct Emissions): HCMI helps hotels calculate direct GHG emissions from owned or controlled sources, such as on-site fuel combustion or company vehicles.

  2. Scope 2 (Indirect Emissions from Electricity): It also covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, heat, and steam, which are common in hotel operations.

It stands as the only industry-recognized carbon calculation methodology, adopted by over 30,000 hotels globally, including renowned chains like Hyatt, Marriott International, Radisson Hotel Group, and Scandic. It offers:

  • Comprehensive Coverage: Suitable for all hotel types, it can be integrated into existing systems or function independently.

  • Support for Sustainable Future: Aligning with initiatives like the Glasgow Declaration for Climate Action in Tourism, HCMI aids in effective environmental impact monitoring and reduction.

  • Transparent Reporting: Provides a robust data framework for tracking carbon reduction progress.

  • Endorsements: Supported by leading industry organizations such as WTTC, GSTC, and AHLA.

We went through a couple of practices with HCMI tool and we found it as a valuable tool, but with some drawbacks:

  1. Data Collection: Collecting the necessary data to input into HCMI's framework can be time-consuming and requires diligent record-keeping, which might be challenging for some hotels, especially smaller ones with limited staff or resources.

  2. Complexity: For those unfamiliar with environmental metrics and calculations, the process can be complex and potentially overwhelming.

  3. Standardization: While HCMI aims to standardize carbon footprint measurement across the industry, variations in how hotels collect and interpret data can lead to inconsistencies.

  4. Technological Integration: HCMI primarily relies on manual data input into Excel sheets, which may not seamlessly integrate with other digital systems that hotels use for their operations.

Although these points aren't based on direct feedback from end-users, gaining insights from sustainability and hotel managers who regularly use HCMI would be invaluable. Understanding their experiences and challenges can illuminate areas for improvement. These drawbacks highlight the need for more user-friendly, integrated, and automated tools in the hospitality sector, enhancing the ease and efficiency of measuring and managing environmental impacts.

carbon accounting benchmark tools

In line with HCMI, Cornell Hotel Sustainability Benchmarking Index (CHSB) is an industry-led global data initiative, started in 2013 to enable any hotel to calculate its carbon footprint and benchmark its energy, water and carbon emissions at low cost, drawing from a dataset of over 25,000 hotels around the world. Participants in the CHSB index include major hotel brands, operators and owners, representing a total of 646 geographies (64 countries, 84 regions, 410 metro areas, 88 climate zones). As an interactive example, the following dashboard is generated based on the 2023 dataset of CHSB to benchmark the carbon footprint index (Mean Annual kgCO2e / m2) of hotels in different EU countries. Readers can select the country in the left side of the dashboard and see the Annual kgCO2e / m2 of hotels in that country. The standard deviation shows the diversity in the collected data. Countries with highest number of hotel and lowest standard deviation represent how close their hotels are in their kgCO2e / m2 index.

Figure 2. Interactive dashboard made based on 2023 CHSB report. (click on countries to filter)

Carbon Accounting made easy with Builtrix

At Builtrix, we recognize that sustainability is a journey, not just a destination. Our innovative solutions are designed for sustainability professionals, Energy managers and ESG consultants across multi-property businesses including the hospitality sector. With Builtrix, you can:

Join us at Builtrix in leading the change towards a more sustainable future in hospitality. Together, we can transform your environmental commitments into impactful actions.

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