Hotels, the SDGs and transparent reporting

RX, World Travel Market, Responsible Tourism Blog, June 2017

Author: Harold Goodwin

At the heart of Responsible Tourism are commitments to transparency and accountability. Responsible Tourism is about what people do, individually and collectively in businesses, to move towards sustainability. It is a process of addressing the sustainability issues which arise in a particular place and which the business can do something about, materiality matters. But it is not enough to focus only on the process, it is important to report the achievement.

There are now a plethora of reporting frameworks:

  • Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
  • CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project)
  • Climate Disclosure Standards Board,
  • International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) and
  • USA based Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB).

Complementing those frameworks are many different ranking and ratings initiatives:

There will be more.

In the context of the SDGs, the UN Principles for Responsible Investment (UNPRI), the 2014 Equator Principles and the UN Global Compact there is a clear trend towards more transparent reporting by businesses. TUI features in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) World and Europe, the CDP, the STOXX Global ESG Leaders Index and it is listed on the FTSE4Good Index in recognition of their “transparency and for meeting strict social, environmental and governance standards.”

In the hotel sector, more companies are beginning to report achievement transparently. Wyndham and NH Hotel Group have both committed to set a science-based emission target independently verified against a set of criteria developed by the Science Based Targets initiative.

Last year at WTM London Kate Gibson, VP for Corporate Responsibility at the InterContinental Hotels Group presented their work on linking their performance to the SDGs.

Their 2016 corporate social responsibility report aligned its actions with the global SDGs. They selected those SDGs where they could have the biggest impact working in partnership with their owners, colleagues and wider stakeholder community. They selected:

  • Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation)
  • Goal 8 (decent work and economic growth)
  • Goal 10 (reduced inequalities)
  • Goal 11 (sustainable cities and communities)
  • Goal 12 (responsible consumption and production)
  • Goal 13 (climate action)
  • Goal 17 (partnerships for the goals).

Amongst the highlights picked out in their report are some clear evidence of progress on water and carbon:

  • 9% reduction in water use per occupied room in water-stressed areas from 2013-2016 accounting for 66% of the 2017 target
  • 4% reduction in carbon footprint per occupied room from 2013-2016 accounting for 61% of the 2017 target.

The full report can be downloaded here.

There is an increasing expectation that reporting will become more regulated and that the information reported will be subject to auditing and verification, as mentioned in talking point: ESG reporting in travel & tourism. The International Tourism Partnership has developed the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI), a methodology and tool which enables hotels to measure and report on carbon emissions in a consistent way. It originated as a means of standardising carbon information when responding to calls for proposals from companies for conferences, it is transitioning to be more consumer facing. Over 24,000 hotels globally are using HCMI. Working with Greenview, ITP launched the Hotel Footprinting Tool which allows anyone easy access to the carbon and energy footprint of hotels worldwide. ITP members are now working together to develop a methodology to measure and report on water consumption in a consistent manner across the hotel industry – the Hotel Water Measurement Initiative.

It is still early days but the direction of travel is clear.

Certification will need to evolve to address this developing agenda, we could call it certification plus, it is a natural evolution of what certifying bodies do. Back in 2011 Green Tourism businesses were on average achieving an Excellent rating against the International Tourism Partnerships Benchmarks. Green Tourism subsequently prepared a set of Industry Benchmarks (Poor, Fair, Good and Excellent) for all their members to focus on achieving a net zero carbon impact per room night and zero kWh/square metre. Green Tourism has published a range of benchmarks for Kg CO2 per bed night and per visitor, their own, the ITP and CIBSE the Chartered Institute of Building Service Engineers. To date the reporting is collective; another step change will come when individual properties report.

WTM Responsible Tourism Awards

In the WTM Responsible Tourism Awards this year we are looking for hotels, and other types of tourism businesses, which are able to report with some data on their success in reducing negative impacts (for example carbon, water and waste) or increasing their positive impacts (for example local sourcing, decent work and more inclusive employment).

If you could apply please do – we need to showcase the leaders to encourage the others. If you know a business that should apply then please encourage them.

Find out about this year’s WTM Responsible Tourism Awards.