Paul Snyder, IHG Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and GSTC Board Member

Paul Snyder, IHG Vice President of Corporate Responsibility and GSTC Board Member

An interview with IHG’s Paul Snyder about the successful Green Engage program.  

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is the newest sponsor of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC), and one of the leading hotel companies, with 4,700 hotels around the world. You are probably familiar with their well-known hotel brands, including InterContinental®, Crowne Plaza® and Holiday Inn®. IHG’s Corporate Responsibility programs focus on environmental sustainability, sustainable communities and disaster relief.

IHG’s environmental sustainability program, IHG Green Engage, is a system that measures the impact IHG-branded hotels have on the environment, and helps them manage costs. At the beginning of this year, IHG made a powerful demonstration of their ongoing commitment to protecting the environment and rolled out the program across the company’s global estate of over 4,700 hotels.

IHG Green Engage measures and monitors the daily usage of energy, carbon, water, and waste, as well as creating action plans to reduce resource usage while benefitting the bottom line. Additionally, IHG Green Engage is aligned with third-party certification programs to help streamline the process for IHG-branded hotels to achieve these recognitions. This includes GSTC Recognized Standard and Member- Green Globe and GSTC Member Green Key Global. The program’s sustainability system is also aligned with LEED® building standards.

Rooftop garden on Hotel Indigo, San Diego, California

Rooftop garden on Hotel Indigo, San Diego, California

More about IHG Green Engage

IHG’s decision to sponsor the GSTC was influenced by Paul Snyder, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility. In an interview, Snyder explains why IHG joined the GSTC as a sponsor and how the IHG Green Engage program works-

Why did IHG choose to support the GSTC?

The leadership initiative that the GSTC has taken on, as well as the quality and scope ofmembership were important factors that we considered in the decision. GSTC is a group that we felt we could both contribute to and also learn from.

How does IHG fit into the GSTC mission, principles, and community?

IHG has a franchise business model, and many IHG hotel owners and operators around the world are committed to environmentally sustainable business practices. Part of IHG’s Corporate Responsibility focus is to empower our owners and operators to create a sustainable hotel and business, so we put the strategies, systems and tools in place to help them achieve their goals at .

Overall, Corporate Responsibility is a part of the way IHG does business and at the heart of everything we do. We go beyond environmental sustainability, and also make an impact at the community level, where our hotels operate in more than 100 countries around the world. IHG Academy is designed to meet that need by providing collaboration between IHG hotels and local education providers to give local people skills training to help them find work and opportunity at IHG or in the hospitality industry.

Also, when disaster strikes, we help our hotels respond effectively and quickly to the needs in their local community through the IHG Shelter in a Storm program.

Solar panels on Holiday Inn Express & Suites El Centro

Solar panels on Holiday Inn Express & Suites El Centro

 How does the IHG Green Engage program make the “business case” to encourage participation, engagement, and promotion of the program? What about the “sustainability case”?

Honestly, the business case makes itself. We have performance, cost and impact data from 2,800 hotels, over half of our global estate. Because of the tool’s ability to compare similar hotels, it is easy to see what solutions work to reduce energy, waste and water. This reduction of resource use directly translates to financial savings, so hotels also see the impact to the bottom line

IHG Green Engage is divided into levels, and Level 1 certification has been proven to pay back in less than a year and have a significant positive impact.  Most importantly, we have many hotel owners and operators that deeply care about the environment and community, and they are motivated to build a better hotel that is more sustainable. It’s just the right thing to do.

 Since the inception of the IHG Green Engage program, is there a hotel that came up with an innovative and exciting solution to improve environmental standards?

Sometimes it is about just getting down to the basics and changing simple practices that can have a big impact. For example, a number of years ago we started planting climate appropriate foliage to save water. This may seem obvious, but it is a practice that can go unnoticed.

We have hotels that get creative and add roof top gardens and beehives. They are able to harvest and incorporate this food into hotel restaurant menus, and that also provides a way for guests to learn about the hotel’s sustainability program. Also, in 2012, IHG partnered with Clean the World that recycles soap and shampoo products discarded by the hospitality industry. Through the distribution of products to at-risk people, we are able to help prevent deaths caused by hygiene-related illnesses. With over 200 Green Solutions, IHG Green Engage is a very comprehensive program that has a true impact on environmental sustainability and our business.

Cabrini-profile

The GSTC’s Chair of the Board, Luigi Cabrini, is featured in the February edition of the Travel & Tour World online magazine.  The Travel & Tour World magazine is a B2B travel magazine with online global readership of over 2 million.   The article entitled “GSTC Making Advances in Tourism Sustainability” focuses on the history, objectives, and application of the GSTC Criteria. In an excerpt from the article, Mr. Cabrini gives a foundational explanation of sustainable tourism and why it is pertinent to all sectors of the tourism industry:

“Sustainable tourism is one that takes into full more effective sustainable practices and to help account the current and future, economical, social create a common understanding of sustainable and environmental impacts, addressing needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and also communities. The definition takes basis from the International Rio Conference in 1992. Sustainable tourism advocate for a wise use of resources, making sure that they are available for the next generation. One important approach that we have on sustainable tourism is that it should be spread across all the various segments of tourism. We are not satisfied in limiting sustainable tourism in small niches of eco-tourism or nature tourism but we do believe that it should permeate the whole tourism chain including mass destinations. This is one point that is clearly embedded in the global sustainable tourism criteria. We also give equal importance to environmental, economical, social and cultural aspects of tourism development and make sure that there is a right balance between all of them.”

Additionally, the article addresses the role that sustainable tourism and the GSTC has in combatting global issues such as poverty and climate change. The GSTC Sustainability Training Program was highlighted as a tool for travel and tourism stakeholders to use in order to effectively deal with such pressing problems. For more information on this 1-5 day on-site program, please visit here.

 

You can view or download the full article by visiting Travel & Tour World online and clicking “download latest magazine”.

 

BiodiversityThe GSTC Criteria serve as basic guidelines for businesses, organizations and destinations that wish to address sustainability issues in the travel and tourism industry. It is composed of a set of standards and provides assurance that the main principles of responsible tourism are being covered. In reality, the GSTC criteria represents a commitment to the environment, communities and cultures, and a common language that facilitates communication surpassing international borders.

Section D of the GSTC Criteria suggests that all tourism entities should “maximize benefits to the environment and minimize negative impacts”.  From this statement, it follows that tourism must preserve natural ecosystems, protect wildlife species and contribute to biodiversity conservation. However, it is not an easy goal, revealed a recent study conducted by the European Network of for Sustainable Tourism Development (ECOTRANS). In fact they argue, “The issue of species diversity and conservation management lags far behind targets posing a threat to the ecosystems”.

ECOTRANS’ case study provided recommendations to the international sustainable tourism certification bodies to improve their standards concerning biodiversity.  The report stated that nature protection and biodiversity can be strengthened by taking specific actions, addressing the shortcomings of some standard programs and implementing CSR initiatives.

In their market analysis, ECOTRANS recognized the need to implement common terminology, encourage more attention to the introduction of invasive alien species, and to offer training for certifiers and certified organizations on biodiversity. The study states that standard organizations concentrate more on traditional measures for the protection of habitats and species instead of the newer concepts such as the mitigation hierarchy, which encourages businesses to measure and manage environmental impacts in all stages of a project: prevention, mitigation, restoration and compensation.

The study also recommends the introduction of new indicators such as “ecosystem services”-a concept that is also being discussed intensively in economic circles- aiming to protect direct and indirect ecosystem services which contribute to human wellbeing. To date, standards do not address ecosystem services, but rather tend to focus exclusively on the protection of ecosystems.

Additionally, the report highlights the importance of cooperation between the standard organizations; “One standard alone cannot master the challenge of halting the loss of biodiversity. But the standard organizations together can, and should, take advantage of synergies to make a significant contribution to the protection of biodiversity”.

New markets for ecosystem services have emerged in response to the failure of traditional biodiversity conservation mechanisms, therefore to effectively protect and conserve environmental resources and the socio-cultural livelihoods of host communities the integration of biodiversity in CSR processes should be implemented in ways that are coordinated and mutually supportive. Research shows that approaching components of biodiversity as distinct services, fails to protect the integrity of the functioning ecosystem. Nevertheless, ECOTRANS analysis presents standard enhancements that can positively augment future sustainable tourism destinations and ventures.

 

Source:

The Integration of Biodiversity in CSR Processes in the Tourism Industry

CSRBIOIV- Tourism -Recommendations – EN

Publisher: ECOTRANS, Futterstr. 17-19, 66111 Saarbrücken, Germany

Co-publisher: Global Nature Fund, www.globalnature.org

Authors: Marion Hammerl, Herbert Hamele, ECOTRANS

Daniel Weiss, Adelphi; Stefan Hörmann, Global Nature Fund

The tourism industry has the potential to be a good and powerful force on our planet. When responsibly managed, it enriches lives, and preserves natural resources and cultural heritage. More frequently these days, travelers take this into account and seek authentic holiday experiences, to choose a responsible tour operator, book a hotel with a sustainability certification, read up on local cultures before traveling, research conservation or social projects to possibly engage during their trip, and even go as far as calculating personal carbon footprints and offsetting emissions with a payment contribution.

To correspond with the rising demand of responsible travelers, organizations needed to re-shape their strategy. Over recent years, the travel and tourism industry has reflected an increasing shift in mindset towards a greener agenda. The term sustainability came to be used, introducing principles and practices designed to encourage active preservation of our environment and communities, while promising an attractive economic recovery. Many entities now drive profitability and innovation by implementing sustainability programs across their value chains.

TUI Travel PLC, a leading international leisure travel company and a GSTC member, surveys their own customers to measure sustainability consciousness.. Not surprisingly, the 2012 TUI Travel Sustainability Research Report – with 3000 people surveyed, who have taken at least one holiday of at least 5 days including a flight within the last 2 years – illustrates the importance for tour operators to demonstrate how their supply chain – which consists largely of third-party accommodations – is employing workers under fair conditions and is supporting the local community.

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 The Global Sustainable Tourism Council CEO, Randy Durband, has been named Special Advisor to the creation of the Top 100 Sustainable Destination annual list. The initiative was created by GSTC member Albert Salman (Green Destinations) and Valere Tjolle (TravelMole, VISION for Sustainable Tourism, Totem Tourism).  The Top 100 Sustainable Destinations list aims to encourage stakeholders worldwide to adopt sustainable tourism practices. Also, Green Destinations and Totem Tourism hope to acknowledge best practices, and recognize those authentic, greener, cleaner and more responsible destinations.

The 2014 list will be compiled by Albert Salman and Valere Tjolle, in consultation with the “Green Destinations Selection Panel”, consisting of 30 international experts on tourism and sustainability.

Nominations will be accepted until 31 October, 12:00 CET. Submit your Destination Nomination Form to info@greendestinations.info

The procedure for the compilation of the list is as follows:

Cities, towns, small regions, national parks, or even lakes can be nominated, not accommodations or single buildings

A very important source for list are the contents and the scores that are calculated by the Global Sustainable Tourism Review (GSTR) database that includes data for 1200 destinations. http://www.qualitycoast.info/alldestinations.htm, http://greendestinations.info.

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Photo Credit: St. Kitts Tourism AuthoritySt. Kitts and Nevis, located in the northern Leeward Islands in the West Indies, was one of the first destinations in the world to be selected as a GSTC Early Adopter, and the first in the Caribbean. St. Kitts still retains “hidden gem” status, not being a mass-market Caribbean destination. However, development on St. Kitts is advancing swiftly, with significant new infrastructure under development, including five-star resorts, luxury residential properties, a marina, and with plans being made for a second cruise port.

Recognizing that the small island nation is at a critical turning point to ensure that its growth balances development interests with safeguards for the local environment, culture, and community livelihoods, St. Kitts has begun pursuing innovative destination stewardship programs under the leadership of Minister of Tourism and International Transport Ricky Skerritt—himself a keen environmentalist and Rhodes scholar. “I pledge continued support from the Tourism Ministry as part of our national quest for achieving global sustainable standards in tourism product preparation and delivery,” Minister Skerritt has said of efforts such as St. Kitts and Nevis’ participation in the GSTC Early Adopter Program.

In this post, we look at just few of these efforts St. Kitts and Nevis has launched in the last two years since its July 2012 GSTC assessment.

Community Action Planning

In 2012, following the GSTC assessment benchmarking St. Kitts and Nevis’ policies and practices against the GSTC Criteria for Destinations, the Ministry of Tourism set in motion a process to start implementing the GSTC recommendations. The first step was an inaugural Sustainable Tourism Forum, held in November 2012 by the Ministry of Tourism and facilitated by Sustainable Travel International, which conducted the destination assessment on behalf of the GSTC. The forum brought together approximately 50 St. Kitts and Nevis stakeholders from across sectors such as tourism, agriculture, culture, investment, sustainable development, and environment, to collectively prioritize the GSTC’s recommendations and plan action projects to advance those priorities. In addition to identifying steps to begin implementation, the forum discussion aimed to raise awareness among the broad group of participating stakeholders about the importance of sustainable development of tourism, St. Kitts and Nevis’ top economic sector.

Sustainable Destination Management Council, and Stakeholder Training

One of the GSTC focus areas identified by St. Kitts and Nevis stakeholders as high priority was improvement of capacity building and coordination among key destination decision-makers—especially public sector—regarding sustainable tourism development. Stakeholders envisioned an interagency sustainable tourism governance body with wide representation across offices of government, and including private sector membership. The interagency council would receive training in sustainable destination management, and meet regularly to collaborate on advancing sustainable development priorities.

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