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How Tech and Sustainability Go Hand in Hand: A Global Brand’s POV

When your actions affect 6,000 hotels worldwide, setting achievable goals that make a significant difference and then creating the tools necessary to get your franchisees there is priority No. 1.
Townsend Bailey, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Americas, IHG Hotels & Resorts at HT-NEXT 2022
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While independent hotels have the ability to quickly make decisions around sustainability and then implement them, large hotel brands – such as IHG Hotels & Resorts – often need to take a more measured approach with long-term goals in mind. Townsend Bailey, Head of Corporate Responsibility, Americas, IHG Hotels & Resorts shared with attendees at HT-NEXT 2022 how his brand – with more than 6,000 hotels worldwide – has been working hard to promote sustainable initiatives.

Sustainability Is Core to Hospitality

Bailey opened his presentation with a statement that resonated with everyone in the room.

“Sustainability and corporate responsibility are not new topics for the hospitality industry. Caring for people and the environment has always been an essential part of our industry,” he explained.

However, he went on to note that both travelers and employees are becoming much more interested in what hospitality brands are actively doing to improve upon ESG goals and initiatives.

For example, in 2022, found that 70 percent of global travelers are more likely to choose a sustainable accommodation, even if they aren’t looking for one when they started their booking journey. Additionally, the Global Business Travel Association reported that more than 90 percent of business travel managers report that sustainability is already a top priority for their companies, and 88 percent of those travel managers say that reducing greenhouse gas emissions from that travel is going to be a top priority in the next 2-3 years.

According to Bailey, prospective and current employees are just as motivated by ESG initiatives.

“If you’re recruiting new talent, sustainability initiatives can make or break whether or not they choose to work for you. In fact, 64 percent of millennial workers will decline the opportunity to work with an employer if they don’t meet their ESG expectations,” he said. “ESG is not just the right thing to do fundamentally, it’s the right thing to do for our business.”

A 10 Year Plan

In 2021, IHG launched “Journey to Tomorrow,” a ten-year action plan that outlines the company's five top priorities for corporate responsibility. One of its five goals, in particular, revolves around carbon and energy use.

“We have set a goal to reduce our carbon emissions across our entire estate including franchise operations by 46% by 2030,” he explained. “This will require reductions in our energy, and we’ve set a target that all new build hotels will operate at very low or zero carbon emissions.”

To ensure its franchisees are successful, the company has created a variety of tech tools and resources for them.  One tool is called Green Engage. It was first developed in 2009 and serves as the hub for all of the brand’s sustainability work. Each hotel can use Green Engage to see their historical energy use data and keep track of it. It also has a library with with more than 200 green solutions that serve as ideas to drive utility efficiency.

IHG recently launched another sustainability tool called HERO (Hotel Energy Reduction Opportunity). It is used to identify what will be the best investments for franchisees to lower their energy use and cost. It takes the data from Green Engage, asks GMs and hotel owners to provide data specific to their hotel, and then shows how they compare to other hotels in the same brand and climate zone. It also helps prioritize which energy conservation measures make the most sense for that particular hotel and provides an indication of the capital costs, energy reductions and payback period. Franchisees can use this information in their three- to five-year planning cycle in order to determine when these changes will make the most sense to implement.

We’re all striving for a larger common goal: addressing climate change and reducing our overall carbon footprint,” Bailey concluded.  “This is just one way we’re using technology, to help hotels across our entire estate drive progress towards our ambitious goals."


[To hear an independent hotel's point of view on this same topic, also presented at HT-NEXT 2022, visit: How Tech and Sustainability Go Hand in Hand: An Independent Hotel’s POV]


To watch the educational session as it happened at HT-NEXT, click on the video below!

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