What the industry must do to achieve its environmental, social and governance goals
The Future Hospitality Summit (FHS) 2023 takes place in Abu Dhabi in September, with environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals high up on the agenda.
With 2023 being the UAE Year of Sustainability and COP 28 taking place in Dubai this winter, ESG has never been more in focus in the region than it is now.
In the run-up up to FHS, we asked a selection of speakers to outline the biggest priorities facing the Middle East hospitality sector today if these lofty goals are to be achieved.
Haitham Mattar, Managing Director, IMEA, IHG Hotels & Resorts
"As the largest industry in the world that contributes 10 per cent to the world’s GDP, green tourism and skill development are two of our biggest priorities when it comes to sustainable development and operations. The hospitality industry has recognised the importance of green tourism for a long time. Our actions in the coming years and beyond will shape our industry and consequently, the planet. Today, it is more than necessary for major hospitality players to align with the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that will create a wider change throughout the industry.
"At IHG, caring for our people, communities, and planet are at the heart of what we do. Our strategic efforts have already incorporated the same through ‘Journey to Tomorrow’ — our 10-year action plan which will play a key role over the next decade in driving green tourism. Playing our part in the sector to combat climate change, we’re actively liaising with our hotels in measuring and managing their environmental impact; this includes optimising energy consumption across all hotel operations as well as reducing our owners’ operating costs to mitigate the impact of any unexpected energy price hikes. Furthermore, we’re working hand-in-hand with brands to reach our decarbonisation goals, reduce water and food waste and protect biodiversity. A recent example of our anti-waste efforts is IHG’s collaboration with water.org to provide lasting access to safe drinking water and improved sanitisation solutions for 5,000 people across India and Kenya.
"Skill development and recruitment is also critical. We must creative initiatives and opportunities for local talent to not only have jobs but fulfilling careers, because local talent are the best ambassadors of local hospitality. At IHG, training, hiring and developing local talent is an ongoing focus: in the Middle East, we have training programmes and job opportunities in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Qatar and Oman reserved especially for local youth. We also recently launched a campaign aimed at encouraging Saudi nationals to consider careers in the hospitality industry. By 2030, our target is to hire 6,000 Saudi nationals, while also heavily working on our emiratisation and omanisation programmes in collaboration with governments and industry bodies. Our growing ambition in developing and hiring local talent is supported by IHG Academy — a pioneering global collaboration between IHG and local education and community providers to build local capabilities and hire highly-skilled nationals.
Richard Williamson, COO of Considerate Group
"Stakeholders’ increasingly structured ESG expectations continue to drive the hospitality sector. Hotels are complex businesses, and we are finding that the quality and flow of data from hospitality assets to owners is lagging behind the broader real estate sector. Multi-asset owners want a consistent quality of data and a global perspective of their portfolio to allow them to benchmark asset performance. This remains the industry’s biggest challenge, to collect and share high-quality asset-level data to inform long-term ESG strategies and underpin reporting and regulatory compliance. Challenges that lie ahead in the near future include measurement and quantification of the social aspects of ESG and the inclusion of biodiversity into the overall equation. "
Fahad Abdulrahim Kazim, CEO, Millennium Hotels & Resorts, MEA
"The biggest priority for our industry in sustainable development and operations is striking the right balance between exceptional guest experiences and minimizing our environmental footprint. It's crucial to seamlessly integrate sustainable practices into every aspect of our operations while continuing to provide top-notch service and innovative offerings. This approach ensures we meet the growing demands of conscious travellers and contribute meaningfully to a more sustainable future.
"Throughout the years, Millennium Hotels and Resorts has undergone impressive transformations to meet the ever-changing needs of our guests and the dynamic hospitality industry. Our focus has revolved around crucial areas to drive our brand forward and ensure continuous success, broadly identified as Sustainability, Technology and People – sustainability in the way we operate, technology to effectively reach our audiences and leverage data analytics and AI to gain valuable insights and improve guest services, and empowering our people, both internally and the communities through strategic training and partnerships.
"In 2023, we have a strategic direction for “Year of Quality”, encompassing: Guest experiences and services in line with our localization strategy to launch hospitality schools in the UAE and KSA and attract young local talent to our business, Colleague engagement as an integral corporate strategy for a team that is engaged through training, reward and recognition, and prioritizing wellbeing."
Paul Stevans, COO, Premium, Midscale & Economy Division, Middle East, Africa and Türkiye at Accor
"Among the key environmental ESG areas, the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions is a priority. From construction to daily operations, Accor is strongly engaged with resolute action to respect the natural limits of our planet and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We have introduced a number of tools for our hotels and clients, as part of the carbon commitment, including a survey and score card for hotels to build their energy performance and saving opportunities, and a net zero carbon calculator to help Meeting & Event clients calculate the carbon footprint of their event and allow the purchase of carbon credits to balance the remaining emissions.
"As part of its commitment to ESG activities, Accor signed the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism launched by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNTWO), setting an ambitious science-based emissions reduction target: -46% absolute emissions by 2030 compared to the 2019 base year and joined the ‘Business Ambition for 1.5°C’ programme to limit global warming, making Accor the first international hotel group to make a long-term commitment to achieving net zero emissions by 2050.
"Furthermore, our hotels have a long-standing commitment against plastic, which began In 2020, where we began eliminating plastic straws, cotton buds and stirrers. In 2022, 96% of our UAE hotels in the Premium, Midscale & Economy Division eliminated Single Use Plastic from guest facing areas ranging from Food & Beverage, in-room amenities and meeting and events. Today, we are working towards ambitious targets and have added 9 more items to be eliminated from guest facing areas based on the UN GTPI recommendations. The continued efforts in 2023 resulted in 63% of our hotel being compliant (YTD) and we are going a step further with the transformation by monitoring and eliminating back of house single use plastic.. The global objective is for 80% of our hotels to eliminate single use plastic from guest facing areas ( 50+ items) by the end of 2023."
Elie Milky, VP Business Development, Radisson Hotel Group
"While all facets of sustainability are essential, the most pressing priority for our industry is the need to address our environmental footprint, given the scale and nature of our operations. This includes reducing carbon emissions, minimizing waste, and conserving resources. As an industry that primarily revolves around physical locations, buildings, and transportation, we have a significant role in driving forward green building practices, efficient energy consumption, and sustainable transportation solutions for our guests.
"Radisson Hotel Group has a history of responsible business since our first environmental policy in 1989. We aim to be Net Zero by 2050 with science-based targets, focusing on enhancing energy efficiency and transitioning to renewables. We offer our guests carbon-neutral meetings and EV charging networks in India and Europe. Our commitment extends to business ethics, supply chain sustainability, reducing carbon footprints, and supporting employability programs. Beyond our boundaries, we lead industry initiatives like Hotel Sustainability Basics and the Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality."