Hilton’s plan to make travel managers take sustainability seriously

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Despite environmental impacts at the top of corporate agendas, Hilton is finding that not all corporate clients are looking to it for data on sustainability and other elements of social impact. The hotel group is working to overcome the complexity in an exclusive world of communicating this information.

Matthew Parsons

Hilton is proactively pushing its corporate responsibility measurement platform to travel managers for corporate clients in an effort to help them get a better picture of their environmental impact.

The group launched LightStay in 2009, so its managed and franchised hotels could report data on energy, water, waste and social impact (including volunteerism and food donations) every month.

But despite sustainability being at the top of the agenda, one senior executive told Skift that not all corporations are asking for data. Why this is important is that without full buy-in across the hospitality ecosystem, green travel goals simply will not be successful. So better communication is necessary.

Jean Garris Hand, Hilton’s vice president of global environmental, social and corporate governance, said: “Customers want to take steps in this direction and sometimes it’s ‘how do we go about this?’ A lot of it is education, partnership and communication.”

Over the years, Hilton’s LightStay platform has earned three International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certifications, for quality, energy and environmental management.

These give it additional credibility through independent audits, among other aspects, and include inspectors covering housekeepers, sales staff and security teams, for example. They also conduct 60 one-hour meetings with corporate executives.

Certification also means that the figures can be included in annual financial reporting as recognized carbon calculations and that the methodologies are accurate, consistent and in line with internationally recognized greenhouse gas measurement and reporting standards.

“It’s a great coordination and an eye-opening experience,” Garris Hand said, adding that Hilton was the largest portfolio to be certified with the three ISO standards in the industry.

It is this type of certification that can be the key to convincing customers that the sustainability data the hotel chain provides them is actually usable and consistent, and not confusing.

Independent thinking

Hilton points to a success story in this regard: BCD Travel’s consultancy arm, Advito, has now launched its own ISO-certified emissions calculator for meetings and events.

It lets planners look at things like economy vs. business class flights for attendees, airport transfer options, even the percentage of vegetarian meals, and claims to be the industry’s first ISO-certified calculator designed for meeting planners to reduce the overall environmental impact of their programs. .

Julien Etchanchu, head of Advito’s sustainable collaboration practice, said the industry standard currently used to measure emissions across the four travel categories was not “granular” enough to capture the true environmental impact of a meeting or event. .

“I am delighted that Advito has integrated and adopted ISO that includes landscape,” said Garris Hand of Hilton. “We’d like more (corporate clients) to look for it. Some of our customers ask if we are tracking, measuring or reporting and we show them LightStay. Or they ask if we are implementing practices that are ISO compliant. Then when we describe it, they say “great, that’s stronger than what we’re looking for”.

Too fragmented

Aside from travel managers sometimes being overwhelmed by data, one expert thinks hotels have a tougher job than airlines of proving their green credentials.

“In some respects, the problem of an airline is very difficult, but it is very limited. Ninety-eight percent of emissions come from the burning of jet fuel, so everyone is familiar with new aircraft, engines, looking further into hybrid and electric or hydrogen sources of energy,” said Bryan Terry, global aviation leader at Deloitte, during a recent panel discussion.

“But if you turn that into hospitality, it’s a completely different challenge with the complexity of working with franchisee relationships. You have hundreds or thousands of franchisees around the world that are out of your control that you need to influence, educate, inform. You rely on them to collect the data and you are receiving data in different formats. In some respects, we see more challenges in that part of the business than in the airlines.”

However, Garris Hand said many of its franchise hotels were owned by owners who also have ambitious climate goals, and all 7,000 of its hotels had access to LightStay; the only problem may be the speed with which they deliver their reports.

“It’s still early days,” added Christiane Cabot Bini, Hilton’s executive director of corporate travel sales. “(Sustainability) has come to the fore rapidly.”

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