Aerial view of greenery surrounding a hotel swimming pool

Did you know hotels account for approximately one percent of global carbon dioxide emissions? It might not seem like a lot, but to put it in perspective, out of the carbon dioxide released annually, it’s equivalent to powering 45.7 million homes for a year. Turns out those luxury touches like themed suites, room service on tap, and butlers come at a cost to the planet, too.

The good news is that there’s a growing trend towards more eco-friendly hotels worldwide. Dubai has introduced a Carbon Calculator tool for hotels, America boasts its first “carbon-positive” hotel in Denver, and South Africa has unveiled an innovative 12-story Hemp Hotel constructed using hemp materials – all pretty remarkable, right? These hotels offer a chance to enjoy your stay while reducing your environmental impact, which travellers increasingly value.

These are some great sustainability wins, especially on World Tourism Day, which is all about “Tourism and Green Investments,” according to Bonnie Smith, GM of FCM Travel. Smith also mentions that sustainability has been a hot topic in corporate travel for a while, and hotels are seen as the main culprits for gobbling up energy.


The heat is on

FCM’s recent white paper “The heat is on for corporate travel to be more sustainable” showed that hotels alone can contribute as much as 17.5% of global carbon emissions from a single business trip. While this statistic is particularly relevant to the energy and resources sector, it emphasises the importance of aligning sustainability efforts with your business’s industry and core activities, says Smith. The challenge then? Relook your travel programme – and where your business travellers are staying – and make adjustments.

Hotels alone can contribute as much as 17.5% of global carbon emissions from a single business trip.

The payoff? “Prioritising sustainability in hotels can lead to significant progress in achieving your ESG and sustainability goals, given the impact hotels have,” she says.

The most significant factors affecting a hotel’s carbon footprint are electricity consumption, diet, guest transportation methods, and hotel room equipment. So hotels need to be upping their energy use game by investing in LED lighting and smart thermostats, providing menus highlighting locally sourced and organic food items, and offering shuttle services to eliminate the need for car hire.


The role that businesses can play

While the broader tourism industry needs to focus on changing traveller behaviour and offering more sustainable travel options, businesses have an important role to play too, says Smith.

She suggests several ways to maximise corporate travel sustainability, including offsetting travellers’ carbon footprints, implementing a no-print travel policy, and setting up alerts on booking platforms to receive notifications about the most sustainable routes.

Regarding hotels, she provides the following advice:

Assess your supply chain for eco-friendliness

It’s a good idea to closely examine your supply chain and ensure your preferred suppliers align with your short-term and long-term sustainability goals. Smith recommends, “Go for hospitality providers that care about saving energy, using eco-friendly products, and reducing plastic.”

Choose sustainable hotels

When selecting the hotels you want to work with, give a thumbs-up to properties that follow local or national sustainability guidelines. Smith suggests looking for hotels that are doing their part for the environment. Need help with that? “FCM Consulting can help you find suppliers who share your green goals during the Request for Proposal process,” she adds.

Strike the right balance

Sustainability is important but shouldn’t come at the expense of service quality or traveller satisfaction. Smith advises, “Find hotels and chains committed to sustainability without compromising your travel experience.”

She further recommends that whether you are travelling for business, leisure or bleisure, you check out the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance‘s recommendations for evaluating hotel sustainability. “This will empower you to choose hotels or partner with suppliers who offer tools to track your carbon emissions,” she says.

“Investing in better hotel selection is crucial, for it shapes our environment, communities, and the future of travel. Let’s recognise that where we choose to stay is a powerful investment in creating a more sustainable and responsible travel industry for generations to come,” concludes Smith.