Environment-friendly hospitality

November 3, 2023 | By Anurima Das

Inge Huijbrechts, Global Senior Vice President of Sustainability, Security and Corporate Communications at Radisson Group

Inge Huijbrechts, Global Senior Vice President of Sustainability, Security and Corporate Communications at Radisson Group has been working together with her team to lead the group’s Net Zero transformation based on approved Science Based Targets and keeps employees around the world engaged in everyday Responsible Business actions. In conversation with her to understand how she is looking at attaining customer-centricity through sustainable goals.

How are sustainability principles working for you in alluring the customer to your hotels?

In recent years, we have increasingly been witnessing visible signs of climate change on a daily basis across the globe. Simultaneously, there is a growing demand for environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations at all levels; from public bodies to the private sector including asset owners, team members, and consumers.  According to a 2023 survey by Booking.com, 76% of travelers are looking to travel more sustainably, opting for eco-friendly hotels. Modern-day consumers are highly attuned to sustainability and expect organisations to uphold their promise to the environment.

It is thus essential for hotels to practice environmental responsibility, positively contributing to the local communities and ensuring transparency regarding the company’s actions and the specific steps being taken to attain these objectives. We have seen numerous instances that have surfaced where major brands are being held accountable for their entire supply chain. To address this, companies need to map out their value chain, establish policies, perform in-depth evaluations, and effectively communicate these regulations to customers.

In the hospitality sector, the same principles apply. In 2021, Radisson Hotel Group, along with other brands, associations, and destinations, launched the ‘Hotel Sustainability Basics’ initiative with the goal of promoting responsible and sustainable travel across all its global hotels by 2024. This initiative comprises a globally recognised and coordinated set of sustainability indicators that all hotels should implement as a minimum standard, ensuring transparency and consistency throughout their operations. Developed by the industry, for the industry, these indicators represent the 12 fundamental actions required for hotels to meet sustainability standards. As we work towards achieving net-zero emissions, the Group is on track to meet its approved science-based targets published in November 2022, with the hope of inspiring the next generation to travel sustainably.

What are the major plans undertaken (in Sustainability) and what’s in the pipeline?

Radisson Hotel Group has a long-standing commitment as a responsible business and is proudly leading the hospitality industry in raising ecological awareness. In parallel to the Hotel Sustainability Basics initiative, we are also working in line with the Net Zero vision of 2050. Radisson Hotel Group has simultaneously embraced its commitment to reducing its carbon footprint and achieving Net Zero by 2050. The Group’s focus extends to Think People, Planet, and Community. With a firm belief in becoming a thriving, sustainable, and responsible business, we work towards supporting our people, communities, and the planet overall through upholding strong business ethics across our supply chain and operations. Over the years, the Group continues to be a driving force in raising awareness of environmental responsibility and implementing sustainability programs to reduce the carbon footprint of hotels. In 2022, we took home an award at the Sustainability Innovation Awards for the Hydroponic Farm Project, with the commitment to contributing to the Net Zero by 2050 initiative that Dubai had set out.

Furthermore, we maintain active partnerships with organizations worldwide to implement ecological value propositions that enable visitors to travel seamlessly and responsibly. For example, we have introduced 100% carbon-neutral meetings across our hotels and have established EV charging networks in India and Europe, in collaboration with Sunfuel and Allego & PowerGo. This achievement has positioned us as the only hotel company within the top 100 Companies in Sustainability featured in Sustainability Magazine, underscoring our unwavering commitment to ESG principles and ethical excellence.

In addition to our initiatives and recognitions, Radisson Hotel Group has signed the Vision for Nature Positive Tourism, a commitment aimed at preserving biodiversity and leading the industry in innovative strategies. We are taking significant steps to drive positive change and are proud partners of the WTTC Global Hotel Sustainability Basics and Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality initiatives. Through these endeavours, Radisson Hotel Group continues to champion sustainable practices and ecological responsibility within the hospitality sector.

In terms of ROI and tech implementation, how is the process working for you all?

Several companies around the world are commencing their Net Zero transformation and have unveiled their targets to achieve Net Zero by 2050. According to the United Nations, science indicates that in order to avert the most severe impacts of climate change and safeguard a habitable planet, the global temperature increase needs to be limited to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. To meet the global warming limitations set forth in the Paris Agreement, emissions must be reduced by 45% by 2030 to be able to achieve Net Zero by 2050.

While this deadline may seem distant, immediate and large-scale actions are essential. In fact, we have achieved impressive results, reducing average energy and water footprint by 30% in the past decade. Looking ahead, we have set an ambitious target of a 30% carbon reduction over the next five years as companies must aim to halve their carbon footprints by 2030. To achieve Net Zero by 2050, a profound transformation must be undertaken to embrace technology including the rise of Artificial Intelligence, Web 3, and beyond. Some elements to consider for a successful digital transformation in sustainability, include the following: 

1.         Analyse current data using utility meters and iOT measurement points on technical equipment.

2.         Use AI to forecast data focused on energy, water, and food waste/consumption.

3.         Recommend sustainable choices to consumers.

4.         Engage staff and guests on how to make sustainable decisions.

5.         Streamline processes to reduce waste.

6.         Employ blockchain for traceability.

7.         Personalise experiences to promote green choices.

An embodiment of a hotel taking charge of similar actions is the award-winning Radisson Blu Hotel Dubai Deira Creek in the UAE which has successfully installed a thermodynamic solar system, utilising solar panel blocks and a heat pump for hot water production.

Tech is a big pillar today for all industries, how does this work for the hospitality industry?

 Technology is a significant pillar of the hospitality industry and an integral part of implementing sustainability into our day-to-day operations. It plays a crucial role from the moment guests begin their research process, through the booking of hotel rooms, their experience on the property, and even post-stay follow-ups. We consider ourselves fortunate because we underwent a comprehensive diagnostic of the company worldwide in 2017, during which we formulated a 5-year plan (5YP) with 29 concrete initiatives. We took on substantial investments, implemented a new brand architecture, integrated new IT systems, adopted new revenue management systems, and successfully launched our new loyalty program.

Throughout 2020 and 2021, we continued to invest in our systems and increased our digital infrastructure offering online and express check-in and check-out service. Moreover, we accelerated the launch of our Hybrid Meetings and Hybrid Rooms solutions to meet the rapidly changing lifestyles of travellers and their evolving expectations when they stay, work, and meet in our hotels.

Radisson Hotel Group is a customer-centric company, that has focused on offering one-to-one personalised experiences to our users. Personalised content is now offered to more than 60 markets on the website and mobile application, resulting in a double-digit conversion increase and 3X higher click-through rate (CTR) compared to the Group’s generic website. Today, RadissonHotels.com and the Radisson Hotels mobile app stand as highly successful online direct booking channels and key digital transformation milestones throughout the Group’s transformation plan. One of their recent award-winning projects includes the launch of immersive experiences across more than 86 hotels which allows guests to virtually enter hotels, rooms, and meeting spaces from their laptops, mobiles, or even VR headsets and book these spaces with a click of a button.

Earlier this year, the Group launched its innovative real-time, self-service online booking platform for meetings and events. Book it Easy, which is now available across all key conference hotels in EMEA. This best-in-class digital solution allows meeting and event organisers to save hours of precious time when planning for a meeting and booking a venue by making the process faster and more efficient.

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