The increasing importance of sustainability within the hotel industry has seen significant developments over recent years. The hospitality sector has begun taking important strides in environmental and social responsibility. Driven by rising energy costs and increasing environmental awareness, the focus of sustainability in hospitality was primarily on energy and water conservation measures. Years later, environmental certifications and standards started to emerge.
The Early Years
On the cusp of the early 2000s, hotels started implementing environmental management systems and conducting sustainability audits. Many properties adopted recycling programs, energy-efficient lighting, and water conservation measures. Then soon after, the focus expanded beyond environmental issues to include social responsibility. Responsible tourism initiatives gained traction and have become a mainstay, encompassing community engagement, occupant health, and supporting local economies. Large hotel chains began making substantial sustainability commitments—many set targets for reducing carbon emissions, water usage, and waste generation. Several chains-initiated programs, such as linen and towel reuse, involving guests in sustainability efforts. These programs provided financial benefits to the chains as well as demonstrating sustainability commitments.
In recent years, those sustainability commitments and goals have become commonplace to keep up with the times, including local laws and consumer demand. The “green building” concept gained prominence, and hotels started incorporating renewable energy sources, installing high-tech energy-efficient systems, EV chargers, and water refill stations, as well as adopting sustainable construction practices for new construction. Many properties began emphasizing local sourcing, organic food, and reducing food waste. Currently, the hotel industry continues to focus on reducing its environmental footprint. Some hotels have become carbon-neutral or zero-waste, implementing advanced technologies for energy management and waste recycling. Green certifications, like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) and Green Seal Certification, are becoming more prevalent. Green Seal Certification is the hotel industry’s best-suited green building certification. The certification includes criteria that evaluate a wide range of impact areas such as waste minimization, energy conservation and management, fresh and wastewater management, pollution prevention, and environmentally sensitive purchasing. While many think these categories only affect the environment, they also affect hotels’ bottom lines.
The share of green-minded travelers has risen consistently over the past six years. A study conducted in 2021 found that 81% of travelers surveyed said they plan to choose a sustainable accommodation option in the coming year. The survey also found that 70% of global travelers say they’re more likely to book green accommodation, and 62% prefer one with an ecolabel. A study conducted in 2021 found that 81% of travelers surveyed said they plan to choose a sustainable accommodation option in the coming year. Meeting specific sustainability standards like maintaining occupant health and amenities is what drives current consumers’ choices. Green hotels are positioned to capture the burgeoning interest in wellness tourism, which is growing twice as fast as tourism. With leading corporations, governments, and associations making green meetings a requirement, earning Green Seal Certification is a valuable differentiator that unlocks lucrative business opportunities. For example, a hotel can earn an eco-certified label through Google to further validate a hotel’s green efforts. Raising sustainability standards boosts profit margins through utility savings and increased revenue through satisfying consumer preference and reducing reputational risk. It also promotes a future-proof investment strategy, safeguards against regulatory risk, and benefits from the incentive. Lastly, certification increases value and validation and ensures a long-term energy supply.
The Future Outlook
The hotel industry is expected to integrate sustainability into its core operations over the next few years. This includes embracing circular economy principles, investing in renewable energy infrastructure, and promoting biodiversity conservation. While the newness and speed of policy implementation invigorate industries, navigating this unchartered territory can be challenging. Having sustainability professionals to guide an organization through this ESG journey is imperative for effective change and meaningful growth. Evolution Sustainability Group has helped large and small organizations cut costs while implementing new engineering, energy procurement, and sustainability practices.
Overall, the increased importance of sustainability demonstrates a shift in the hotel industry towards more holistic sustainability practices, encompassing environmental, social, and economic dimensions. While progress has been made, the sector is continuously evolving to meet the growing expectations of environmentally conscious guests and contribute to a more sustainable future.
Contact us today to learn more about Evolution Sustainability Group’s services and how we can support your organization through the ESG journey.