Building on almost two decades of sustainable development, hotel group Accor is aiming to take its commitment to sustainability to a higher level with the launch of PLANET 21, a comprehensive operation involving environmental, social and community support programs.
How many times do guests forget to return their plastic room keycards? Every day, potentially thousands of keycards are inadvertently taken away by guests only to be thrown out, with no option for recycling.
As part of Accor's launch of PLANET 21, the group is introducing new keycards, made from FSC-certified wood from responsibly managed forests, which are not only as effective as their plastic counterparts, but which break down naturally if disposed in landfill.
The new FSC-certified keycards will debut at the first PLANET 21 accredited hotels in Australia - the Pullman, Novotel and Ibis Hotels at Sydney Olympic Park and Sofitel Melbourne on Collins - from April 21.
PLANET 21 covers all of the group's environmental, social and community investment actions and aims to place sustainability at the core of its business strategy worldwide.
With PLANET 21, Accor is making 21 commitments and the same number of quantified goals for the year 2015, including a 15 per cent reduction in water consumption, a ten per cent decrease in energy use and 85 per cent use of eco-labelled products at Accor's owned and leased hotels worldwide.
The name PLANET 21 is a direct reference to Agenda 21, the environmental action plan signed by 173 heads of state at the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, and is designed to act as a reminder of the urgent concerns that face our planet in the 21st century and the need to change our methods of production and consumption patterns to ensure the sustainability of the planet.
In a measure to guarantee the credibility of the program, hotels can only use the PLANET 21 messages if they comply with a certain level of sustainable development performance, assessed according to a list of 65 actions, or if they achieve an internationally recognised external environmental certification.
For instance, in 2011 the Accor Sydney Olympic Park hotels achieved 12.5 per cent reduction in gas,
9.2 per cent reduction in electricity, 2.2 per cent reduction in use of potable water compared to the previous year.
The Pullman's solar panels produced enough hot water to last 5.1 weeks annually and The Novotel solar hot water system saved 595,000 Mj of gas.
To develop PLANET 21, Accor commissioned two international surveys to obtain comprehensive and objective information about its footprint and guest expectations.
In 2011, the group carried out a study of its environmental footprint that enabled it to measure accurately its main impacts, define priorities for action and identify new challenges.
This work was preceded by a survey measuring the expectations of international hotel customers, which showed that sustainable development is a growing selection criterion for both leisure and business customers.
According to the survey, 67 per cent of leisure guests take sustainable development actions into account when choosing a hotel.
"At a time when the group is embarking on a phase of brisk expansion, with the aim of becoming the global leader in the hotel industry, we are reaffirming our commitment to responsible growth capable of generating shared value for all," Denis Hennequin, chairman and chief executive officer of Accor, said.
"With the PLANET 21 program, we are putting sustainable hospitality at the core of the group's strategy, development and innovation. I am convinced that sustainable development will lead us towards a new business model.
"PLANET 21 will provide a fantastic driver of competitiveness for our brands, attractiveness for our customers and partners and loyalty for our employees."
Since 1994, when Accor first established its environment department, the group has adopted numerous solutions to contribute to the development of local communities, reduce water and energy consumption and limit the environmental footprint of its hotels.
The new PLANET 21 strategy includes a program to engage customers, inviting them to contribute to the hotels' actions and achievements.
From making a reservation to staying and/or dining in Accor hotels, customers will discover a diverse array of messages that will encourage them to contribute actively to the hotel's actions through simple gestures. Accor says the tone of the messages will be friendly and thoughtful, aimed at inspiring customers to participate.
In addition, Accor is hoping to actively engage its hotel owners to bring more franchised and managed hotels into the PLANET 21 program – improving their sustainability performance and developing buildings that are constructed and operated in accordance with internationally recognised sustainability best practice.
Accor has also pledged to share its commitments with suppliers, working with them to develop more sustainable products and services.