Sustainability has reached a tipping point, with more and more travelers choosing companies that prioritize environmentally sustainable practices that are aligned with their values, beliefs, and priorities. Accordingly, as Skift observed in our annual look ahead at the megatrends that will shape travel in 2023, eco-friendly rhetoric is giving way to accountability.
Many hotels try to woo eco-conscious travelers by touting sustainability efforts in their marketing and public relations efforts, but more and more travelers are picking up on misleading claims. A recent Skift Research survey found that a majority of travelers will only trust companies certified by an independent third-party organization.
In order to overcome fears of greenwashing, hotel brands must demonstrate verifiable green practices that are inspected and adhere to established standards.
“Cooperation between hotels and independent environmental organizations is key when it comes to demonstrating environmentally sustainable practices,” said Jelena Kezika, senior director of strategy at Global Hotel Alliance (GHA), the world’s largest collection of independent hotel brands. “Collaboration within our diverse portfolio of GHA hotel brands is also important. By working together on sustainability, sharing best practices, inspiring each other, and combining efforts, we can achieve the most impactful result that will benefit the environment and local communities.”
Introducing Green Collection
These guiding principles led GHA to create Green Collection, a portfolio of hotels in its GHA Discovery loyalty program, each with at least one globally recognized certification from one of 15 leading independent environmental entities, including EarthCheck, Green Growth 2050, Green Key, and Green Globe. Hotels certified with these esteemed organizations need to demonstrate and document their initiatives every year and reveal year-over-year progress to keep their certifications.
“What sets Green Collection apart from other programs in the hospitality industry is collaboration and transparency,” Kezika said. “Our intention was not to reinvent the wheel by creating new certification criteria, so we actively collaborated with globally recognized organizations. And in terms of transparency, we made the selection criteria very clear to every stakeholder, including current and potential hotel partners, industry media, and consumers.”
“Every Green Collection hotel must meet rigorous, science-backed criteria that are regularly checked for compliance by the globally recognized certification programs,” Kezika said. “Participating hotels are actively monitoring and reporting the environmental and social impacts of their operations, including energy and water consumption, carbon footprint, waste generation, community engagement, local economic impact, and other benchmarks that ladder up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of the United Nations.”
Beyond Eco-Lodges and Animal Camps
Green Collection comprises a diverse group of hotels — not just eco-lodges or protected animal camps but also beach resorts and urban locations. Among the nearly 200 hotels in the collection, including 21 brands in 44 countries, several demonstrate stand-out environmental and social initiatives.
For example, at JA The Resort, which comprises three beach hotels in Dubai, 95 percent of the cleaning supplies are certified as biodegradable, much of the resort’s water heating system is powered by solar energy, and an onsite bottling plant refills bottles with clean and treated water.
Another Green Collection hotel, Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay, Singapore, is home to 2,400 trees, shrubs, and groundcover plants, all of which comprise an in-hotel garden that serves as a natural air purifier. In 2020, the hotel prevented around 51,300 metric tons of carbon from being emitted by renovating instead of rebuilding. The new construction included 210 solar panels and an urban farm that supplies its spa and restaurants.
In addition, Kezika commended Berlin’s historic Hotel Adlon Kempinski for its “sustainable approach focused on preserving ecological diversity, responsible use of resources, and respect for the region and its culture. In terms of community engagement, the hotel offers young musical talents from all over the world, who are studying at the College of Fine Arts in Berlin, the chance to perform mini-concerts in its iconic lobby.”
What all of the Green Collection hotels have in common is a commitment to sustainability that can not only be measured and verified by trusted certification programs but also observed first-hand by guests — a marketing campaign that gushes about a hotel’s environmentally friendly stance is not as impactful as an immersive local music program, for example, or a food-and-beverage service that signals its commitment to using locally sourced ingredients by delighting taste buds.
Widening the Lens: Corporate Social Responsibility
Recognizing member hotels for their operational efforts is just one part of GHA’s overarching corporate social responsibility initiative.
“Since GHA’s inception, the hotels in our portfolio have shown incredible commitment to creating and facilitating local, regional, and national philanthropic programs,” Kezika said. “In 2021, we brought together all of the charities our hotel brands either founded or supported. Currently, we jointly support 12 charities from around the globe grouped into four themes: animal welfare, children and youth programs, environmental protection, and healthcare and wellbeing.”
In addition to raising awareness about these charities, GHA supports them with donations raised from the GHA Discovery loyalty program.
“Last year, we ran a campaign to donate one dollar of revenue from each booking made on our direct channels to support causes that are important to our hotels’ local communities,” Kezika said. “In 2023, to celebrate the launch of Green Collection, we are donating five dollars for every booking of a Green Collection hotel made on GHADiscovery.com or the GHA Discovery mobile app through the end of April for travel by the end of July.”
And starting in May, GHA Discovery members will be able to donate their Discovery Dollars, the alliance’s digital rewards currency, to a philanthropic theme or charity of their choice.
“Corporate social responsibility is a joint effort of multiple stakeholders, and only together can we make change happen and achieve the best results,” Kekiza said. “We are proud of the fact that GHA is an alliance of like-minded brands, partners, and associates — a combination of the best advocates to communicate our core values to prospective brands and partners.”
For more information about GHA Discovery Green Collection, click here.