What does it mean to be a sustainable hotel?

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While the term ‘green’ in business originally related to environmental
issues, it has evolved to embrace all aspects of sustainability and
corporate social responsibility (CSR). To be properly ‘green’, a
company now needs to incorporate sustainable thinking in its
decision-making at all levels throughout the organisation.
In the past, corporate philanthropy, or ‘giving back’ to
the community, used to be the way a company looked
to enhance its reputation externally. Today, even the
most basic level of acceptable business practice requires a
more sophisticated approach. Companies are judged on
their accountability, transparency, business ethics, socioeconomic
awareness and resource-effi ciency as well as
their fi nancial results.
Businesses today are under external scrutiny as never
before. Shareholders, investors, employees, customers,
environmental and ethical groups - and the general
public - expect companies to be exemplary across the
‘triple bottom line’ of economic, social and environmental
management. If they are not, pressure groups and the
media are willing and able to expose their weaknesses. As
our understanding and knowledge grows about issues such
as global warming, climate change, human rights injustices
and the causes of poverty, the world looks as much to
the business community as to governments to provide
Integrating responsible practices into your hotel or
resort operation will benefi t your business in many ways.
‘Admired’ companies attract investors, enjoy better
customer and guest loyalty and are able to recruit and
retain high-calibre, motivated employees. This helps them
improve their market share and position. Hotel owners
and operators that understand the environmental and
socio-economic context in which they operate are better
placed to manage risk and maintain their licence to operate.
Resource-effi cient hotels not only improve their bottom line
by eliminating wasteful practices, but also lighten their load
on the planet, something we all urgently need to do.
The strategies and approaches presented in this paper
will help to increase the sustainability of hotel operations
by minimising their negative impacts on the surrounding
ecosystems and cultures while increasing their positive
contributions to biodiversity conservation, cultural heritage
preservation and community development.

DESIGNATE or appoint a senior member of staff responsible for
environmental management. They should have the awareness,
knowledge and skills to implement best practices to regional and
international standards.
+ IDENTIFY a person from each department who will be part of the
hotel’s environmental working group or ‘green team’.
INSTITUTE ways to measure your progress – for example through
indicators such as water use in litres or cubic metres per guest night,
energy use in kWh per guest night and waste in kg per guest night.
+ DRAW UP responsible business policy to which the entire operation can

+ LAUNCH a responsible business programme to staff and solicit
+ MAINTAIN staff awareness of the programme through regular
meetings, posters and information on notice-boards etc.
+ ENCOURAGE motivation through competitions, suggestion boxes
and reward staff for successes each month.
INCLUDE a module on your responsible business policy and
programme in all staff induction and refresher training.
+ COMMUNICATE results to staff as you progress the programme.

+ ASSESS your current environmental impacts and determine potential
primary, secondary and tertiary impacts and their signifi cance. List
possible mitigation and management alternatives and describe which
ones will be used.
(Much of the information on your resource use, waste and use of
chemicals can be found in utility and purchasing bills.)
+ INSTALL meters for each department and for specifi c items of
equipment that are high energy and water users.
MEASURE and monitor your progress on a regular basis. This can be
daily, weekly or monthly, depending on usage and your department.
+ SET measurable short and long term targets for improvement and
take corrective action when they are not met.
+ WORK with other hotels and local businesses to improve
environmental standards in the local area or destination.
+ INFORM guests, vendors, and local stakeholders about your
environmental policy, programmes and successes.

IDENTIFY the key areas of energy use and the
fuel sources.

IDENTIFY the key areas of water
use and how reductions can be

+ SOURCE products which are the most sustainable in their
manufacture, use and disposal.
+ REVIEW all the products and services you purchase and identify
where more sustainable alternatives are available.
+ EXAMINE how your suppliers select their suppliers so that you can
help develop a fully sustainable supply chain.
+ INTEGRATE sustainable criteria into your purchasing policy and
+ ENCOURAGE local businesses to cut down on transport energy by
sourcing locally.
+ BUY as much seasonal and local produce as possible.
+ BUY products in bulk and reduce packaging where possible.
+ CHALLENGE suppliers and other business partners to improve their
+ GIVE PREFERENCE to ‘fair trade’ products (such as coffee and tea) or
eco-labelled goods where possible.
+ NEVER purchase or sell items made from protected wildlife or illegallytraded
species and inform your guests if there are any such items that
may be offered for sale outside the hotel.
+ RECOGNISE suppliers’ efforts through special events, promotion and
longer-term contracts.

+ BE FAIR, honest, open and transparent in all your dealings with
customers, employees and suppliers and respect their human rights
at all times.
+ BE SENSITIVE to the needs of those you employ and in the
surrounding community such as respecting their local culture,
heritage and traditions.
+ IDENTIFY ways in which the local community can benefi t from the
presence of your establishment.
+ DEVELOP and support tourism-related businesses in partnership with
the local community.
+ USE locally provided services where possible.
+ TRAIN local workers in order to phase them into management positions
over time.
+ EMPLOY local people where possible.
+ SUPPORT local community development projects with money, time and
under-utilised resources.
+ PROVIDE ways for guests to volunteer for local conservation or
community development projects.

+ SUPPORT conservation and cultural heritage preservation projects
through fi nancial and in-kind support and volunteer programmes.
+ USE native plant species for landscaping and natural insect control
measures such as fi sh and other animals.
+ ‘SHOWCASE’ the local culture and heritage through produce, art and
handicraft of local communities.
+ CONTRIBUTE to habitat restoration efforts when possible.
+ UTILISE guidelines and training programmes to improve behaviour
and increase awareness with regard to recreational activities.
+ REQUIRE the use of guides in sensitive areas.
+ PROVIDE guests with lists of products and souvenirs to avoid.
+ WORK with local people when developing cultural attractions.
+ EDUCATE guests and local people about different cultures and
acceptable behaviours.
+ DESIGN an interpretive guest education programme to revolve around
specifi c themes, with clear messages relating to local environmental and
cultural issues.
+ RESPECT locally determined limits on scale and activities with regard to
tourist interaction with local people.
+ CHOOSE an effi cient mode of transport, such as buses and trains to
decrease energy consumption and emissions.
+ PROVIDE ‘no vehicle’ zones.
+ CONSIDER the use of non-motorised transportation and electric motors
to decrease pollution and noise.
+ TRAIN staff in the proper maintenance of vehicles and boats and
mandate maximum speeds.

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