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International Tourism Partnership: the hotels that are shaping the future of tourism



There are thousands of them in every corner of the world and they are visited by hundreds of millions of people each year. Alex Blackburne speaks with Stephen Farrant, director of Business in the Community’s International Tourism Partnership, about making hotels agents of sustainable change.

After the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Brazil, the original Rio Earth Summit, a new initiative was launched to help hotels understand environmental issues. The International Hotels Environment Initiative, as it was called, soon became the International Tourism Partnership (ITP).

Twenty-two years on, it has 18 corporate members – including Hilton Worldwide, Four Seasons and Marriott – who collectively have over 23,500 hotels with more than 3.4m rooms in over 100 countries. It would be fair to say the partnership has come a long way.

The ITP forms part of the charity Business in the Community (BITC), which took over ownership of the initiative from the now-defunct International Business Leaders Forum in 2013.

For Stephen Farrant, who joined the ITP in 2009, the transition to BITC means the not-for-profit initiative now has a platform from which to grow and expand. As the environmental and socially responsible voice for the global hospitality industry (Farrant accepts the ITP’s name is a slight misnomer; it’s aimed specifically at hotels and not the wider tourism industry), its mission is to bring about practical collective action programmes and to advance conversations about sustainability.

A veteran of the travel and tourism industry for over two decades, Farrant has held senior roles at British Airways, VisitBritain and thinktank the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce). He explains that the ITP’s work is focused around highlighting and encouraging best practice in three main ways.

We take the premise that if we took the best-in-class and made it the norm tomorrow, we’d be half way there. So how can we take those great examples of innovation and best practice and get them out there and replicated? That’s the first strand of our work”, he says.

The second strand is looking at how members can actually ‘walk the talk’ through practical programmes that the industry can embed. And then the third area of our work is about shaping the sustainability agenda – putting things into the agenda that may not otherwise be there, creating a space within which our members initially and their stakeholders ultimately can start to build solutions where there are no solutions currently available.”

Farrant says that the majority of global hotel companies have their own sustainability programmes and initiatives. The cliché is the sign in the bathroom asking guests to “help save the planet” by making it clear their towels didn’t need washing. This particular practice even spawned the term ‘greenwash’  – now used to describe any green initiative that strikes more of marketing than genuine environmental responsibility, but initially used by the researcher Jay Westerveld in a 1986 essay about hotels doing exactly that.

What the ITP aims to do, however, is to lay out to its hotel members the benefits of collective action and collaboration. Farrant acknowledges that many customers may see the towel reuse sign and be left wondering whether that was the full extent of a hotel’s sustainability programme.

But three years ago, he says that the ITP and its members spotted something interesting about corporate customers and what they wanted from their stays.

Corporate customers are increasingly looking for credible and comparable information from the hotel sector around its environmental footprint, most specifically on carbon.The gap was that each hotel company was speaking a different language, measuring its carbon impact in a different way, and so the corporate customer was then comparing apples and oranges”, he explains.

We brought together 23 global hotel companies to create what we called the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI). This was really a way of saying we need to standardise how these companies measure what your particular carbon impact is as a customer.

The HCMI is co-ordinated by the ITP jointly with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). Over 17,000 hotels globally have so far adopted its methodology – which Farrant describes as a “significant achievement”.

Carbon is clearly just one aspect and Farrant lists many more – including what major hotel groups are doing on youth employment. He also says, for example, how many hotels based in Asia are moving to ban shark fin soup from their menus, which despite having significant cultural value in certain countries, brings with it serious animal welfare and ecological concerns.

But more than just being a sustainable industry that is aware of its environmental and social footprint, the global hotel world has the potential to significantly change consumer behaviour.

Farrant says, “If your activities when you’re in a hotel are not dissimilar from when you’re at home in terms of the range of things that you’re doing, it’s about how you can positively educate and influence customers.”

He picks out the example of Sheraton – part of the Starwood group – which rewards guests with $5 vouchers to use in its facilities for each night they decline housekeeping services. It also encourages people to cut their resource usage, stating that the 37.2 gallons of water a guest uses on an average night is enough “for one person to drink almost two cups per day for a year”.

That said, part of the difficulty, and something most of us have been guilty of, is people exploiting the facilities when they’re staying in hotels – leaving lights on, running lots of water, and so on. While a budget hotel may have a case for their customer acting in a more environmentally sustainable way, it becomes more difficult when the hotel in question has four or five stars. Farrant says that in this situation, rather than limiting customers’ options, hotels are keener to do more behind the scenes.

At an event in Manchester later this week, the eighth Responsible Tourism in Destinations (RTD8) conference, Farrant is taking part in a panel discussion on how to effectively respond to key sustainability challenges. He is optimistic about the future of the hotel industry and sustainable tourism more generally.

He concludes, “We’re actively engaged with the hospitality sector to try and take some concrete, positive steps forward. We’re getting commercial competitors to choose to collaborate on social and environmental issues. That is a very powerful driving force for change, because they don’t want to be outside of that group. They want to be engaged, they want to be ahead of the pack and they want to be demonstrating that they’re among the best in shaping the future of the industry.” 

For the full agenda at RTD8 (April 3-5) and more information on how to attend this essential event, see here. Spaces are limited so book now to avoid disappointment.

Further reading:

Manchester to host Responsible Tourism in Destinations conference

Sustainable tourism is an instrument to ‘protect nature and alleviate poverty’

VisitEngland: sustainability ‘secures a successful future’ for tourism

Travel Foundation: sustainable tourism will soon be ‘the only way to do business’

The Guide to Sustainable Tourism 2014


These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money




eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete |

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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Editors Choice

2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage



Natural Disaster Damage
Shutterstock / By Droidworker |

Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.

Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.

Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each

The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.

Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.

Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.

Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.

That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.

Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.

Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.

Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.

The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.

Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity

Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.

Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.

Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight

The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.

The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.

2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded

People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.

Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.

Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.

Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.

Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.

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