A manor house in the hills that is now a hotel and resort within the hospitality industry.

The global push towards sustainability, which is highlighted by international targets such as the Paris Agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), casts a spotlight on all industries, including the hospitality industry.

With its significant environmental footprint, encompassing everything from energy and water use to waste production and sourcing practices, the hospitality industry is under pressure to adopt more sustainable operations. For the hospitality industry this means an urgent need to reassess and realign operations, supply chains and services with the principles of environmental stewardship and responsibility. This challenge is an opportunity to innovate hospitality sustainability and for the industry to emerge as leaders in sustainable business practices.

 

The State of Sustainability in Hospitality 2024

The United Kingdom’s government’s goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 has set a clear direction. Consequently, sustainability is no longer optional but a critical factor for all organisations.

Hospitality is faced with both progress and challenges, with the positives showing that there is a noticeable trend towards more sustainable operations across the whole industry. Hotels, restaurants and tourism operators are increasingly adopting measures such as energy-efficient lighting and heating, water-saving devices and comprehensive recycling programs. There is also a growing trend towards sourcing locally and sustainably, reducing the carbon footprint associated with food and beverage services, as well as enhancing guest experience with eco-friendly amenities and practices.

Despite these advancements, the industry faces significant challenges to fully integrate sustainability into its core operations. The financial implication with adopting sustainable technology and practices and the need to balance guest expectation with eco-friendly initiatives poses hurdles. The industry’s recovery and adaptation to the post-pandemic landscape has added another layer of complexity to sustainability efforts, with organisations navigating the complexity of economic recovery alongside their environmental commitments.

Nevertheless, the path towards sustainability is clear and the hospitality industries response to these challenges and its continued progress towards sustainability are driven by innovation, strategic partnerships and a deepening understanding of the long-term benefits of sustainable practices. Efforts reduce environmental impact while building resilience, brand value and securing a competitive edge in an increasingly eco-conscious market.

 

Key Sustainability Trends in Hospitality

Driven by consumer demand, as well as a collective commitment to environmental and social responsibility, the hospitality industry is witnessing a transformative shift. Several key trends stand out for 2024, marking the path for sustainable evolution.

Emphasis on Local and Sustainable Sourcing

“A sizeable 80% of travellers said that traveling more sustainably is important to them.” ¹

The emphasis on local and sustainable sourcing reflects a growing trend within the hospitality industry to enhance sustainability, support local communities and meet consumer demands for ethical and environmentally friendly dining experiences.

Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Adoption

“Green buildings use on average 26% less energy, emit 33% less carbon dioxide, use 30% less indoor water, and send 50%‐75% less solid waste to landfills and incinerators.” ²

By adopting GSCM models, the hospitality industry is not only reducing its environmental footprint but setting a benchmark for sustainability in business operations, highlighting the feasibility and benefits of a circular economy.

Waste Reduction and Circular Economy Practices

“Tourism is responsible for approximately 5% of global CO2 emissions.” ³

Waste reduction and circular economy practices in hospitality not only contribute to environmental sustainability but also offer economic advantages by reducing costs associated with waste disposal and purchasing.

 

Challenges to Sustainability in Hospitality

The journey towards sustainability has challenges that range from financial constraints to regulatory hurdles and consumer expectations.

Implementing sustainable practices often requires significant upfront investment and for many organisations, particularly small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs), the cost of adopting energy-efficient technologies, sourcing sustainable materials and implementing waste reduction systems can be prohibitive. The perceived slow return on investment (ROI) further highlights the issue, making it challenging for organisations to justify the initial expenditure. These financial barriers can delay or deter the adoption of sustainable practices, limiting the industry’s overall progress towards its environmental goals.

Furthermore, the industry operates within a complex regulatory landscape that varies significantly by region and country. Staying compliant with evolving environmental laws and sustainability standards can be a daunting task for organisations and the lack of uniformity in regulations an create confusion, as well as increasing the compliance burden, especially for organisations operating in multiple jurisdictions. Navigating regulations requires resources and expertise, diverting attention from operational efficiencies and potentially stifling innovation in sustainability initiatives.

Today’s consumers are more environmentally conscious and expect sustainable options when travelling or dining out. However, aligning business practices with these evolving expectations without compromising service quality or increasing prices presents a challenge. Consumers demand sustainability but are often reluctant to pay a premium for it, putting pressure on organisations within the industry to find cost-effective ways to implement practices. The industry must strike a delicate balance between meeting consumer demands for sustainability and managing operational costs, a challenge that can affect profitability and competitive positioning.

While technological advancements offer significant opportunities for sustainability, integrating these technologies into existing operations can be challenging. The lack of technical expertise, resistance to change and the potential disruption to guest experiences can hinder the adoption of sustainable technologies. Overcoming these implementation challenges is essential for hospitality businesses to leverage technology effectively in reducing their environmental footprint and enhancing operational efficiency.

 

Opportunities and Strategies for Hospitality Sustainability

Despite the challenges, the hospitality industries journey towards sustainability is full of opportunities for innovation, competitive advantage and business growth. By adopting strategic approaches, businesses within the industry can only mitigate obstacles and pioneer new standards for responsible hospitality.

Integrating Sustainability into Core Business Strategy

Strategy: Viewing sustainability as an integral part of the business strategy rather than a standalone initiative. This involves setting clear sustainability goals, tracking progress and embedding sustainable practices across all operations and services.

Opportunity: A comprehensive sustainability strategy enhances brand reputation, meets consumer expectations for ethical practices and can lead to cost savings through improved efficiencies and waste reduction. It positions the business as a leader in sustainable hospitality, attracting eco-conscious guests and potentially opening up new market segments.

Leveraging Technology for Sustainable Operations

Strategy: Employing innovative technologies to reduce energy consumption, minimise waste, and enhance resource efficiency. This can include investing in energy management systems, smart appliances and digital platforms for monitoring and optimising resource use.

Opportunity: Technology supports operational efficiency and cost reduction and enhances the guest experience through modern, eco-friendly amenities and services. It demonstrates a commitment to sustainability, differentiating the brand in a competitive market.

Enhancing Local and Sustainable Sourcing

Strategy: Building partnerships with local farmers and suppliers to source sustainable and organic products. Emphasising local sourcing in food and beverage operations and in procurement practices for amenities and operational materials.

Opportunity: Local sourcing supports the local economy, reduces the environmental impact of transportation and enables the business to offer fresh, high-quality offerings to guests. It strengthens the brand’s sustainability credentials and appeals to guests interested in authentic, local experiences.

Promoting Sustainable Tourism Practices

Strategy: Developing and marketing eco-friendly packages and experiences that encourage responsible travel. This includes offering information on local conservation efforts, providing access to sustainable transportation options and engaging guests in environmental and community initiatives.

Opportunity: Sustainable tourism practices can significantly enhance the guest experience by offering unique, meaningful travel experiences while minimising the environmental footprint. This approach attracts a growing segment of eco-conscious travellers and contributes to the preservation of local cultures and natural resources.

Engaging Staff and Guests in Sustainability Efforts

Strategy: Implementing training programs for staff on sustainability practices and encouraging guest participation in sustainability initiatives (e.g., recycling programs, energy-saving measures).

Opportunity: Engaging both staff and guests in sustainability efforts fosters a culture of environmental responsibility, enhances guest satisfaction and can lead to innovative ideas for further sustainability improvements. It strengthens the business’s sustainability narrative, creating a sense of community and shared purpose.

 

Why do Hospitality Organisations choose McGrady Clarke?

Hospitality organisations choose McGrady Clarke for our targeted expertise in cutting energy costs, meeting environmental regulations and improving sustainability. We offer custom energy monitoring and efficiency audits to reduce expenses and develop net-zero strategies, alongside carbon accounting to help hospitality owners lower their carbon footprint and meet regulations.

Our services are specifically designed to align with the hospitality industries needs, ensuring economic benefits while promoting environmental sustainability, making us a preferred partner for organisations aiming to balance profitability with environmental responsibility.

 

References

¹ Piva, G. (2022). Ecotourism and Sustainable Tourism Statistics 2023. Radical Storage. Retrieved from https://travel.radicalstorage.com/ecotourism-statistics/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

² U.S. Green Building Council. (n.d.). Applying LEED to hospitality and venue projects. Retrieved from https://support.usgbc.org/hc/en-us/articles/12127181820435. Used under a limited license granted by the U.S. Green Building Council, Inc.

³  Rodríguez-Antón, J.M., & Alonso-Almeida, M.d.M. (2019). The Circular Economy Strategy in Hospitality: A Multicase Approach. Sustainability, 11(20), 5665. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11205665. Licensed under CC BY.