Reducing consumption: Accor’s long-term solution for a short-term stay

Global hotel operator Accor has a strikingly apparent business case for reducing consumption, with energy, water and waste costing the company a staggering €400m (£345m) per year. And without further progression in efficiency this bill is only going to increase, finds Leigh Stringer.

Present in 90 countries, with 4,200 hotels and more than 500,000 rooms, focusing on operational efficiency is not new to the business. Accor has had a clear understanding of resource efficiency for over 20 years and the measures and initiatives put in place are pivotal elements to the business’ success, especially as consumption costs continue to rise globally.

“If you take energy, the cost rise in Europe that we face is 3-4% per year, while in some other countries in the Middle East or India for example it can be 10-15%, up to 20%,” says Accor’s executive vice president of sustainable development Sophie Flak.

“We have two sides [to dealing with consumption costs] – one side is to minimise our consumption as much as we can. It is a mix of new equipment, new practices and training our teams annually.

“Secondly, we monitor consumption. So energy and water, we monitor in quantity and in euros,” says Flak.

The company also has a statistical tool that allows it to identify the consumption impact from weather events and what comes from its operations.

“This tool is useful because it’s easy to say that energy has increased because the weather was too cold. Without it you’re not really sure if it is because of the weather or the performance.

“Our new tool allows us to analyse our data to know what is coming from the climate impact, the weather impact and our monitoring,” says Flak.

This monitoring initiative has, at the end of 2012, seen 96% of Accor’s hotels monitoring and analysing water consumption on a monthly basis. It also reported that 93% of hotels had installed flow regulators on showers and faucets, while 189 hotels were equipped with rainwater recovery systems.

These measures have contributed to a better understanding of water consumption but it is the company’s initiative to check water consumption at night that has had a real impact on water wastage.

“The leaks in a hotel can only be identified at night when everybody is sleeping. So we very regularly check consumption by the hour because if there is water being consumed between 3am and 5am there is probably a leak somewhere,” said Flak.

This is important to Accor, as the company consumes 544 million cubic metres (m3) of water – as much as 438,000 Europeans – every year. From this, however, 86% comes from irrigation systems feeding crops and livestock.

Despite only accounting for 11% of the total, direct water consumption in hotels adds up to 15,000 m3 per year on average, the equivalent of 685 showers a day at each site. This water goes to customers, housekeeping, foodservices, laundries, swimming pools, garden sprinklers, etc.

Successful monitoring requires staff engagement and Flak stresses the importance of effectively training the company’s technical team. However, it’s the hotel guests who are encouraging swift change in the hotel industry, she says, and a resource efficient hotel is climbing the list of accommodation priorities.

“Now that people know that sustainability won’t diminish comfort and that you can do good and that things are going to be better for them and their kids, there is an intent to do more or to continue to change things with their money.

“Yet I don’t think the battle is won yet, because for hospitality the first choice options are going to be combined location, brand and price, which will be the top three decision makers. And sustainability can generate a shift to a brand if there is not too much of a trade on those three aspects”.

According to the company’s 2011 research study, Sustainable Hospitality: ready to check in?, nearly eight out of 10 hotel guests globally declare they are sensitive to sustainable development.

The survey indicated that guests are particularly attentive to negative externalities related directly to a hotel’s activity.

When asked spontaneously to mention their main concerns, hotel customers said they expect tangible initiatives on well-known topics that are generally associated with sustainable development – water consumption, energy savings and waste treatment.

Leigh Stringer, edie energy and sustainability editor

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