The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and Lodging Practices


While the UN SDG’s seek to protect the planet and global population, they in turn protect the industries that depend on; the integrity of resources such as food supply and water, the health of local populations for a work force and the climate related conditions of destinations. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the total travel and tourism economic contribution globally in 2015 was more than $7 trillion dollars in GDP representing 9.8% of total GDP and employed 284 million people.

The International Tourism Partnership (ITP) represents a membership of over 12 global lodging companies. “Working with the worlds’ leading hotel groups for the past 25 years, producing resources and supporting them to drive greater sustainability throughout the industry. ITP is in the process of setting goals for the future; focusing on our contribution to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in four key issues of carbon, water, youth unemployment and human rights. The ITP goals will be launched in June 2017.” noted Fran Hughes, Director, International Tourism Partnership.

The American Hotel and Lodging Association represents 24,000 hotel members in the United States and is currently working to create sustainability resources to assist member hotel companies in implementing many of the UN SDG’s.

The largest global lodging companies, American Hotel and Lodging Association members Marriott-Starwood, Wyndham Worldwide, Hilton International, InterContinental Hotels Group and Accor, are working along with other member hotel companies to implement the 17 SDG’s in the operations of their lodging properties.

Wyndham Worldwide’s global footprint includes 7,410 hotels and 190 timeshare resorts. Since 2006 Wyndham Worldwide has focused on sustainability practices throughout the company through their sustainability program Wyndham Green. The financial success of these efforts has been evidenced as Wyndham Worldwide has been the only lodging company listed on the S & P 500 Sustainability Indices since 2013. Climate change and risk management are an integral part of the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility Report. Wyndham focuses on climate change and resource scarcity as a focus of its climate change and risk management report in the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility Report.

Wyndham Worldwide’s sustainability program, Wyndham Green outlines core strategies that focus on energy conservation and carbon emissions reduction (SDG 13), water conservation, focusing on water scarcity issues (SDG 6), waste management and reduction (SDG 12 responsible consumption and production) , community partnerships and engagement (SGD 17, education of associates, guests and the community (SDG 4).

The reduction of carbon emissions, water, energy and waste in the operating practices of lodging properties continues to increase annually. Hilton Worldwide’s ‘Travel with Purpose’ social responsibility program encourages their guests and employees to participate in a global effort with local communities to reduce resource consumption and lighten the footprint of lodging operations and tourism.

Energy reduction along with CO2 emissions has resulted in over a 14.5% reduction in energy use across the corporation. Water consumption has been reduced by over 14.1%, and solid waste generation by over 27.6%. Reducing waste is a challenge that begins by source reduction and supply chain management. Reducing food waste becomes an important piece of the overall waste management picture. Supply chain management looks to the original impacts of packaging and the sourcing practices of the supplier company. Food waste reduction is achieved by sourcing food products that have been pre-prepared, such as salad greens and fruits, eliminating outer skins, leaves and stem core waste. In food production, better management of portion size and the amount of food precooked for restaurant and catering service has an impact on food waste amounts.

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), representing more than 674,000 guest rooms globally throughout 9 hotel brands, has acknowledged the corporations’ commitment to sustainability and the United Nations 17 SDG’s. The corporation has identified 7 of the Sustainable Development Goals; SDG 6,SDG 8, SDG 10, SDG11, SDG 12, SDG13 and SDG17 as being achievable throughout their global lodging properties.

InterContinental New York Barclay’s responsible business plan efforts, led by General Manager Herve Houdre, “focuses on the Triple Bottom Line of Economic Prosperity, Environmental Protection and Social Responsibility …. which aligns with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – to become the benchmark of the hospitality industry.”

Accor Hotels, represents 20 Brands with 4100 hotels and 583,000 rooms in 95 countries. Accor has a long established sustainability and environmental management program. The acquisition in 2016 of Canadian based company Fairmont Hotels and Resorts brings direct credibility to Accor in the luxury hotel segment in particular, giving Accor a leading role in the luxury hotel segment. Fairmont’s long established sustainability initiatives have been the foundation of many of the major North American lodging companies CSR and sustainability programs. In 2015, Fairmont was the first hotel company to reduce CO2 emissions by 20% as part of the World Wildlife Fund Climate Savers Program.

Accor’s Planet 21 program sets goals for 2020 that directly align with the UN 17 SDG’s. Focusing on food, water and energy, Accor’s commitment for 2020 is to have 100% of all new buildings low carbon emissions. (UN SDG 13: Climate Action), reduce water consumption 5% by 2018, (UN SDG 3: clean water and sanitation), reduce food waste by 30% and recover 65% of overall waste (UN SDG 12: responsible consumption and production), 100% of hotels establish a citizens or solidarity project every year (UN SDG 17: partnerships for the goals).

Marriott is working to address a set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and tackle climate change by 2030.

Marriott’s corporate commitment for sustainable development to the UN SDG’s in hotel operations and development focuses on SGD 12: responsible consumption and production, SDG 13: climate action and SDG 17: partnerships for the goals. 2015 environmental performance across the corporation included a 10.4% reduction in water consumption, a reduction of energy use by 13.2%, which then resulted in a 13.2% reduction in greenhouse gas (CO2) emissions, benchmarked against 2007 baselines. Support of Amazon Rainforest preservation over an 8 year period by partnerships between local hotels and communities addresses SDG 15: life on land, in addition to the SDG’s 13: climate action and 17: partnerships. Leed Certified Buildings reduce CO2 Emissions and the corresponding impacts on climate change. 142 buildings in the Marriott portfolio were LEED certified, as of 2015, helping to reduce both energy costs and CO2 emissions. (

Marriott’s responsible business policies, ethics and human rights practices are based on the original founding principles that value employees above profits established by Mr Marriott Sr. They address SDG 5: gender equality with LGBT equality, SDG 8; decent work and economic growth and SDG 16; peace, justice and strong institutions.

A review of the corporate responsibility web sites of these lodging companies provides a graphic view of efforts to reduce carbon emissions, water use, energy use and waste production. This directly links lodging company efforts to the SDG’s: 6. Clean Water and Sanitation, 7. Affordable and Clean Energy, 12. Responsible Production and Consumption, and 13. Climate Action (reduced carbon emissions). Aligning operating practices with the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals is not a difficult task for lodging companies. On the contrary, it is often present in well advanced activities in resource reduction, human resource practices and partnerships with community organizations.

The SDG’s 3. Good Health and Being and 4. Quality Education are evident in company benefit packages. Human resource practices are directly linked to SDG’s 5: Gender Equality, 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth and 10. Reduced Inequalities.

Food and beverage purchasing and production practices help to achieve SDG’s 2. Zero Hunger and 14. Life Below Water. Community partnerships with cities and other organizations support SDG’s 1. No Poverty, 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure and 11. Sustainable Cities and Communities. These efforts combined with the basic SDG’s 6. Clean Water and Sanitation, 7.Affordable and Clean Energy, 12. Responsible Production and Consumption and 13. Climate Action show that any lodging property can evidence to their customers, investors and communities how they are, today, committed to the sustainability of their communities by contributing to the goals of the UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

The financial return on sustainable business practices is seen in travel sites such as Trip Advisor, where their Green Leader certification program rates hotels as silver, gold and platinum. The Trip Advisor travel-booking page indicates to customers the Green Leader Certification using a green leaf logo. Booking preferences for Green Leader hotels then becomes easy to identify. Corporate social responsibility preferences for businesses are often seen in the requests for proposals for group meeting and conference business. If a hotel or other facility cannot respond in a positive way to requests for sustainable operating practices then companies will need to take business where they can be. By aligning hotel operations practices with the UN 17 SDG’s, responding to requests from both businesses and customers becomes a seamless process that validates a company’s social awareness policies and good business practices.

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