Two bitter winters hit Accor's energy cutting drive

French owned hotel giant Accor broke its silence this week to talk about how it has moved sustainability up the agenda.

The company, which owns household names including Novotel and Hotel Ibis as well as the luxury chain Sofitel, has been historically quiet on its green credentials.

But that is because, executive vice president for sustainable development, Sophie Flak, told edie energy, it did not want to talk about achievements before it could back it up with proper data.

The company has been setting five year green growth plans since 1994 with its most recent one spanning from 2006 to 2010.

These plans have set reduction targets for key areas such as energy and water use of 10% across the entire 4,200 chain strong hotel.

Unfortunately, for Accor while it smashed its target for water by achieving a 12% cut, freezing winters in the northern hemisphere in 2009 and 2010 meant it only made a 5% reduction in energy use.

But that set back aside the company has being doing some interesting work with clients and staff to improve the way it looks at the green agenda.

Mrs Flak said: "The traditional thinking behind hospitality is that a hotel room should have the lights on, air conditioning up high and lots of towels.

"But it now it is key for us to raise awareness to staff and clients for why curtains should be drawn, sheets not changed every day if the same person is staying and towels not always replaced in the same circumstances."

On the subject of towels Mrs Flak says 'thankfully' for the industry we've come a long way since the days of Marcel Proust who died almost 90 years ago.

French novelist Mr Proust was rumoured to, due to the effects of asthma, use more than 20 towels after a bath to avoid having a damp one touch his body.

She explains that Accor has run an initiative which encourages guest to resue their towels and plants trees for every five towels saved.

The plant for the planet drive has, so far, across 1,300 hotels raised funding 1.7m trees funded.

Mrs Flak added: "It's come to the point now where guests are complaining if their towels are changed!"

Staff engagement has been a top priority for the Accor, as it attempts to instil green thinking across its portfolio.

Energy management is often a role left to the general managers of each and while, Mrs Flak doesn't see the benefits of getting each hotel to compete with one another, she strongly believes in their policy of linking individual's bonuses to energy reduction.

"We started this in 1994 not to be pioneers but to be pragmatic, I do believe we need to change dramatically or there won't be a 22nd century."

More information about Accor's sustainability agenda is available here.

Luke Walsh


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