Learning from LightStay: How Hilton saved £600m through in-house sustainability

EXCLUSIVE: Hilton Worldwide is continuing to achieve significant environmental and financial savings and driving behaviour change across the business through its state-of-the-art bespoke sustainability measurement platform, the hotel chain's energy and environment manager has told edie.

The global hospitality brand uses the LightStay platform to measure the energy and environmental impact of its 4,400+ properties globally. The energy management system breaks down sustainability performance into simple scores, and provides information on trends and benchmarks.

Speaking exclusively ahead of her appearance at the edie Live exhibition next month, Claire Whitely explained that the benefits of the in-house system have been substantial – since 2009, Hilton has reduced its energy use by 17%, waste output by 29% and water use by 17%. LightStay has also helped Hilton to save around $750m (£580m) during this period.

*CORRECTION: edie had previously reported that Hilton had reduced its energy use by 14.5%, waste output by 27.6% and water use by 14.1% and saved $550m (£430m) through LightStay. These figures have since been updated in accordance with new data provided by Hilton. 

Whitely also commented on the positive impact that the tool is having on employee engagement. LightStay’s simplified user interface makes it accessible to team members which, according to Whitely, encourages active workforce participation in sustainability practices.

“It definitely has helped behaviour change at an increasing rate,” Whitely said. “LightStay used to be an engineering programme and used to be very technical. However, now we are moving much more in the direction of looking at getting data input automatically from our suppliers. Then, we would take that information and provide outputs that can be used to engage our hotel team members.

“We have also moved away from talking about ‘KWh’ and ‘tonnes of carbon’ so much. We have reports that our colleagues can print out that talk about the number of cars taken that the hotel has taken off the road or the number of houses powered – it’s becoming more engaging for everyone then it used to be.”

System upgrade

Each Hilton hotel is required to track and complete improvement projects throughout the year. Whitely said this helps to put the spotlight on best-practices from more than 4,800 energy efficiency projects.

One recent upgrade to LightStay allows the system to track historical energy and weather data to forecast future energy consumption levels and predict the impact of performance on cost. This has in turn enabled Hilton’s hotels, owners, and management groups to take remedial action to influence future performance.

The system cross-references the data hotels submit with expected performance to send automatic alerts to hotels when performance falls below expected levels. This minute attention to detail allows for a heightened focus on the specific issues that affect each hotel, Whitely claims.

“It helps us to understand our buildings more and to look at how the various factors are influencing each hotel’s performance,” she said. “That way, we can pick out hotels where, for example, the weather has had near enough no impact on their performance so then we know that they are not managing their property very well. Theoretically, they should be using more energy when it is hotter or cooler then when it is mild.”

Whitely insists that the ability to assess variable factors is one of several ways the hospitality giant is seeking improve the Lightstay system.

She added: “We are constantly updating it. We’ve got a working group that looks at it every three weeks to see where we are going next and what the progress is. At the moment it is in an ever-evolving state. We are currently looking into getting half-hourly data into Lightstay so that we can get it all into one system. The next step is to get half-hourly real-time data input automatically so that it is more of a platform to get stuff out of rather than to put numbers in.”

Science-based targets?

Hilton’s comprehensive approach to energy management has been recognised by third-party certification bodies. The business has achieved ISO certifications across its entire portfolio – ISO 14001 for environmental management and ISO 50001 for energy management. Indeed, Hilton became the first global hospitality brand to gain the latter accolade in 2014.

But Whitely maintains that the company is not about to rest upon its laurels; the installation of smart energy management systems and the adoption of science-based targets to drive greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions are avenues being actively explored to build on the growing momentum.

“There are various things we are looking into at the moment in terms of linking up room energy management systems, looking at how we can have ‘smarter’ hotels,” Whitely said. “We can have sensors in the rooms so that if the guest isn’t there then the Building Management System (BMS) automatically switches off or reduces the air conditioning.

“One thing that jumps out at the moment is science-based targets which groups like Land Securities are adopting. If we can move towards science-based-targets – and they are big, scary numbers – it would help to push forwards with the progress. It is on the table and being discussed at the moment but it is still early days.”

Claire Whitely at edie Live 2017

Hilton Worldwide’s energy and environment manager Claire Whitely is among the expert speakers appearing on stage at edie Live 2017 at the NEC Birmingham on 23-24 May. 

Whitely is appearing in the afternoon session of the Energy Management Theatre on Day 1 of the show, which takes a closer look at whether it is behaviour change or technology which has the most impact on energy management and whether the two are mutually exclusive.

Find out more about edie Live 2017 and register for your free two-day pass here.

George Ogleby

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