REPORT FROM THE U.S.—In response to a growing need to unite the hotel industry in calculating and communicating its carbon impacts on the environment, 23 international hotel companies have set aside competitiveness to take part in the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative.
Efforts began in 2011, led by The World Travel & Tourism Council, The International Tourism Partnership and a working group of 23 hotel companies. In May 2011, those organizations, along with the help of others, joined forces to form the Carbon Measurement Working Group.
The group recently launched the HCMI, a standardized, uniform methodology used to measure and report carbon emissions. In partnership with advisor KPMG in the United Kingdom, the group developed this methodology to measure greenhouse gas emissions from individual hotels based on their meeting rooms and guestrooms.
Developing a uniform methodology was a direct response to requests from corporate customers for carbon-footprint data that made it easy to compare one property against another, said Denise Naguib, corporate senior director of sustainability at Marriott International.
“We really wanted to ensure that we, as an industry, were aligned so that we could go with a united voice out to the customers and say we’re all doing this in the same way,” she added.
All parties involved, with the exception of KPMG, donated their time and efforts free of charge to develop this methodology, according to Eva Aimable, policy and research manager at the WTTC.
HCMI, or “HCMI 1.0,” which is the name given to this first version of the initiative, was tested in 50 properties worldwide ranging in size and location.
“For us, our objective was to make sure that the methodology we were developing could be simple and you can fill it in as someone who had never measured carbon before in their life,” she said. “Our whole thinking was that the industry needed to create a solution by the industry for the industry.”
There is no cost for any hotel company to get the methodology, which the group has agreed to roll out by July of next year.
HCMI 1.0 methodology
According to a worked example provided by the WTTC, there are four pieces of data that need to be collected in order to calculate a hotel’s carbon footprint:
1) energy consumption data for 12 months using meter readings or invoices;
2) area data for guestrooms and corridor area, meeting space area and total area (in square feet or meters);
3) area of private space and total area which is air conditioned/heated within the private spaces; and
4) carbon emissions or energy consumption data from the hotel’s supplier if the hotel outsources its laundry.
“Private space” constitutes areas that are not accessible to hotel guests or conference attendees or not related to the hotel (e.g. the hotel leases a floor to a third party), according to a written report provided by the WTTC.
The data is collected and entered into a spreadsheet, which provides information on each hotel’s total carbon footprint for guestrooms and meeting space during the specified year, per night and per guest.
The spreadsheet and methodology are available to registered participants of the program, as well as a practical guide to the initiative, an HCMI tool kit that allows users to measure their properties’ carbon emissions and a worked example of a fictitious hotel in California. Hoteliers can register on the WTTC’s website.
“It’s important to note that this is a very specific solution to a very specific problem,” Aimable said. “We are truly focusing on the corporate clients about their meeting and hotel stays and yes, it can be applied to the leisure consumer, but it is very catered to corporate clients.”
Naguib said that before this methodology was tested and developed, Marriott was calculating its carbon footprint based on total hotels. With this new methodology, individual travelers and meeting attendees are able to find out what their individual carbon footprint is based on how many nights they occupied a room.
“They wouldn’t want to know what the total carbon footprint for the year is at the hotel. They want to know what their individual impact is,” Naguib said.
A review process has been put into place, according to the WTTC report, to ensure the methodology may be further refined as user feedback and new research comes to light.
Previous measuring efforts
Before HCMI came along, approaches to measuring and reporting carbon emissions varied across the board. This created confusion among consumers and corporate clients when each hotel presented a different number on their requests for proposals, according to Faith Taylor, VP of sustainability and innovation at Wyndham Worldwide.
“When you look at the carbon footprint of an economy, a midscale with (food and beverage) to full service, you see that it is very different so you can’t do an apples-to-apples comparison with those different types of hotels,” she said. “So you really need to start to develop a set standard of metrics that you can measure against.”
“When it came to travel buyers and travel managers who were asking travel suppliers about carbon measurements and sustainability initiatives, each supplier would give a different answer based upon the different methodology they were using,” said Joseph Bates, senior director of research at the Global Business Travel Association. “So it really became very difficult for travel managers to compare apples to apples between one hotel and the other when it came to sustainability.”
HCMI does not supersede pre-existing sustainability initiatives at participating hotel chains, which will continue to move forward with proprietary green initiatives in addition to the collaborative effort.
Marriott, for example, will continue to work with Green Hotels Global, a hotel industry environmental database, to measure individual hotel’s data and calculate a variety of metrics.
“We have over 75 environmental practices at the individual hotels that our hotels are responding to,” Naguib said. “Using all of that data, we’ll be able to respond much more quickly to customers from a (request-for-proposal) perspective to answer all these sustainability questions.”
“It’ll also help support our franchisees by giving them some best practices and best approaches to reducing their energy, water and waste,” she added.
Inge Huijbrechts, director of responsible business at The Rezidor Hotel Group for the Europe, Middle East and Africa regions, said hotels in her region have always calculated their carbon footprint through a third -party group. The focus there is on "eco-labeling," which is akin to LEED certification in the United States.
“In our region of our 330 hotels, we already have 222 certified or eco- labeled,” she said. “Our target is to have them all eco-labeled by 2015.”
Taylor believes that uniting the industry will provide triple bottom line benefits to people, the planet and profits.
“Companies see that it is proven. You see the benefits. You see operating margins go up,” she said. “To me the exciting thing is we’re on that path to incorporating that into our everyday life, and this is how we do business.”
“From a benchmarking perspective it’ll help all of us as we work through this data to be able to understand how well we’re doing and to push each other to do better,” Marriott’s Naguib said.
The GBTA’s Bates said very few travel buyers at present are making their decisions based on whether a hotel is green or not. But putting a standardized approach in place should offer more clarity.
“It really does bring the industry together so that they can all talk to each other using the same language. That will spur adoption of more sustainable travel practices and measurements because there’s less confusion out there in the marketplace,” he said.
Research on the individual traveler hasn’t been conducted for some time. But Bates said that typically anywhere between 10% and 20% of the population is extremely motivated by sustainability practices.
“These numbers change over time, and I think as our culture and the U.S. becomes more sustainability-minded, I think that these factors will become more important to more people,” he added. “And we particularly see it among younger travelers that they have sort of been brought up and educated in an era of more sustainability-minded nests.”
Taylor, who tracks more than 250 pieces of “green” legislation around the world, said the trend is growing.
What to expect
The most important takeaway from adopting this methodology: “What gets done gets done right,” Naguib said.
“The best data will be visible directly to customers in a variety of ways. It’s going to be very critical. And customers are going to start making decisions on this information,” she said. “There will be major improvements that involve capital expenditures if there’s a way to show that these capital expenditures are going to help reduce the total carbon footprint.”
Naguib hopes that this will provide a way to communicate with owners to get them to help fund larger projects. Marriott wants HCMI 1.0 to become a brand standard by March. Wyndham expects the methodology to be in all of its franchised hotels in five to seven years, Taylor said.
“Hotel companies got together and put aside all their competitiveness to help the consumer identity,” Aimable said. “(They) developed a really great methodology and pragmatic solution.”
And as more people start to use this methodology, Aimable said more companies will say it’s better to have some consistency.
“We’re not trying to push it on people,” she said. “It’s really about a hotel company saying, ‘OK, if my competitors are reporting in one way and my customer is demanding that, then it benefits us to report the way the industry is reporting.”
“Overall, I think it’s a wonderful thing for the industry, and it certainly is a wonderful thing from a sustainability standpoint,” Bates said.