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Accor Shares its Environmental Impact Assessment Findings

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PARIS—Accor recently decided to assess its environmental impact 15 years after it took a stand and started taking concrete action to embrace sustainable development. The company began working on gauging its environmental footprint at the end of 2010. The study stretches beyond measuring greenhouse-gas emissions to encompass energy and water consumption, water pollution and waste generation throughout lifecycles in the Group.
 
“Four thousand and two hundred hotels in 90 countries, 145,000 employees, 56 million breakfasts a year and almost 545 million liters of water a year all add up to the environmental impact that we are now in a position to quantify, share openly and ultimately use to hone in on the most efficient and effective levers to build our corporate social and environmental responsibility strategy,” said Accor CEO Denis Hennequin. “Our goal is to build sustainable development into the core of our Group’s performance and embark it on a continuous improvement drive to reinvent hospitality for the long term.”

The main lessons from the environmental footprint assessment encompass carbon and energy, water consumption and pollution, and waste management.

Carbon and Energy—The Group consumes roughly 18 billion kWh of energy, i.e. as much as a 386,000-inhabitant European city. This study shows that hotels directly consume 75 percent of the total energy Accor uses. Group hotels have made considerable progress curbing their impacts but this finding is prompting the company to continue to work on this front. Using resources smartly, enhancing energy efficiency and using renewable sources of energy are three of the options Accor has to continue to harness in order to stem its impacts and stay one step ahead of increasingly stringent regulatory requirements.
 
Water Consumption and Pollution—The big surprise in this study is that Accor’s main impact on water comes from the food guests eat in Accor’s hotels. Accor has to continue to reduce its direct consumption—in bathrooms and kitchens, sprinklers and leaks—but all those outlets combined only add up to slightly more than 10 percent of its impact on water, whereas the water used all the way up and down the food production chain accounts for about 86 percent. The Group is intent on deepening its efforts to provide smart food services, from farms to tables, in particular by setting up new channels with suppliers.
 
Waste—Also somewhat surprisingly, the bulk of the waste Accor generates in the Group does not come from running hotels: it comes from building and revamping them. Besides reducing waste at source and working on economic packaging, a clearer understanding of waste treatment and recycling channels in each country will gradually shrink costs and impacts on this front.

Lifecycle Analysis

Accor and PwC, a consultant, carved out a specific approach around lifecycle analysis. This method uses the latest scientific facts and figures, and is tailored to the hospitality industry’s distinctive features.

“This is the hospitality industry’s first study spanning such a large scope and aiming so high, worldwide,” says Sylvain Lambert, PwC Sustainable Development associate. “As we didn’t have a model to go by, the whole goal was to adapt the lifecycle analysis method to the complexity you can expect in a hotel group running operations in 90 countries and encompassing a wide variety of brands across the budget to luxury spectrum. Accor was keen on learning from and sharing its findings. It asked a panel of experts to review results in order to fine-tune a few of the specific points and ensure the methods it chose were sound.”
 
The study’s method and finding analysis are available to everyone in the business and the general public on Earth Guest Research, the Accor Group’s free knowledge-sharing platform. This is the second publication in this area. The first is a “barometer” on international hotel clients’ expectations in relation to sustainable development, which was published last June.

Earth Guest program policies have allowed Accor hotels to make a lot of progress from 2006 to 2010. For example, water consumption per rented room dropped 12 percent and energy consumption per available room dropped 5.5 percent over that period. Today, 85 percent of hotels have water flow regulators and 82 percent have compact fluorescent lamps. In 2009, Accor also embraced Plant for the Planet, a bold reforestation project—and Group-wide efforts to optimize laundry costs have allowed it to finance 1.7 million trees since then.

Taking Action

“This study has put us in a position to boost our efforts for the environment, and to focus on our main impacts and main areas for improvement,” says Sophie Flak, Accor Academies and Sustainable Development Director. “The impacts we gauged also have economic and financial consequences, and managing those consequences is also pivotal to our Group’s sustainable development. We have looked at every finding in this study from these three key angles to turn each one into an action plan (impact on the environment, impact on our business performance, and our employees’ ability to take action and lead partners and clients to do so). We have started rallying employees with help from the Accor Academy and its 17 training centers worldwide, to sharpen our awareness of our real impacts on the environment, to learn how those impacts ripple through our business, and learn how we can improve.”
 
Research work on this project also cast light on the fact that gathering information about sustainable development is difficult at a time when extra-financial information is gaining prominence. The continuous improvement drive will also apply to the method to gauge Accor’s environmental footprint, so this method will necessarily evolve. The goal, now, is to run a new assessment in 2015.

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