Hilton commits to double investment in people and planet

Hilton’s commitments to 2030

Hilton has announced today their sustainability vision for 2030 which includes a commitment to halve their impact on the environment whilst also doubling their investment in social impact.

The commitment includes announcing their science-based target on carbon footprint reduction, making them the second member company of the International Tourism Partnership to meet the ITP Goal on carbon. Hilton’s commitments on water, human rights and youth employment also contribute to ITP’s Goals and follow ITP’s call to action for the hotel industry to align their sustainability work with the United Nations SDGs or Global Goals.

The announcement today is part of Hilton’s Travel with Purpose campaign. As well as setting their science-based target to reduce carbon emissions, the company has made a new commitment to send zero soap to landfill. Hilton will also double the amount it spends with local and minority-owned suppliers and double its investment in programmes to help women and youth around the world – for example via their support of the Youth Career Initiative.

The announcement comes in the wake of a survey of 72,000 Hilton guests which showed social, environmental, and ethical considerations are central to their buying preferences. The six-day survey was conducted in May 2018 and asked travellers if they research a hotel company’s environmental and social efforts. It discovered:

  • 33% actively seek this information before booking – of those, 60% conduct research even if the information is not easily accessible
  • 44% under the age of 25 actively seek this information
  • 36% of leisure travellers actively seek this information, compared to 29% of business travellers
  • Female travellers (39%) are more likely to actively seek this information before booking than male travellers (29%)
  • Guests staying in Central/South America (46%), the Middle East/Africa (45%), Asia Pacific (41%), and mainland Europe (35%) are more likely to seek this information before booking

Hilton’s new 2030 goals include the following social and environmental targets:

Cut Environmental Impact in Half to Help Protect the Planet

  • Reduce carbon emissions intensity by 61%, in line with the Paris Climate Agreement and approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi)
  • Reduce water consumption and produced waste by 50%
  • Remove plastic straws from managed properties
  • Sustainably source meat, poultry, produce, seafood and cotton
  • Expand existing soap recycling programme to all hotels and send zero soap to landfill

Double Social Investment and Drive Positive Change in Communities

  • Double the amount spent with local, small and minority-owned suppliers
  • Double investment in opportunity programmes for women and youth, including partnering with local organisations and schools
  • Contribute 10 million volunteer hours through Team Member initiatives
  • Double monetary support for natural disaster relief efforts
  • Advance Human Rights capabilities in Hilton’s value chain to eradicate forced labour and trafficking

By partnering with ITP and collaborating with fellow member hotel companies, Hilton is already an environmental leader in the industry. Since 2008, the company has reduced carbon emissions and waste by 30%, and energy and water consumption by 20%, saving more than $1 billion in operating efficiencies. LightStay its performance measurement system calculates, analyses and reports the environmental impact at each of Hilton’s more than 5,300 hotels. Hilton will use LightStay to track its goal of reducing carbon emissions by 61% across its portfolio by 2030.

Speaking with Green Hotelier last night, Maxime Verstraete, head of corporate responsibility said, “These targets that we are launching and our vision to cut our environmental footprint in half and double our investment in social impact by 2030, there’s a lot of energy behind it and a lot of momentum in the company.

Maxime Verstraete

Maxime Verstraete

“We knew about all the great things that we have done to date, and 2017 was a great year for us with some great milestones that we reached. It was good timing for us to take this to the next level. We knew that we wanted to define how as a company we can contribute to the SDGs, and we had already started aligning our work to the SDGs, aligning our reporting. But we really hadn’t defined how as the company do you want to contribute to these bigger frameworks and to these bigger issues that are systemic and bigger than any company? And talking to both internal and external stakeholders we ended up with this vision of cutting our environmental footprint in half and doubling our investment in social impact. This is a bold ambitious goal and we are very excited.

“We’ve shown leadership as a company for nearly 100 years and we are eager to continue to show leadership around social and environmental issues that impact the community that we call home, because we are not successful as a business if our communities do not succeed.

“We are setting targets to cut our water use by 50%, we are going to cut our waste output by 50% and we are going to reduce food waste that we send to landfill by 50%. And when it came to carbon and climate we knew that we wanted to align with the Paris Climate Agreement because as a company we believe it’s the right way to set your carbon emission targets. So we went through all that process, setting our goal to reduce Scope 1 and 2 emissions by 61% and we have Scope 3 defined as well. Our targets are approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative.

“This is going to require some investment from the company, but the company has always been very supportive of this and they understand why it’s a business priority to lead in the environmental and social space as well.

“We won’t just be able to focus on energy efficiency, but as a company we also have to invest in renewable energy. We’ll do this through renewable energy credits and through the energy that we buy for our hotels and buying cleaner energy, and we’ll be investing in on site renewables. We’re looking at a couple of solar projects in our portfolio and other options so that over the next few years we’ll assess what makes the most sense. We’ll definitely be talking to our experts in the architecture, design and construction space and review our design and construction standards, as well as our operational standards.”

Verstraete said ITP’s Goals were a validation of their work and partnering with other hotel companies in ITP’s forum had provided some useful data and direction, particularly on setting science-based targets. He also said that Hilton was working on tech and new apps as part of their connected room programme that would allow guests to be a part of the sustainability journey, making positive in-room choices on energy saving.

Verstraete also outlined some of the company’s other commitments, “Our commitment to send zero soap to landfill is something we feel very proud about because we’ve invested millions of dollars in upscaling soap recycling solutions for the industry. Why send something to landfill that can actually save lives? So we have nearly 2000 hotels recycling soap, most of them with Clean the World, and we’ve distributed nearly 7 million bars around the world. We are committing as a company to ban plastic straws across all managed hotels so that’s approximately 35 million straws a year for our company, and then we’re going to take away plastic bottles of water from meetings and events across Asia Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Africa, so again tens of millions of plastic bottles that we’re removing from our operations.”

Reflecting on the big commitment the company was making he added, “You know go big or go home. If you know our history and our founder, one of his famous quotes was ‘to accomplish big things you must first dream big dreams’ so we started out by just dreaming big dreams and now we’re going to make it happen.”