Sustainability in the hotel industry: local impact, global power

Sustainability in the hotel industry is gaining in importance - and should also be taken into account when restarting after the crisis, says Wolfgang M. Neumann, chairman of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance platform launched in October 2020.

Sustainability in the hotel industry, Neumann
Wolfgang M. Neumann, Sustainable Hospitality Alliance
corporAID: Is sustainability still a niche in the hotel industry or is it already mainstream? 

Wolfgang M. Neumann: There is definitely a strong trend towards more sustainability in the hotel industry. This is also reflected in the members of our Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, which includes global brands such as Hilton, IHG, Marriott International and Radisson as well as the regional brands Dorint and Soneva. Several factors drive the issue. Of course, there is a moral obligation that everyone must do their part to protect our planet and its people. But there is also a strong economic argument. After all, sustainability is playing an increasingly important role in business and leisure travel. According to the platform, 70 percent of all travelers would be more likely to book an accommodation if they knew that it was environmentally friendly. On the other hand, by switching to more sustainable operating modes, considerable savings can be achieved. If the hotel industry starts anew after the severe Covid-19 crisis, it should think about it. Because sustainability creates competitive advantages and improves organizational efficiency.

corporAID: Which sustainability issues should hotels deal with in particular?

Neumann: Sustainability encompasses topics as diverse as poverty, climate change and environmental degradation. The 17 global goals for sustainable development (SDG) show this diversity. A company can hardly take everything into account. However, hotels can have an extremely positive effect on their surroundings, on the local economy, on jobs, infrastructure and procurement. So every hotel should think about its local influence to make sure it doesn't consume too many resources or harm the environment. But the industry also has a collective force. There are more than 200.000 hotels worldwide, together they have a significant impact on supply chains and partner companies in terms of ethical recruiting, CO2-Emissions and water consumption as well as responsible procurement and waste. 

corporAID: Do you see major regional differences in the sustainability strategies of hotels?

Neumann: Social and ecological issues have different priorities depending on the region - just think of water scarcity, which is much more serious in some places than in others. Hotels should find contributions for specific challenges. There are great examples of the inclusion of workers with disabilities in Africa and India. There is also progress in the ethical recruiting of migrant workers in Asia, Africa and the Middle East or in plastic avoidance in the Maldives. Ideally, a hotel cooperates with other hotels or partners from the community in order to increase the positive influence. By exchanging best practice, solutions can also be replicated and scaled in other locations. 

Many thanks for the interview!

The platform Sustainable Hospitality Alliance provides a range of free tools and resources designed to enable hotels to make progress in the four priority areas of climate change, water, youth employment and human rights.

Photo: SHA