Hotel operator Accor has revealed 21 steps to make its global portfolio of hotels more environmentally friendly by 2015

Accor’s Planet 21 scheme identifies 21 areas that its portfolio of 4,400 hotels around the world need to work on to achieve a range of targets by 2015 – from a 10 per cent reduction in energy and a 15 per cent cut in water usage, to eco-labelled products in 85 per cent of hotels and the promotion of healthier meals in 80 per cent of properties.

Accor estimates it serves 56 million breakfasts and washes more than 290 million towels a year, but since it launched its environmental department in 1994, it has already seen an improvement on its environmental impact. For example, water consumption in rooms dropped 12 per cent from 2006 to 2010, while energy dropped 5.5 per cent – although this fell short of its target of 10 per cent.

At the end of last year, 62 per cent of Accor hotels were offering “balanced dishes” on their menus, while 51 per cent purchased locally produced food and 34 per cent served fair trade tea, coffee and hot chocolate. But by 2015, it hopes to increase the purchasing of local produce to 70 per cent, and all hotel restaurants will have banned endangered seafood from menus. (At the moment only 62 per cent avoid using it.)

As a consequence of the savings it has made on laundry costs, Accor has been able to finance a reforestation project that has seen two million trees planted, and guests will now have the option of offsetting their stay by paying for more saplings to be planted when they book their room online. Saving money on electricity also makes economic sense, given that Accor says that it is its second-biggest cost after staff wages.

Other steps it has been taking include installing energy-efficient lightbulbs in 85 per cent of its lobbies and 76 per cent of its bedrooms, sorting and recycling harmful batteries and fluorescent lamps in 91 per cent of hotels, using eco-friendly cleaning products in 68 per cent of hotels, and employing flow regulators in showers and taps in 88 per cent. Solar panels have also been fitted to 116 properties, and 57 per cent of hotels recycle paper, cardboard and glass.

Before hotels can promote themselves as being Planet 21-approved, they must first comply with a 65-point checklist, and once they have achieved it they will also be raising awareness among guests by highlighting that the property is “sustainably certified” on the website, putting stickers on doors, light switches and bathing amenities, putting signs in hotel reception, and tags in your bathroom that say “for every five towels that are reused, one tree will be planted”.

Accor says: “Guests will have the opportunity to discover a diverse array of educational messages at every stage of their stay, from booking a room to checking out. The tone will be consistently friendly and thoughtful, designed to encourage participation without making guests feel guilty.”

Sophie Flak, executive vice president for sustainable development and academies at Accor, says: “Today, 70 per cent of our major-account customers include sustainability among their criteria for appointing suppliers, and half of our customers apply this policy when choosing hotels. That is one reason why we believe it is important and appropriate to involve our customers in Planet 21. We each have a responsibility to improve our activities, but by working together we can achieve more for ourselves, for society and for the environment.”

Plastic keycards will also be replaced with sustainably sourced wooden ones, and although Flak says she expects a lot more to be pinched by guests, she hopes this will contribute to the awareness they have of what the group is doing to be greener.

The French hotel operator has a range of brands (Sofitel, Pullman, M Gallery, Novotel, Suite Novotel, Mercure, Adagio, Ibis, All Seasons/Ibis Styles, Etap Hotel/Formule 1/Ibis Budget, Hotel F1 and Motel 6) in 90 countries, but asserts that Planet 21 will apply to all of them. However, staff training and the way waste food is dealt with, for example, will differ depending on the category.

Although the scheme has a deadline of 2015, Flak says that Accor will continue to implement the measures it is taking, but it is important to have a date when the group can “reassess” where it is going with it.

Denis Hennequin, chairman and CEO of Accor, says: “I am convinced that Planet 21 will prove to be a powerful driver of competitiveness for our brands, increasing our appeal among our customers and partners and improving loyalty among our employees.”

For more information on Accor’s Planet 21 scheme click here.