Nowadays, it is very common to find hotels with sustainability practices. The most common are those aimed at the use of water and energy, but there are many others related to waste, generating income for communities, promoting local culture, using biodegradable cleaning products, among others.
Staying in a hotel or searching on the internet is easy to locate these types of practices. But is a hotel that has 15 types of sustainability practices more sustainable than other which has only 3? Or, a hotel that has implemented sustainability practices for the use of water, energy and waste is more sustainable than another hotel that has implemented sustainability practices only for the use of energy?
In fact, there are certification schemes that use this premise to grant a label, establishing levels of certification: gold, silver and bronze. The hotel that has more sustainability practices receives more “points” and, therefore, receives a “better” label, for example, the gold label.[Certification of sustainable tourism]
However, this idea does not make much sense. Sustainability practices have the function of minimizing the negative impacts generated by the hotel, whether these are environmental, socio-cultural or economic. So, what matters is not quantity of practices, but how much the hotel has managed to reduce the impact generated. A given hotel may need to implement 5 or 6 sustainability practices to significantly reduce water consumption. However, another hotel may achieve the same result of reducing water consumption by implementing only 2 of these practices.[ISO 21401:2018 – Sustainability management system for accommodation establishments and Sustainable development Goals (SDG) from UN (United Nations)]
In addition, each hotel has its own characteristics (number of rooms, leisure infrastructure, type of plumbing, operating time, etc.) and the reduction in water consumption can be totally different from one hotel to the other. Thus, what matters for a hotel is to achieve its goal of reducing water consumption in relation to what it consumed before implementing sustainability practices. The number of practices adopted is irrelevant and the comparison between hotels, without the use of a standardized indicator, is unrealistic.
In this way, the ideal is for the hotel to establish a measurable goal to minimize the impact generated, for example, to reduce water consumption by 5% this year and, from this, use an indicator to measure current consumption (Liters or M3 of water / guest / night).
Using this logic, the hotel will be able to connect sustainability practices to business management, making decisions that generate actions to minimize environmental impacts (reducing water consumption) and economic impacts (reducing costs), as following:
Example of the basic logic for Sustainability Management
|Aspect of sustainability||
|Impact of sustainability||
reduction of natural resource
to reduce water consumption by 5%
to install water flow reducers in showers; implement a program to change towels every 2 days and establish an inspection routine to identify leaks from the facilities
Liters or M3 of water / guest / night
|Result (before practices)||
150 liters / guest / night (March 2019)
|Result (after the practices adopted)||
142.5 liters / guest / night (March 2020)
|Final result obtained||
5% reduction in water consumption
Finally, we can say that it does not matter the amount of sustainability practices adopted, but the management of sustainability.
To learn more about Sustainability Management see ISO 21401 – Sustainability Management System for accommodation establishments.