Pope’s appeal to hotels is a watershed moment in sustainability

The appeal to hotels by the Pope, asking that they reduce water use, is a timely reminder that sustainability marries the ethical and commercial but the challenges are great and many.

In this case, the Vatican was addressing the tourism industry and, according to The Tablet, the message is: “The sustainable management of this natural resource is a challenge for the social, economic and environmental order, but especially because of its ethical nature, starting from the principle of the universal destination of the goods of the earth.”

“We are invited, therefore, to promote eco-tourism, environmentally friendly and sustainable, that can surely promote the creation of new jobs, support the local economy and reduce poverty. More determination from politicians and entrepreneurs is necessary.”

The message says that there needed to be “binding, specific and verifiable commitments” to ensure responsible use and just distribution of water.

It is certainly quite sobering when the head of the biggest church in the world feels it is necessary to enter the sustainability debate in such a forthright way and will give the hospitality sector pause for thought.

Carbon emissions

Not that it has been ignoring the issue of sustainability over the past few years, far from it. For example, the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) promoted by the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) and the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) brought together more than 20 hotel companies to agree a methodology for measuring carbon emissions in 2011 and more than 15,000 hotels have adopted HCMI since its launch.

Version 1.1 of the methodology has recently been released and the aim is to provide a voluntary and free methodology that while robust enough to meet global carbon reporting standards is also practical enough for any hotel to implement, from huge casino hotels to small bed and breakfasts.

The focus clearly is on corporate reporting and particularly on the Corporate Social Responsibility elements, hopefully providing transparency and clear communications. The HCMI was developed with consultants at KPMG, under the guidance of a Working Group of experts from WTTC and ITP member companies.

It’s a first step towards ensuring a common approach across the sector and was trialled at properties across the world, from boutique hotels to resorts, casinos and major conference hotels, then industry experts were consulted on the resulting draft.

Green tourism

Of course, closer to home, there are very proactive groups working to develop the culture of sustainability in our hospitality sector. Green Tourism, who we work with, is helping to guide hotels in the business of being green, not just as a “nice to have” but also as a commercial imperative.

We think the Vatican appeal, the HCMI and the strategic work of Green Tourism are clear indications of intent and application but we also think that so much more still needs to be done to cut water use in the sector. We have been working closely with global hospitality brands in this area over the past year so we know that the solutions we advise have a dramatic, positive impact on water consumption in all properties.

This not only is good for water management at the local community level, but also good for business with significant savings to be made year on year. The return on your investment is made very quickly – in fact, one of our clients was incredibly surprised at the speed of ROI. And these solutions are also good for the planet because they help to cut carbon emissions.



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