What You Need to Know About the Carbon Measurement Working Group

9/16/2011 By Glenn Hasek

Several weeks ago Green Lodging News reported that the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) and the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) are collaborating on an initiative to unite hotel industry efforts to calculate and communicate carbon impact by agreeing on a standardized methodology and metrics (see article). A total of 12 hotel companies are involved in the effort—Accor, Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, Hilton Worldwide, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts, InterContinental Hotels Group, Marriott International Inc., MGM Resorts International, Mövenpick Hotels & Resorts, Red Carnation Hotel Collection, Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., Premier Inn—Whitbread Group, and Wyndham Worldwide. All of the parties involved make up what is being called the Carbon Measurement Working Group.

In an InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) press release about the Working Group, David Jerome, IHG’s senior vice president of Corporate Responsibility, said, “There is no consistency in how hotels calculate and communicate carbon emissions currently so the work of the industry to standardize its practices will provide clarity to guests and corporate clients who want to understand the environmental impact of the hotels they stay in.”

I interviewed Francesca Leadlay, programme manager, Sustainability, International Tourism Partnership about the Working Group’s efforts and she provided some background on the Group and some details on their efforts moving forward.

Working Group Established November 2010

“The International Tourism Partnership established a Carbon Measurement Working Group at the request of the ITP Executive Committee at its meeting in November 2010,” Leadlay said. “At the same time, the World Travel & Tourism Council’s Environment Initiative Working Group called on WTTC to address this issue in the industry. The members approached both ITP and WTTC individually and collectively to make this initiative a priority. In the spirit of industry collaboration, ITP and WTTC joined forces on this initiative, and formalized an agreement to collaborate in May 2011. All of the hotel companies collaborating on this initiative are drawn from ITP’s and WTTC’s membership.”

Since May of this year the Working Group has had monthly conference calls. There is currently no website for keeping track of the Working Group’s progress but updates will be provided via the media. Phase one of the methodology has been finalized. A dedicated e-mail address has been created for the hotel industry—info@hotelcarboninitiative.org. You can also contact Francesca Leadlay at ITP (francesca.leadlay@iblf.org) or Eva Aimable at WTTC (eva.aimable@iblf.org) with your questions.

“The primary advantage of [the methodology currently being worked on] is that it is being developed with wide scale contribution, input, and technical support of the hotel industry, and aligned with the most commonly utilized standards of the GHG Protocol,” Leadlay said. “All the difficulties, issues, and challenges with measurement in practical terms are being fleshed out by the group. Likewise, the group will support the methodology and thus help its adoption. Therefore differences in measurement among group members are resolved and harmonized in order for the guidelines to be finalized. This differs from other solutions because no other solution has had such widespread industry contribution and collaboration in their development. It is important to note that while the methodology is becoming standardized, the resulting numbers may still reflect different factors like on-site facilities, climate, etc.”

Several Sources Used for Methodologies, Calculations

In terms of current methodologies, Leadlay said many companies have adopted the aforementioned GHG Protocol Corporate Accounting and Reporting Standard as the guideline for organizational-level carbon accounting and reporting. Also at the organizational level, several sources have been used to help perform calculations and report on performance, including: the World Resources Institute, the Climate Registry, the Carbon Disclosure Project, the Global Reporting Initiative, the International Energy Agency, the ISO 14000 series, the UK Carbon Reduction Commitment,  and the U.S. EPA.

Additionally, several hotel companies have developed comprehensive systems to collect, analyze, and communicate data within their respective hotel portfolio. Within the hotel sector, common metrics for other types of performance are often normalized by area (per square foot or square meter) or rooms (per room night).

“The most significant challenge to coming to agreement on a methodology has been bringing together around 20 senior executives from 12 leading international hotel companies, given the diverse geographical locations of their operations,” Leadlay said.

Scope 3 Emissions Not Included

What might the eventual agreed-upon methodology look like? Leadlay said it will be aligned with the GHG Protocol’s Product Accounting & Reporting Standard with the support of the WRI/GHG Protocol which will act as an independent reviewer to the methodology. The guidelines will apply the GHG Protocol Corporate Standard at the hotel property level to serve as hotel sector guidance. Sources of scope 1 and 2 emissions from the actual hotel in question will be measured. Scope 3 emissions such as emissions from vendors, corporate offices, and outsourced operations will not be included.

Some hotels may operate on-site laundry facilities, restaurants, spas and fitness centers, etc. while others will outsource these services or operate them at an off-site central facility. Further guidance for addressing these differences in operational control is currently under development.

On-site renewable energy will be included in energy consumption but excluded from greenhouse gas (GHG) calculations where appropriate. Water and waste metrics will not be addressed within the scope of this guideline.

The room footprint will be intended to communicate the footprint of one night’s stay in a hotel room. Rooms footprints will be communicated to the client in per occupied room metrics. Occupied rooms are the total rooms that were occupied by guests in a given period, and according to this methodology each occupied room will share the proportion of the total footprint equally.

The meeting footprint will communicate the footprint of meetings or events that occur in the function space of the hotel. Meetings footprints will be communicated per hour of meeting space utilized, derived using the average daily consumption of meetings energy.

When significant, the facilities included in the calculation may be communicated to the client qualitatively so that they understand the makeup of the footprint. Properties which have emissions from other facilities representing a significant portion of the footprint may communicate this proportion to the client.

The guidelines will apply to all hotels, whether franchised or managed by the brand. Corporate reporting and hotel-level reporting of GHG emissions may differ in boundary and quantification as they are presented for different stakeholders.

The methodology is being fine-tuned and is anticipated to be rolled out industry-wide by August of 2012.

Why Common Methodologies, Metrics are Important

I asked Leadlay why it is important to have a common methodology and metrics?

“Members of the working group agree that there are significant advantages to be gained by consistently communicating the same information—not the least of which is enhanced credibility as an industry for the work that each of the brands is doing to reduce carbon emissions,” she said.

What are the most significant obstacles to coming to agreement on metrics? According to Greenview Consulting’s Eric Ricaurte, the technical consultant for phase 1 of the project, there are two significant obstacles: the pre-existing systems in place for corporate reporting by each individual company that now need to be harmonized for hotel stays specifically, and current gaps in data gathering at an industry and company level.

“Normalizing metrics are not the significant obstacle as data can be changed easily once gathered,” Ricaurte said. “Quantification of GHGs and definition of boundaries are more varied.”

Be sure to continue to read Green Lodging News for updates on the progress of the Carbon Measurement Working Group.

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