As ‘green’ as possible

Hotels, resorts and clubs have always given extremely high priority to the health and well-being of customers

In the past couple of years, climate change and ESG initiatives have gained increasing importance in the business strategies of companies across industries. The world is witnessing worsening air pollution and environmental degradation as well as increasingly frequent and severe extreme weather events. All these occurrences point to a common cause – greenhouse emissions and unsustainable business and industrial practices. Amid growing clamour for all industries and sectors to go green, the hospitality industry has been taking decisive steps to reduce its energy, water, waste and carbon footprint and enhance the living conditions for its customers, employees, partners and other stakeholders. 

Hotels, resorts and clubs have always given extremely high priority to the health and well-being of customers. They are adopting measures to make their buildings and operations as “green” as possible. This makes good sense from a business perspective because consumers, homebuyers and travellers prefer giving business to – and restaurants, travel agents and travel portals prefer doing business with – hospitality brands that have a good track record in sustainability and follow environmentally, socially and culturally responsible practices.

LEED certifications and their adoption in India

The LEED green building rating system serves as a useful framework across industries for creating healthy, resilient and sustainable buildings by connecting the dots between design, construction and operations. It reduces greenhouse gas emissions, optimises the use of energy and water, diverts waste and promotes the use of healthy materials in buildings. 

There are more than 400 LEED-certified hotels worldwide with brands like Marriott and Hyatt focussing strongly on green initiatives. India has the third largest number of LEED-certified hotels and the largest number of LEED Platinum hotel projects in the world. Many existing hotels are aiming for LEED certification through retrofits. Meanwhile, some hotels that already have this certification are aiming higher for the LEED Operations and Maintenance certification to improve their efficiencies further. 

Since the pandemic, GBCI has added new elements such as health and wellness, resilience and social equity into the LEED certification framework. Resilience is an important trait for hotels to have, especially considering that they are operational throughout the year, round-the-clock. At the same time, hotel projects, like most other businesses, also expected to deliver social impact and benefits right from the level of construction workers upwards. The new LEED system mandates compliance on all these parameters.

The latest version, LEED v4.1, applies to both upcoming and existing buildings. It introduces a renewable energy credit to incentivise buildings to invest in clean energy and to relook at the carbon content of materials as well as the carbon footprint of construction processes. Meanwhile, LEED Zero Carbon Certification, the highest level of green building certification, aims for net-zero buildings and has been awarded to 17 projects across the world so far. ITC Hotels became the first hotel chain in the world to achieve this certification, for ITC Windsor, ITC Grand Chola and ITC Gardenia. Well known hotel chains such as the Taj Group of Hotels, too, are aiming to upgrade their properties and sub-brands to the highest levels of global sustainability standards and certifications.

Merits of adopting sustainable features and tracking sustainability performance

It is advisable to incorporate green elements into a building right from the design stage. The incremental cost then would be around 2-3 per cent, which can be recovered within a short period of time. Green hotels prove to be highly cost-effective over their lifecycle. On the other hand, retrofitting green elements into an existing hotel after it is built can entail significant costs. Having said that, the process can be completed very quickly using the LEED O+M approach.

Once a hotel, whether green or otherwise is operational, it can use specialised technology-based tools to track its green performance. The Arc performance platform, for instance, captures real-time data for calculating and analysing energy, water, waste and transportation usage, as well as the human experience of projects. This enables hotels to improve their performance and work towards even higher efficiency.

In the hospitality industry, a strong focus on sustainability holds the key to attracting investors, partners and customers alike, and delivering sustained value over a long period. Going green simply makes good sense whichever way you look at it – through a business, social, or environmental lens. There was awareness about the need for sustainability even until two years ago. If there is anything new that we have learned since then, it is that green buildings are not a solution for tomorrow, but a solution for now.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW HOTELIER MAY-JUNE 2022'


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