Meeting Mentor Magazine

May 2024

How One Hotel Company Is Doubling Down on Sustainability

With Earth Day right around the corner, sustainability — always a top priority at ConferenceDirect — is on everyone’s mind. The hospitality industry has been full-speed ahead with environmental initiatives in recent years, including Radisson Hotel Group (RHG), which has implemented an initiative to reduce carbon, water, energy and waste throughout its operations, including guaranteeing every group that meets at its properties is able to hold a carbon-neutral event without any costs to the organizer or efforts needed on the planner’s part.

Inge Huijbrechts, Global Senior Vice President Sustainability, Security and Corporate Communications with Radisson Hotel Group

MeetingMentor recently caught up with Inge Huijbrechts, Global Senior Vice President Sustainability, Security and Corporate Communications with Radisson Hotel Group, to learn more.

MeetingMentor: What are RHG’s carbon-reduction long- and short-term goals?

Huijbrechts: RHG is committed to be net zero by 2050 to be aligned with the Paris Agreement (COP21) and has taken active steps towards this goal using science-based targets. In 2022, RHG received confirmation and validation that its near-term science-based targets (SBTs) are aligned with its commitment to be net zero by 2050. Authentication was provided by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), a partnership between experts of the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), the United Nations Global Compact, World Resources Institute and the WWF.

Two main levers we are using to do this are increasing the energy efficiency of hotel buildings and transitioning to renewable energy. For example, in the past 10 years, RHG has reduced its energy and water footprint by 30%. RHG has committed to reducing absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 46% by 2030 from a 2019 base year. RHG also has committed to reducing absolute scope 3 GHG emissions from fuel and energy related activities and franchises 27.5% within the same timeframe.

To cooperate with the asset owners on the journey to net zero, RHG has defined building design guidelines called Build Planet and Build Planet Advance. These allow owners to reach the level of the main building ecolabels, such as LEED, BREEAM and EDGE. Our regular technical standards bring them 50% there with requirements on insulation, building management systems, heat recuperation, 100% LED lighting, etc. The additional Build Planet & Build Planet Advance guidelines help owners take the extra steps to future-proof their buildings.

RHG partners with global ecolabels such as Green Key, Earth Check and Green Tourism, recognizing the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) standards for accommodation which audit and validate our hotels’ sustainability performance. In 2022, 226 hotels have been eco-labeled

MM: What have been some of your carbon-reduction results so far?

Huijbrechts: In 2022, our carbon footprint per square meter was 79 kg of CO2e, 18% lower than in 2019. Our total scope 1 and scope 2 carbon footprint amounted to 612,763 tons of CO2e, a reduction of 7% compared to 2019.

 In 2022, our absolute energy footprint was 1,895 GWh. Our energy intensity was 125 kWh per occupied room and 243 kWh per square meter, which represents a 2% reduction in energy use compared to 2019. We’re also working to implement renewable electricity solutions that achieve the greatest carbon reduction, as well as pursuing a renewable energy sourcing strategy that will increase the amount of renewable electricity we purchase. Wherever feasible, we encourage hotels to install systems to generate renewable energy onsite. Other renewable energy options include Green Tariffs, PPAs, and EACs.

In addition, all our new hotel designs and new-build constructions feature energy efficient Mechanical Electrical Plumbing (MEP) technology. We optimize the performance of our heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems through the hotels’ Building Management Systems. We adopt innovative technologies, such as smart thermostats and easy-to-implement energy saving tools which provide a quick return on investment. These include motion and daylight sensors, thermal insulation on heating and cooling pipes, and replaceable HVAC filters.

In 2022, we launched the “Own your energy” campaign, promoting energy efficiency basics through active engagement. Team members are asked to take a habit changing pledge and to own their efficient energy use.

MM: How are you acting as good water stewards?

Huijbrechts: RHG is focused on ensuring that water use is equitable throughout the communities in which we operate. Our water stewardship efforts include limiting the use of water through technological improvements in our rooms and operations.

Specific actions are designed to help hotels reduce their water consumption further include an action plan and toolkit that provide solutions for technical plants, guest rooms, kitchens, pools and landscaping. Hotels also install water-saving technologies in areas where water consumption is high, and guest engagement initiatives such as the towel reuse and green housekeeping programs focus on collective action. Across the portfolio, our water footprint per occupied room was reduced to 800 liters in 2022.

Together with other members of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, RHG has developed a methodology to measure and report water consumption in a consistent manner across the whole hotel industry. The Hotel Water Measurement Initiative (HWMI) methodology enables every hotel to measure and report on the water footprint of any individual hotel stay, meeting, or event. 

MM: Radisson has been offering carbon-neutral meetings since 2019 by automatically offsetting the carbon footprint of every meeting and event at no cost to clients through First Climate. With the concerns now about “greenwashing,” how do you ensure that your selected carbon-offset projects are legitimate and will have the intended impact?

Huijbrechts: RHG, one of the first hotel groups to offer carbon neutral meetings and events, ensures that every meeting and event taking place at any of our hotels is offset at no cost to clients. Since its launch in 2019, the program has offset 61,800 tons of CO2e, the equivalent of taking 13,300 petrol-driven cars of the road. The carbon offsetting is automatically done for planners, so there’s no hassle in putting on a carbon-neutral event.

For each meeting, the carbon footprint is calculated using the HCMI methodology and then offset through projects that are natural climate solutions which are Gold Standard or Verified Carbon Standard certified, as well as linked to the fulfillment of UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Among the 17 environmental and social projects worldwide RHG has supported are the installation of biogas plants in less developed areas of India and China to generate thermal energy from manure and kitchen waste, as well as cleaner cooking stoves and water treatment systems in Kenya. We also support a sustainable Brazil nut harvesting initiative in Peru that provides income for the local community, and wind farm projects in Turkey, India, and the U.S. that have generated new supplies of clean electricity.

MM: How does Radisson’s sustainability program impact the local communities in which your hotels operate?

Huijbrechts: We aim to create relationships which are beneficial to our business and the communities in which we operate, many of which have important social needs. Our goal is to have a positive impact on communities by creating shared value.

We partner with multiple organizations to give back to the environment and the local communities where we operate. For example, we have a long-standing partnership with SOS Children’s Villages International to ensure that children grow up in a safe and caring family environment. Our commitment to global water health is reflected in the partnership with Just a Drop to bring safe drinking water to water stressed communities.

MM: How do you work with suppliers to reduce and recycle waste?

Huijbrechts: RHG works with suppliers to prevent waste, increase recycling and develop circular models which help reduce the volume of waste that goes to landfill and incineration, directly affecting the Group’s scope 3 emissions.

Focusing on responsible consumption includes rethinking material use, actively managing food waste, eliminating single-use plastics, and reusing and replacing products with more durable solutions wherever possible. RHG has rolled out a global plan to reduce single use plastics (SUP) that includes eliminating SUP from the food and beverage services, introducing bulk amenity dispensers by the end of 2023, and introducing reusable water bottle solutions.

We have implemented several measures to help prevent needless food waste, including portion control and correct food storage. Select RHG properties are partnering with Too Good To Go, a social impact company dedicated to fighting global food waste and its negative impact on the environment, including the waste of other natural resources. The goal of the partnership is to redistribute locally the surplus food of Radisson Hotel Group hotels via the Too Good To Go app.

MM: What is the Hotel Sustainability Basics (HSB) and how does your partnership with the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) on the Basics help spur the creation of a more sustainable hotel industry?

Huijbrechts: HSB is a program run by the World Travel & Tourism Council, supported by 70 hotel companies, organizations and destinations, collectively representing 50,000 hotels. RHG, along with other brands, associations and destinations, launched HSB to drive responsible and sustainable travel globally. HSB, which will be rolled out in RHG by the end of 2023, contains 12 criteria focused on efficient resource use, planet and people, with progress built into the framework.

Together with the WTTC, we recently launched the next stage of the Hotel Sustainability Basics, namely a verification with leading partners SGS and Green Key that turns Basics into the trusted, proven label for entry-level hotel sustainability. 

MM: How are you integrating sustainability into your loyalty program revamp?

Huijbrechts: Because sustainability is one of Radisson Hotel Group’s highest priorities, Radisson Rewards members can make their hotel stays carbon neutral by redeeming just 325 points per day to offset the carbon footprint of their stay in a reliable and seamless way. The points are used to support the rainforest community project in Peru by tackling deforestation and providing a sustainably generated income. The project has brought together hundreds of local families and small-scale concession holders who harvest Brazil nuts in the Peruvian Amazon.

The hotel industry provides two easy solutions for the conference and MICE partners to use: Hotel Sustainability Basics and further steps on the Pathway to Net Positive hospitality. Let’s harmonize and align on measurement and communication to assist in driving green conference and meetings and events.

What’s your sustainability story? Share your best practices and innovations with MeetingMentor readers! Contact Sue Pelletier at sue.pelletier@conferencedirect.com.

 

 

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About MeetingMentor
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