The hotel industry's biggest players talk a good talk but don't walk the walk when it comes to being sustainable and following through on CSR commitments, according to a new survey. Emily Manson reports.
The Tomorrow's Value Rating (TVR) programme has assessed the world's 10 largest hotel groups and found them woefully lacking when it comes to corporate responsibility and sustainable issues.
French hotel group Accor is the top-rated brand, with a valuation of 55% for going beyond mere recognition of social and environmental issues. "Accor has designed a comprehensive approach to managing these issues, to measuring performance against them and has even laid out clear future performance for many of them," according to the report.
InterContinental Hotels Group and Marriott are second and third in the ratings respectively but were some way behind in terms of actual scores, with 43% and 35%.
"Many of these hotel groups still have some way to go in recognising how social and environmental impacts and trends can be relevant to their business's success," said Thomas Krick, senior consultant for Two Tomorrows and global programme manager for TVR. "Even major issues such as climate change, biodiversity or local employment receive comparatively limited attention and only half-hearted responses by many hotel groups."
BEHIND OTHER SECTORS
The remaining brands are considered to have relatively immature corporate responsibility and sustainability management programmes. Krick explains: "It's fair to say that the hotel sector has been slower to catch on to the sustainability agenda than other sectors."
Deeper issues such as integration into local cultures, the sustainability of franchisees, climate change impacts of tourist travel and sex tourism were only rarely considered, while good practices were seldom rolled out throughout a group, especially when that involved engaging franchisees.
FRANCHISEES LEFT OUT
"With a few exceptions, most franchisees are almost completely excluded from the hotel groups' sustainability efforts," Krick says.
He warned that this could lead to "significant reputational damage" as guests wouldn't distinguish between whether hotels were franchisees or part of a marketing consortium, they would just see the headline brand as damaged and that would reflect on to other properties within that brand.
Thomas Page, head of the hotel and leisure group at law firm CMS Cameron McKenna, found the results unsurprising, as many of the groups at the bottom franchised or leased their hotels, but he says: "It is disappointing to see Hilton and Starwood, who manage most of their hotels, so far down the list, below pure franchisors such as Choice and Carlson."
On a more positive note, he adds: "While many of the top 10 groups may be lagging in the sustainability stakes, we have noticed that some niche operators, especially newer brands such as CitizenM and CampbellGray, are putting sustainability at the centre of their brand ethos and hotel developments and taking a lead within the industry."
John Firrell, spokesman for the Considerate Hoteliers' Association, agrees: "This is by and large a balanced and accurate assessment of sustainability practices and CSR among the giants of the hotel industry."
SOME SHINING EXAMPLES
But he says that the results do not take account of the "shining examples" that exist in both the chain and independent sector, where hotels are going the extra green mile over and above the target benchmark.
Firrell adds: "Invariably it is down to the person at the helm of individual properties to apply the ‘social responsibility' factor and make the hotel an integral part of the local community scene."
The joint winners of the Considerate Hotel of the Year 2008, Radisson SAS Edinburgh and One Aldwych, London, were prime examples of a large and small hotel group achieving similar sustainable and socially responsible objectives without the need for huge investment and coercion from on high. Firrell says: "They did it because the management and the staff were united in wanting to."
TOP 10 HOTEL GROUPS
|Hotel group||TVR score|
|InterContinental Hotels Group||43%|
The Tomorrow's ValueRating is a more demanding version of the Accountability Rating which has run for the past five years.