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GLRPPR Sector Resource: Developing a Sustainability Measurement Framework for Hotels: Toward an Industry-wide Reporting Structure

Developing a Sustainability Measurement Framework for Hotels: Toward an Industry-wide Reporting Structure

Free registration required to download full publication. What is the carbon footprint of my hotel stay? Surprisingly, each global lodging company currently provides the answer to this question in a different format, inhibiting aggregate corporate or event travel carbon footprinting and comparison. Third parties have attempted to help answer this question uniformly but their proposals have not gained traction, and no single method for calculation has been widely adopted. The need for uniform carbon footprint calculation of a hotel stay is paramount, yet it is not the only sustainability performance metric. Other issues such as energy, water, and waste are also at the forefront of stakeholder requests and manifested through sustainability reporting and certifications. The emergence of such questions, combined with the global trends of sustainable development and corporate responsibility, point toward a broader need for addressing non-financial performance data collectively and uniformly within the hotel industry. In response to requests from guests, investors, and other stakeholders regarding sustainability, most hotel companies have developed platforms to address these needs. Despite this promising development, the individual chains' reports, assumptions, and measures are not always communicated uniformly -- although it's clear that stakeholders seek to use the data to make comparisons. Taking a historical context for sustainability measurement within the industry and globally, this report presents a conceptual framework for developing sustainability performance indicators to address present stakeholder requests, as well as others that may arise. The framework developed and tested in this report is designed to provide an avenue for industry collaboration and discussion toward a uniform set of metrics that are highly practical in application. The framework is tested using actual 2010 data from 20 hotels operated by InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International, or Wyndham Worldwide, all of which assisted with data collection. The study applied the framework seeking to evaluate the boundaries, quantification methods, and metrics for performance indicators of carbon, energy, water, and waste derived from hotel stays, which currently are the most common requests from external stakeholders. In addition, the practicality of data collection was considered as currently practiced. Based on the study's methods and results as an example, standard metrics are certainly feasible, yet several issues required for collaborative industry agreement remain. Hotels will need to agree on boundary specifications such as addressing differences in laundry wash handling, the quantification of values such as which emission factors to use and how to allocate rooms versus function space footprints, and the metrics utilized such as per occupied room or per available room. Further issues to enable comparability are discussed. No one catch-all industry benchmark will adequately represent the environmental footprint of hotel stays. Normalization based on amenities or outlets, climate zones, and chain scale segment can help various stakeholders understand the complexity of hotel footprinting, provided that industry collaboration coincides with the proprietary sustainability systems lodging companies are developing internally.


Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research

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