InterContinental Hotels Group created the IHG Green Engage system, a comprehensive online sustainability platform that allows hotels to track, measure and report on their carbon footprint and utility consumption, and offers more than 200 ‘Green Solutions’ with detailed technical guidance that hotels can implement on property to deliver greater sustainability.
Initially piloted in 2009, over half of IHG’s 4,800 properties were using the program by the end of 2014. Due to this success, and with support from the IHG Owner’s Association, as of January 1, 2015 IHG Green Engage is a foundational standard for all IHG hotels.
IHG has established goals to reduce the company’s carbon footprint per occupied room by 12% across their entire estate and reduce water use per occupied room in water-stressed areas by 12% between 2013 to 2017. In addition, the company has joined the US Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge which extends that interim goal to 20% for a select number of properties by 2020 with a 2010 baseline.
Creation and Rollout
IHG realizes that climate change is having a major impact on the hospitality industry, and that the potential costs to the business are huge, but that it also provides an incredible opportunity to make an impact. Addressing this problem is complex for a number of reasons:
- Lack of Industry Specific Tools Available: The Environmental Management System (EMS) options available to address these issues are not industry specific, and only offer the ability to track and report on performance, without offering implementable solutions to decrease environmental impact.
- Franchised Business Model: IHG operates under a majority franchise business model. This means they have less control over most of the estate’s operations, including actions in the environmental sustainability area.
- Global Footprint: IHG’s large global footprint (+4,800 hotels) in over 100 countries means different political and cultural priorities across climate zones.
- Brand Diversity: IHG operates nine brands across different hotel segments meaning that their hotels have varied needs. For example, limited service properties have a completely different set of resources and environmental needs than full-service properties, including a limited staffing model.
- Rising Utility Costs: Rising energy and water costs make it even more crucial for hotels to decrease consumption. Energy is typically the #2 cost for a hotel.
- Increasing Green Preferences among Guests: Research shows that over 70 percent of frequent travelers prefer hotels that are environmentally engaged. Hotels are also now being asked sustainability questions as part of key account’s requests for proposals.
In light of these issues and the potential risk and opportunity for IHG’s business, the company and its senior leaders supported the development and rollout of Green Engage, an IHG specific tool to address environmental engagement.
The tool was initially mandatory for all company managed hotels, with franchised properties having the option to enroll. In 2013, all IHG company managed hotels were required to reach Level 1 certification (see below for details) within the tool.
How Green Engage Works
Hotels input their site utility data into the IHG Green Engage system, which automatically generates reports, utility benchmarks and a carbon footprint that allows hotels to review their progress. IHG Green Engage then provides 'Green Solutions', advising both new-build and existing hotels on specific actions they can take to reduce their impacts. These solutions cover every aspect of the hotel lifecycle from picking a suitable site, to selecting the correct lighting for the hotel, to providing staff training on sustainability. The return on investment, carbon reduction and potential impact on our guests is calculated for each action item suggested.
To both give guidance to hotels, and recognize their achievements, IHG Green Engage offers four Certification Levels ranging from easy to implement low cost solutions, to more capital intensive, innovative actions. In 2014, IHG announced a global standard that all our hotels must be enrolled in the IHG Green Engage system and complete Level 1 certification by December 31, 2015. This is a global standard fully supported by the IHG Owners Association and demonstrates IHG’s absolute commitment to sustainability across the business.
IHG works with a number of third parties to align the IHG Green Engage system activity to their requirements, including TripAdvisor's Green Leaders, Green Globes, Florida Green Lodging, the Green Tourism Certification program, and Green Key Global. IHG was the first hotel company to be approved for LEED pre-certification for new and existing buildings.
IHG promotes property participation on the IHG booking websites to publicize these accomplishments to the increasing number of frequent travelers who care about sustainability. In addition, many large corporate and government accounts include sustainability questions in the Request for Proposal (RFP) process (e.g. Global Business Travel Association RFP format). IHG Green Engage feeds directly into the RFP format and is helping hotels grow their group bookings business.
Tools & Resources
To facilitate successful implementation of the program company wide, IHG created the IHG Green Engage program as a web-based tool to serve as an easily accessible, user friendly system. It is continuously updated to stay relevant and provide the best resources to hotels.
IHG Green Engage and the recommendations it makes, ‘Green Solutions’, are divided into eight key action groups:
- Operations & Processes
- Products & Materials
- Building envelope
Hotels can view their own month-by-month performance in each action group compared to industry appropriate benchmarks and their own previous year performance, then use implementation guidance, case studies from other hotels, and ROI and other financial calculations to decide which specific actions to implement on their properties.
The reporting within IHG Green Engage provides the ability to create a property specific action plan list depending on what makes sense for each property to implement, and allows each hotel to cater their reporting to their specific property needs depending on energy sources, etc. These reports allow hotels to see the data in a number of different ways, such as per occupied room, by cost, etc., to help make the most sense of their trending consumption.The tool also allows hotels to set and track against annual reduction targets.
To support hotels on their journey to meet the IHG Green Engage standard by December 31, 2015, IHG provides an activation toolkit to all 4,800 hotels. The toolkit includes:
- A checklist of information needed to setup in the system and start tracking utility consumption data
- A detailed implementation roadmap,
- 10 Green Solutions hotels can implement to achieve Level 1 certification in the system
IHG Green Engage also boasts robust Help and Resources sections which outline how to use and navigate the tool, align with brand standards, respond to RFP questions, and provide other implementation guides.
Employee engagement and effective employee training are essential to achieving IHG’s sustainability objectives. IHG Green Engage includes action items which encourage hotels to implement training procedures to help employees understand the purpose of sustainable hotel management, as well as build sustainable practices into the regular routine of employees. For example, one of the requirements for Level 1 certification is the creation of a property ‘Green Team’ to drive sustainability efforts at the hotel.
One focus of IHG Green Engage is to encourage guests to behave responsibly, enabling further success of property sustainability measures. IHG Green Engage includes action items for properties on how to educate hotel guests in the following manner:
- Using signage, literature and helpful front-of-house staff to draw attention to the green efforts of the hotel and encourage guests to participate
- Promoting local sustainability via shops, activities and alternative means of transport so that guests' environmentally conscious choices permeate into the surrounding economy
- Providing guests with feedback on their energy and resource usage in a friendly, informative manner
- Offering a meetings carbon footprint calculator that allows hotels to report to a meeting’s carbon impact to attendees.
- Guest recycling and towel/linen reuse options.
Case Study: The Holiday Inn Diamond Bar, California has used IHG Green Engage to retrofit their hotel with more water efficient toilets in response to the severe California drought. These efforts have resonated well with the hotels guests:
“Local accounts and travelers are excited we are doing something proactive about this … it lets the community know that we are engaged and creates a great image for our hotel.” _ Michael Tsai, General Manager, Holiday Inn Diamond Bar
IHG Green Engage also features participation in the program on IHG booking sites.
All hotels are now enrolled in the IHG Green Engage™ system and must complete a minimum of Level 1 certification by 31 December 2015. IHG’s company-managed hotels have avoided over $185 million in utility costs since 2012. IHG has achieved a 3% reduction in carbon footprint per occupied room from a 2012 baseline and a 4.2% reduction in water use per occupied room in water-stressed areas from a 2012 baseline. In 2014 alone, over 21,700 green solutions were implemented through the IHG Green Engage system. Properties can realize an energy savings of up to 25% when completing Level 3 Certification within the tool.
IHG measures program success of Green Engage in multiple ways:
- The ability for properties to achieve reductions in energy, water, waste, etc. and help IHG meet corporate stated energy, water, waste reduction goals to reduce their carbon footprint per occupied room by 12% across the owned and managed properties and reduce water use per occupied room in water-stressed areas by 12% between 2013-2017.
- The number of ‘Green Solutions’ completed across the IHG portfolio
- The ability of the tool to help answer our customers questions and sustainability needs
- The ability of the tool to help properties meet their commitments, such as the BBC committed properties goal of 20% energy reduction by 2020, and address other market specific market needs, such as certifications required for government travel business.
IHG continues to evaluate and expand the IHG Green Engage system. Goals for 2015 include:
- Supporting all hotels to achieve the IHG Green Engage standard.
- Working with hotels to make the best use of the tool, completing new green solutions to help them reduce their environmental impacts and operating costs.
- Supporting travel buyers by providing information about the environmental impact of IHG hotels.
- Developing a water stewardship program to help IHG better understand and manage water impacts and challenges at a local level.
IHG developed a comprehensive online sustainability management system to manage hotel energy, water, and waste reduction efforts in a global, franchised business environment.
Lack of industry appropriate way to manage hotel energy, water, and waste reduction efforts in a global, franchised business environment
Creation of the IHG Green Engage™ system, a proprietary, comprehensive online sustainability management system
IHG Green Engage can help hotels save up to 25% -- or roughly $90,000 annually on energy. Since 2012, IHG’s company managed hotels avoided over $185 million in energy costs through participation in the program. IHG’s entire estate has reduced its carbon footprint by 3% per occupied room and reduced water consumption by 4.2% per occupied room in water stressed areas from a 2012 baseline