How Hilton measures sustainability

Don’t you hate it when you check into a hotel, enter your room and find every light on and the radio playing? I do. Someone’s paying for the energy, and there’s no justification for the unnecessary greenhouse gas emissions.

That shouldn’t happen at a Hilton -- not if Chris Corpuel has anything to say about it. Corpuel oversees the hotel company’s sustainability efforts, the centerpiece of which is a digital platform called LightStay that tracks efficiency projects and allows hotel owners to share best practices -- even simple ones like turning out lights in rooms that are unoccupied.

“I don’t know of a hotel owner who wants to use more energy,” Corpuel says. “We try to give them the tools to be more efficient.”

Hilton Worldwide, where Corpuel is vice president for brand services, does more than provide its hotels with tools. To fly the flag of Hilton or one of its  brands -- they include DoubleTree, Embassy Suites, Hampton, Homewood Suites and Waldorf Astoria -- hotel owners are required to measure their sustainability performance and demonstrate efforts to improve.

While every big hotel chain has a sustainability program, Hilton was the first major hospitality company to require sustainability measurement as a brand standard. The company manages about 3,800 hotels but owns fewer than 50 of them, so its brand standards govern what the independent owners can do.

“We’re willing to take down a flag for non-compliance,” Chris said, although that hasn’t proven necessary.

I visited recently with Chris, who is 38, at Hilton Worldwide’s headquarters in McLean, Va. The Blackstone Group, a private equity firm, bought the hotel company for about $26 billion in 2007, in what was then the biggest hotel acquisition ever. It was right about then – inspired, in part, by a FORTUNE cover story about Walmart – that Hilton launched its first formal sustainability program. Soon after, Chris Nassetta, the company’s chief executive, decided that the company needed a global platform to measure the footprints of all its hotels.

Photo of Hilton hotel in Istanbul provided by Hilton

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