From bees to trees: a grass roots approach to sustainability in hotels

White Papers 28 Feb 2017

The global warming pact struck at the COP21 Climate Conference in late 2015 has brought a renewed focus on the business world’s commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility. While the pact has seen many companies recently review and increase their efforts, a large number of hotel brands have already been improving their contribution to environment and community over recent years.

With hotel industry research revealing approximately half of the world’s travellers will consider environmentally-friendly properties when choosing where to stay, hotels have been stepping up their initiatives to reduce the social and environmental impacts of their operations. While travellers continue to prioritise comfort and convenience as key influencers of their bookings, they are also likely to factor sustainable travel into their decisions.

From rooftop beehives to low-flow toilets and aggressive recycling measures, more hotels have spent the past few years dedicating resources specifically to the development of sustainability and community programs. Their focus is on striking the balance between giving their guests the luxury and comfort they desire, and fulfilling a corporate obligation to protect the environment and help improve standards of living in local communities. Asking guests to reuse their bath towels or reduce their water consumption, for example, is an effective way of reducing a hotel’s environmental footprint with little to no inconvenience for the majority of its guests.

Implications for business travellers

As hotels continue to do the right thing by their communities and the environment, corporate travellers can expect to see more opportunities for genuine and meaningful ways to connect with, and support the destinations where they stay. This is particularly good news for travellers who value authentic philanthropy and are looking to support hotels in giving back to the environment and communities in which they do business.

Snapshot of Sustainability commitments



Hilton Logo

• Development of proprietary “LightStay”to measure energy, water use and waste and carbon output
• Responsible sourcing from 4000+ women, minority and veteran-owned businesses
• Banning of the use of shark fin at all 4500 hotels globally.

Hyatt Logo

• Reduce energy use, greenhouse gas emissions and water usage by 25% by 2020
• Ensure every managed hotel diverts 40% of its waste from landfills
• Choose more sustainable alternatives for at least 8 purchasing categories.

Marriott Logo

• Pilot of the world-first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Volume Program
• Installation of 263 electric vehicle charging stations at Marriott hotels worldwide
• Investment in and promotion of key conservation initiatives e.g. Amazon forest preservation.

IHG Logo

• 4.8% reduction in water use per occupied room in water-stressed areas (since 2013)
• 3.9% reduction in carbon footprint per occupied room (since 2013)
• Launch of IHG Foundation to focus donations, in-kind support and disaster relief.

Accor Logo

• Eco-designed beds using wood sourced from sustainably managed forests
• Use of eco-certified soaps and cleaning products
• Use of sustainable foods including locally grown produce in hotel restaurants.


Innovation in hotel sustainability around the world

Cutting gas emissions

In the US, 16 New York hotels have committed to lowering their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 30 per cent in the next decade. Other hotel companies have already made significant inroads, including Wyndham Worldwide, which 

has hit its target – six years early – of reducing its operational carbon footprint by 20% by 2020. Wyndham has also partnered with various industry suppliers to reduce the environmental impacts of travel, including its partnership with Avis Budget Group to offset GHG emissions by encouraging its business travellers to rent hybrid vehicles.

Fairmont’s hotel-grown honey

With growing global awareness of the need to nurture honeybees and sustain the pollination of plants, more hotels are using their rooftop areas for beehives.  At the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco, hives reside on the rooftop garden deck as part of the hotel’s focus on using local and sustainable ingredients. The Fairmont joins a number of other hotels in San Francisco and many other parts of the world that maintain their own hives to produce honey for everything from beer and cocktails to salads and spa treatments.

Accor’s PLANET21

PLANET21 captures the 21 commitments Accor has made to sustainable development across health, nature, carbon, innovation, local development, employment and dialogue.

Under this program, Accor has achieved outcomes such as the use of eco-labelled products in 97% of its hotels, a 5.6% reduction in water use and a 4.5% reduction in energy use between 2011 and 2014, recycling of waste by 88% of hotels, purchasing and promotion of locally sourced products by 87% of hotels, and the inclusion of Accor in three internationally-recognised socially responsible investment indices and standards.

Hyatt’s community volunteer program

Hyatt hotels invite their guests to help support local communities through the company’s volunteer program. In Costa Rica, for example, Hyatt has partnered with a local non-profit organisation that helps improve the lives of thousands of children and their families. Hyatt invites its guests to assist the organisation by either ‘adopting’ a child, bringing supplies for local schools if they have room in their luggage, visiting a local school or family to provide support services for a day, or simply making a donation. 

Hilton’s soap campaign cleans the world

Gone are the days of wasting the bar of soap in each hotel stay.  Hilton has introduced a new campaign whereby they will recycle discarded soap and amenity bottles and donate them to reduce hygiene-related illnesses for communities in need. Marking the first time in the industry this is required as a brand standard, it is a major expansion of what is already the industry’s largest soap recycling program that will now include 1,370 hotels participating across Hilton’s portfolio.  Through partnerships with Clean the World and other organizations, Hilton hotels partially-used soaps and amenities are processed and remanufactured into new soap bars and prepared for distribution to homeless shelters, community centers and medical facilities in impoverished communities around the world.