How sustainable is Hilton?

7 Aug 2022 by Tom Otley
Royal Palm Galapagos, Curio Collection by Hilton

Travellers are increasingly aware of the effect, both positive and negative, that travel can have on the communities they visit and the environment. At the same time, hotel companies, along with travel companies, airlines and tourism boards are keen to emphasise the positive effects that travel can have on the world. Here we look at Hilton’s latest initiatives.

As background, Hilton has 5,500 hotels worldwide with another 2,700 in development.

It’s Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) programme is called Travel with Purpose.

Some highlights from Hilton’s updated targets and 2030 goals are:

  • Cutting the emissions intensity of Hilton-managed hotels by 75 per cent, and Hilton-franchised hotels by 56 per cent, by 2030.
  • Committing to an updated carbon reduction target aligned with a trajectory to hold global temperature rise 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, validated in June 2022 by the Science Based Targets Initiative.

While Hilton made headlines recently with its first net-zero hotel, it hasn’t set this as a publicly stated target across its whole portfolio. The reason, according to Hilton Chief ESG Officer Kristin Campbell, is that “Net zero is an extremely ambitious commitment that relies on dramatic transformational change. Most notably, it relies heavily on technology advancement and legislative changes, the transition to renewable power on the grid and divestiture of fossil fuels, and sizeable investment in renewable power infrastructure.”

Hilton prefers to focus on steps within its power “taking incremental steps.. [and] a methodical, science-based approach to fully understand what net zero means for us. Just as we have updated our existing carbon and energy goals, we will advance with robust data and discipline to ensure we fully understand such a commitment and how it would be achieved.”

The following is from Hilton’s 2021 ESG Report which can be downloaded from the Hilton website

Hilton Environmental Social Governance


Hilton  was the first major hotel company to establish the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi),  to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with the Paris Agreement and also seeks to reduce its footprint through what it calls its ‘Watts, Water and Waste’ program.


The ‘watts’ refers to Hiltons aims around increasing its energy efficiency which will both reduce its utility costs and greenhouse gas emissions from its hotels around the world.


  • Reduce Scope 1 and 2 carbon intensity from managed hotels by 61 per cent, and work with franchisees to reduce Scope 3 carbon intensity from franchised hotels by 52 per cent (MT CO2e/m2, 2008 baseline). A note here on what is meant by ‘Scope’ in the context of the hospitality industry:
    • Scope 1 includes all onsite GHG emissions from fuel use, almost exclusively natural gas for comfort heating and hot water generation.
    • Scope 2 includes all grid electricity used by Hilton’s managed hotel properties. The individual hotel CO2e emissions factors for the reference group were verified based on the emissions source data provided by country or subregion (i.e., US eGRID, DEFRA, IEA).
    • Scope 3 includes all emissions resulting from both onsite emissions and grid electricity at the Franchised hotels, as well as emissions relating to Managed hotel landfilled waste and Corporate business travel. Again, CO2 emissions factors were verified for different countries and subregions based on international standard data.
  • Adopt a global standard for responsible travel and tourism, complementing its existing environmental certifications


  • Developed new, more ambitious science-based targets, which are currently under review with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi)
  • 50 per cent reduction in carbon emissions intensity (managed hotels)*
  • 43 per cent reduction in carbon emissions intensity (all hotels)*
  • Signed on as the first hospitality company to commit to the U.S. Department of Energy Better Climate Challenge
  • Sourced 100 per cent renewable electricity for one-third of its owned, managed and leased hotels in the EMEA region, as well as its Watford and Glasgow offices, and offered renewable energy option for U.S. managed hotels
  • Continued to enhance LightStay, including the addition of a Meeting Impact Calculator to calculate the environmental footprint of meetings and events
  • Achieved Global Sustainable Tourism Council (GSTC)-Recognized Standard status for LightStay
  • 100 per cent of hotels mapped against climate risks


Hilton is ‘focused on driving holistic water stewardship across [its] value chain.’


  • Reduce water use in its managed operations by 50 per cent (liters/m², 2008 baseline)
  • Activate 20 context-based water projects in its communities and watersheds of top water risk


  • 39 per cent reduction in water intensity (managed hotels)
  • 43 per cent reduction in water intensity (all hotels)
  • 3 context-based water pilots completed
  • Mapped 100 per cent of hotels against WRI and WWF water risk indices
  • Continued investment in community water stewardship efforts through the Hilton Global Foundation
  • Refreshed Energy and Water Efficient Design Companion Guide to guide hotels on design decisions that can improve properties’ energy and water efficiency


If you’ve ever been last at the hotel buffet and wondered what is going to happen to all the uneaten food, the answer, increasingly, is it is not going to be thrown away. As it says, “Waste prevention, recycling, and food upcycling and donation are all key components of creating a greener hospitality industry.”


  • Reduce landfilled waste in its managed operations by 50 per cent (MT/m², 2008 baseline)
  • Reduce food waste sent to landfill by 50 per cent in our managed operations (MT/m², 2017 baseline)
  • Send zero soap to landfill by recycling all used guest soap bars, where available


  • 70 per cent reduction in landfilled waste intensity (managed hotels)
  • 62 per cent reduction in landfilled waste intensity (all hotels)
  • Established global food waste reduction program
  • Collaborated with WWF and the hotel industry to develop a standardized waste measurement methodology
  • Continued to expand Digital Key and transition hotels to bulk amenities, reducing plastic waste from key cards and miniature toiletry bottles
  • 5,500+ hotels partnered with soap recycling organizations to donate soap to those in need


It can be easy to forget about the ‘S’ of ESG because of the focus on environmental matters, but to those working in tourism, it is at least as important, though the hope is that the employment opportunities are offered in a sustainable manner. As Hilton says “We foster inclusive growth by enabling everyone to participate in and benefit from travel.”

Hilton says it aims to “create opportunities for all in our communities; from creating market access for local and diverse suppliers to showcasing local culture to our guests – we are committed to driving positive social impact. We contribute our time, skills and resources to building capacity and resilience in our destinations, including in times of disaster – and we bring urgent focus and committed action to the pursuit of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and to the protection of human rights. Under the ‘Social’ heading we have ‘Careers, Communities and Conduct’.



  • Double its investment in youth opportunity programs in countries with lowest youth well-being (2017 baseline)
  • Fulfill Hilton’s commitment to achieve global gender parity and 25 per cent US ethnic representation at its corporate leadership levels by 2027


  • In partnership with the International Youth Foundation (IYF), launched Passport to Success Concierge to provide free soft-skills training to young people interested in exploring or building careers in travel and tourism
  • Continued to provide Hilton Global Foundation grant support to partners supporting youth opportunity, including IYF, The Memorial Foundation, and Springboard
  • 39 per cent women at global corporate leadership levels (+2 vs YE2020)
  • 19 per cent ethnically diverse at corporate leadership levels in the US (+2 vs YE2020)
  • In 2021, training on Diversity & Inclusion/Unconscious Bias and creating a Harassment-Free Workplace was completed by 94 per cent of managed hotels in the U.S., as well as 90 per cent of managed hotels globally


  • Since established in 2019, awarded $5M+ in Hilton Global Foundation grants to more than 50 NGOs and community-based organizations
  • Contribute 10 million volunteer hours
  • Double our monetary response, empowerment efforts and investment in resiliency against natural disasters (2017 baseline)
  • Support our Team Members affected by disasters
  • Participate in food donation programs, where allowed by law (managed hotels)
  • Double Action Grants for hotel-led social and environmental impact projects in our communities
  • Promote environmental awareness and open our LightStay technology in school educational programs


  • Since established in 2019, awarded $5M+ in Hilton Effect Foundation grants to more than 50 NGOs and community-based organizations
  • 1,810,744 hours volunteered since 2017, including 197,824 hours in 2021
  • Distributed more than $2.5M in critical financial support to more than 2,500 Team Members impacted by disasters and crises since 2014
  • Positively impacted more than 25,000 refugees since 2015 through volunteering, in-kind donations, purchasing, training and employment
  • Committed to the TENT Partnership for Afghan Refugees, expanding on existing commitments to hire refugees and mentor LGBTQ+ refugees
  • All managed hotels in North America are required to have food donation programs in place


  • Sustainably source (e.g., certified) all meat and poultry, produce, seafood and cotton at managed hotels (where available)
  • Double our sourcing spend from local, small and medium-sized enterprises and minority-owned suppliers for managed hotels and corporate offices (2017 baseline)
  • Create framework for collaboration program with top-tier suppliers
  • Train employees at Hilton-managed hotels on relevant environmental and social issues
  • Engage guests in supporting responsible travel in destination hot spots


  • It is making “incremental progress@ on sourcing 25 per cent of its global seafood volume for managed properties from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) fisheries and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) farms
  • Prior to the pandemic, cage free eggs represented 88 per cent of egg volume in its managed hotels in the Americas and decreased to 53 per cent in 2021. We are working toward reaching pre-pandemic levels globally moving forward
  • Sourced from more than 2,500 women-, minority-, veteran-, disabled- and LGBTQ-owned businesses in 2021
  • 50 per cent of brands have at least one brand standard requiring local sourcing
  • 54 per cent of hotel leaders have reported their Team Members have completed its anti–human trafficking training
  • Launched “Extending Our Stay” series to engage guests in its Travel with Purpose strategy and inspire them to travel responsibly
  • Launched refreshed Meet with Purpose program to incorporate environmental and social impact into customer meetings and events


Public Affairs

  • Shape ESG legislation and regulation to advance Hilton’s Travel with Purpose 2030 Goals
  • Advocate for policies that support and advance climate action, destination stewardship, human rights, and diversity, equity and inclusion.


  • Led advocacy efforts on behalf of its Team Member and owner community to support Covid-related relief and recovery
  • Advocated to advance legislation related to anti-human trafficking, immigration reform, climate action, plastic elimination, skills training and apprenticeships programs, and diversity, equity and inclusion
  • Monitoring forthcoming government regulations related to ESG disclosure requirements


  • Create and partner with cross-industry networks to advance Travel with Purpose goals, including advancing international human rights and a low-carbon future


  • Participated in Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and World Travel & Tourism Council committees and working groups and contributed to the development of the industry’s “Net Positive Pathway
  • Signed UN Global Compact
  • Collaborated with expert partners on human rights topics, including ECPAT and It’s a Penalty
  • Led engagement with key industry trade organizations
  • Continued to work with partners, such as World Wildlife Fund, on sustainable destination management
  • Collaborate with corporate partners on shared ESG goals and values, including partnership with American Express on distributing 1 million rooms to medical professionals at the frontlines of the battle against COVID-19 and partnership with Lyft to sponsor rides to increase access to vaccines

Policies and reporting

  • Encourage suppliers to set goals and validate through auditing and incentive program
  • Increase data visibility by incorporating social and environmental criteria into supplier registration and inquiry processes
  • Embed human rights due diligence across its global operations and in its supply chain, and partner with suppliers to address any form of forced labor or trafficking


  • Progressed partnership with EcoVadis to track and validate supplier sustainability performance
  • All suppliers are encouraged to observe and abide by Hilton’s Responsible Sourcing Policy, which is included in all property contracts
  • Where relevant, routinely incorporate sustainability criteria into our sourcing exercises, catalogs and purchasing data
  • 100 per cent of hotels mapped against human rights risks, and 100+ country-level human rights briefs and mitigation plans developed


Hilton brands
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