January 25, 2022

HRS Launches Hotel Sustainability Assessment, Database

Corporate lodging platform HRS has created a solution that allows corporate travel managers and travelers…

Corporate lodging platform HRS has created a solution that allows corporate travel managers and travelers to select hotels based on sustainability scores, which HRS calculates using a proprietary formula taking various inputs into account, the company told BTN. Dubbed its Green Stay Initiative, the move comes as sustainability programs and carbon-reduction efforts gain visibility at many corporations.

“It’s a mega-trend; there is great new momentum and acceleration in the space,” said HRS chief product officer and Green Stay Initiative team leader Martin Biermann, citing The Climate Pledge, an effort co-founded by Amazon in which dozens of companies—including EY, Microsoft and Siemens—aim to be carbon-neutral by 2040, 10 years ahead of the Paris Agreement goal. 

Further, governments around the world are introducing increased taxes and penalties on CO2 emissions, and “greenwashing—buying certificates to offset emissions, such as by planting trees—is no longer accepted by corporate leaders and boards, nor by governments,” Biermann said. “There is relevance for corporate travel, and the need for how to manage this is increasing. It’s trickling down from the board and top management to intermediate management levels.”

How It Works

According to an HRS client survey in 2020, 88 percent of respondents prefer a hotel that provides transparency on its sustainability measures, Biermann said. Assessing hotels’ environmental practices, however, is complicated by the lack of a market standard, the need to meet internal corporate sustainability requirements and the demand for guidance to travelers. HRS found that one-third of its hotel partners have a sustainability program in place. However, methodologies, reporting standards and more vary considerably. 

To address this problem, HRS is building its sustainability database with a proprietary scoring system that takes into account a hotel’s energy consumption, water use and waste disposal to determine its footprint value. The system is based upon guidelines established by such organizations as the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative, the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and the World Travel & Tourism Council, according to HRS. 

One key component of this process was to normalize the key performance metrics, then benchmark them by destination, Biermann said, giving the example of hotels in Siberia versus those in southern climates. “You cannot compare them. You need to look at local climate conditions, then benchmark them in the same destination with each other, while still providing buyers and travelers globally access to this benchmark.” 

Similar to the Clean & Safe Protocol initiative HRS launched last year and in which more than 60,000 hotels participate, properties will self-report their KPIs and progress from the previous calendar year, and HRS will assess those inputs, then benchmark by destination using a quartile analysis, assigning each hotel a grade of A, B, C or D. There are two levels of status: Green Stay, and should a hotel already have a third-party program in place with strict criteria that measures its carbon footprint, and it is audited and the hotel can prove it to HRS, then HRS will upgrade the label to “certified status.” Procurement leaders will be able to see all four grades as part of the sourcing process. Corporate travelers, however, will be able to see only those hotels with an A grade. 

Biermann said HRS tried to make it as easy as possible for hotels to participate in the initiative and not overwhelm them. There are nine mandatory inputs a property must provide, but it can offer as many as 36, depending on the hotel’s services, he said. For example, if a hotel outsources its laundry, it will be asked for the emissions from the outsourcing partner. 

It’s based in many ways on existing carbon and water measurements, and hotels already reporting on these can copy and paste the information into the HRS system, Biermann added. “For additional information, they have to provide a few facts here and there. It allows for a swift launch in the following months.”

How to Use It 

According to German travel managers’ association VDR, air travel accounts for 40 percent of the emissions generated by an average business trip, with 21 percent generated by the lodging category, Biermann said. “There isn’t much you can do about the air segment,” he added. “You can’t make the planes go faster or fly a different route. But on the hotel side, you can make smarter choices. There are extremely eco-friendly hotels.”

On its sourcing page, HRS now places its Clean & Safe label and the Green Stay label and score first before a property’s other factors, such as category, rating or pricing. Travel buyers also can click on a hotel’s Green Stay rating and see individual scores for its energy, water and waste factors during the sourcing process.

“We’re seeing more and more corporates move pricing to the third step in the ladder as cleanliness and safety are primary expectations, and now sustainability is something they want to be able to manage as a new standard, not just the price point,” Biermann said. 

Users can filter for a hotel’s sustainability status both on the HRS platform and on booking tools HRS connects with. They will see the text “Green Stay” or “Green Stay Certified.” Corporate customers also will be able to generate reports based on their green stays and measure year-over-year changes in carbon-reduction efforts, Biermann said.

“The Green Stay Initiative enables companies to dramatically enhance awareness of new sustainability priorities for their travel programs while also facilitating an avenue for hoteliers to promote their corresponding investments,” said HRS CEO Tobias Ragge in a statement. 

HRS piloted the Green Stay Initiative in February with input from multiple Fortune 100 clients from the consulting, energy, manufacturing and online retail vertical markets, Biermann said, and it will continue to take their feedback into account as it develops and refines the program. The goal is to get at least 60,000 hotels to participate. “That is the figure most of the corporates need to have to be able to build hotel programs entirely based on Clean & Safe and Green Stay [factors],” he said.