Editorial January 2011
Making 20 2020 happens: the hospitality industry as a leading industry?
In 2007, the European Union (EU) has set itself the ambitious 20 2020 goal which translates into reducing greenhouse gases by 20% by year 2020 compared to the 1990 levels. This can and should be achieved through measures in energy efficiencies (EE) and an increased use of renewable energy (RE) in the EU’s final energy mix to 20% by 2020.
What role does the hospitality industry play in these macro-political decisions?
For one, the tourism industry at large, (which include transport, accommodation, and gastronomy as examples) is estimated to be responsible for 5% of the world’s carbon dioxide (CO2) gas emissions. The hotel sector represents 20% of the tourism industry’s emissions – in other word 1% of all CO2 gas emissions.
Due to its relative low-share of global CO2 emissions, the media spotlight was seldom, until recently, turned towards our industry. The most famous culprits, such as the heavy machinery manufacturing sector or extractive industry are a much more interesting target. Nevertheless, some industry leaders and managers with foresight within the hotel sector understood that it makes business sense to turn around the operations and look at ways to: (1) become more in-sync with the environment in which it operates, (2) understand the value of community involvement and role as important employer of ‘human’ labour and (3) appreciate the economic benefits of sound environmental practice and fair labour relationships.
And this is nothing new. While the critics often label the hospitality industry to be always following other industry, to ‘sit and watch’ while others take risks, it is this very same industry which has made constant progress over the past 20 years. Following the report from the Brundtland commission in 1987, the hospitality industry has never ceased to be active: from the commissioning by the InterContinental group of an environmental manual for the chain’s multiple opportunities in 1990 to the creation of the International Hotels Environment Initiative (IHEI) in 1992 (which was to be rebranded as the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) in 2004); from the subsequent publication of the Green Hotelier magazine in 1995 to the launch of the first set of environmental management benchmarking tools, practical suggestions, checklists and forms and the Hotels’ Environmental charter in the Environmental Action Pack in 1996 (A partnership between the IHEI, the AH&LA, IHA and UNEP); from the publication of the ITP’s Sustainable Hotel Siting and Design Guidelines in 2005 to the launch of the Hotel Energy Solutions eTool kit (a partnership between the UNWTO, UNEP, IH&RA, ADEME and EREC) planned this summer of 2011- this industry is at the forefront in wanting to reduce its 1% share of the global CO2 emissions.
Following visits to Madrid’s FITUR (Feria Internacional de Turismo) and Berlin’ German Hotel Conference (Deutscher Hotelkongress) and multiple discussions with hospitality decision makers, managers and legislators, only one conclusion can be drawn: sustainability matters are high on the daily business agenda and this is a good sign.
Willy Legrand and Philip Sloan