If you’ve ever calculated the carbon footprint of your own household, you know how complicated it can be. Imagine doing the same calculus for the 800-room behemoths that are the world’s giant hotel chains.
It’s not easy. But it is important – especially to the thousands of corporations that use those very hotels for conferences, meetings or lengthy stays all year long.
To make the process easier, more than 20 international hotel chains, including Hilton, Hyatt and InterContinental, have agreed on a standard form of measurement to calculate the carbon footprint of hotel stays and corporate meetings.
The methodology, launched last week, aims to make it easier for clients, particularly corporations, to measure the overall carbon costs of their businesses. As more companies start to factor employee travel into their carbon footprint calculations, the initiative could mean businesses will start choosing hotels based on their carbon emissions scores.
Currently, hotels use different methods to calculate their carbon footprints, which can be confusing for clients. The lack of a standardized tool also makes transparency within the hotel industry difficult to achieve.
The new methodology, called the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) 1.0, was spearheaded by the London-based World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) and the International Tourism Partnership (ITP).
“WTTC believes this will be a hugely welcome and long overdue initiative,” said WTTC’s Communications Director Toby Nicol. “The methodology allows customers to compare the carbon output of any given hotel property on a like-for-like basis.”
The methodology was tested by more than 50 hotels of different sizes and styles around the world, and was reviewed by the World Resources Institute before being given the green light.
Using the methodology, hotels can calculate the daily carbon footprint per occupied room and the hourly carbon footprint per area of meeting space. This information can then be used to measure the carbon footprint of a specific customer’s use of the hotel. This comes in handy during the Request For Proposals (RFP) process, which most corporate clients use when choosing a hotel for their meeting, event or overnight stay.
The measurement looks at all energy used on the hotel premises, along with some carbon emissions that may occur off-site, such as outsourced laundry services.
Nicol said the hope is that the methodology will be adopted as the industry standard. It might also prove to be a boon for hotels, as sustainability-minded businesses will likely be inclined to use hotels with lower carbon footprints.
“Corporates are under increasing pressure to report their own carbon emissions, so by this logic it does mean that this will increasingly be taken into account,” Nicol said.
Companies are already taking note. Ayako Ezaki, director of communications at the International Ecotourism Society, said her organization would likely favor hotels that use the methodology.
“In the future, our organization may consider incorporating this into the RFP requirements for our annual conference,” she said.
Implementing the methodology across thousands of properties worldwide will take time, said Nicol. The majority of hotels will release their first HCMI 1.0 emissions report during the 2014 RFP season, although some might have reports ready as early as next year.
The group plans to refine the methodology based on user feedback and new research.
“We recognize that this is the first step in developing the methodology, hence its working title of ‘HCMI 1.0,’ which implies further revisions to come,” Nicol said.
This is one of a number of initiatives recently launched to help companies make informed choices regarding their hotel stays and meetings. Earlier this month, Accor, one of the hotel operators involved in HCMI 1.0, created a calculator designed to help companies track the carbon impact of conferences, based on the number of participants, the number of nights they stay and even what type of food is served.