Accor's PLANET 21 program brings sustainability to all of its hotels

Accor's PLANET 21 program brings sustainability to all of its hotels

With 40,000 new rooms created every year, Accor intends to combine development with growth that respects the environment and local communities, by involving all of its hotels and customers in a new sustainable development program -- PLANET 21. The name is a direct reference to Agenda 21, the environmental action plan signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and reminds one of the urgent concerns that face the planet in the 21st century and the need to change methods of production and consumption patterns to preserve human beings and eco-systems.

With PLANET 21, Accor is making 21 commitments and the same number of quantified goals for the year 2015, including: employees trained in disease prevention in 95 percent of hotels; 80 percent of properties promoting balanced meals; 85 percent of hotels using eco-labeled products; a 15 percent reduction in water consumption; and 10 percent decrease in energy use at Accor's owned and leased hotels worldwide.

"At a time when the Group is embarking on a phase of brisk expansion, with the aim of becoming the global reference in hotel industry, we are reaffirming our choice of responsible growth capable of generating shared value for all," said Denis Hennequin, chairman and CEO of Accor. "With the PLANET 21 program, we are putting sustainable hospitality at the core of the Group's strategy, development and innovation. I am convinced that sustainable development will lead us towards a new business model. PLANET 21 gives us a fantastic driver of competitiveness for our brands, attractiveness for our customers and partners and loyalty for our employees."

Long History of Environmental Activities

Since 1994, when Accor first established its Environment Department, the Group has adopted numerous solutions to contribute to the development of local communities, reduce water and energy consumption and limit the environmental footprint of its hotels. With PLANET 21, Accor is reinforcing its determination to put sustainable development at the heart of its activities: 21 commitments that involve customers, partners and employees in order to improve Accor's sustainability performance.

For these reasons, the new PLANET 21 strategy includes a program to engage customers, inviting them to contribute to the hotels' actions and achievements. From making a reservation to staying and or dining in Accor hotels, customers will discover an array of messages that will encourage them to contribute actively to the hotel's action through a few simple gestures. The tone of the messages will be friendly and thoughtful, aimed at encouraging customers to participate without ever making them feel guilty.

To guarantee the credibility of this program, hotels can only use the PLANET 21 messages if they comply with a certain level of performance in terms of sustainable development, assessed according to a list of 65 check points or if they achieved an internationally recognized external certification.

Because it is no longer possible to tackle issues of sustainable development in a purely intuitive manner, Accor has commissioned two international surveys to obtain comprehensive and objective information. In 2011, the Group carried out a study on its environmental footprint that enabled it to measure accurately the main impacts, define priorities for action and identify new challenges. This work was preceded by a survey measuring the expectations of international hotel guests which showed that sustainable development is a growing criterion of choice for both leisure and business customers.

Important to Accor Customers

"Today, 70 percent of our major account customers have integrated sustainable development criteria in their supplier policies, and one out of two of these customers says they take this criterion into account when choosing a hotel," says Sophie Flak, executive vice president Sustainable Development and Academies for Accor. "We used these findings to implement PLANET 21: a program covering all our social, societal and environmental commitments, with precise goals that unite our employees and offer our customers an opportunity to participate."

Among the 21 goals of its program, Accor is also deepening its focus on preserving the ecosystems in which its hotels operate. A pioneer in reforestation, Accor has financed the planting of more than two million trees worldwide, sharing the laundry cost savings generated through an innovative program that engages both hotels and guests.

To accelerate rollout of this program, Accor is relying on the expertise of Tristan Lecomte, founder of Alter Eco and Pur Projet and an expert in development of community forestation projects. "PLANET 21 aligns perfectly with Pur Projet approach," Lecomte says. "With the contribution made by their guests, hotels participate directly in protecting their environment and the development of local communities. My aim is to support development of this program by integrating it more closely and more locally in the Group's different business lines."

With PLANET 21, Accor aims to reinvent the hotel industry on a sustainable basis by mobilizing its employees, guests and partners.

This article originally appeared on Green Lodging News, and is reprinted with permission.