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IHG Hotels & Resorts Green Engage Program

IHG’s operations are underpinned by a commitment to responsible business. With hotels at the heart of local communities around the world, the company seeks to continuously improve the way these hotels operate to minimize environmental impacts and be a force for positive change.

Through the years, IHG has set both internal and external targets, including Journey To Tomorrow, a set of 2030 Responsible business commitments launched in February 2021, which includes specific ambitions for carbon, waste, and water, as well as for diversity, equity & inclusion, and community impact (see Measuring Success section for more details).

Creation and Rollout

IHG recognized early on the threat that climate change presents to the hospitality industry and the world at large, and the opportunity to help make a positive difference in addressing the issue. There were a number of complex considerations in addressing this problem at the outset:

  1. Lack of industry-specific tools: The Environmental Management System (EMS) options available to address these issues were not industry-specific and only offered the ability to track and report on performance, without offering practical solutions to help hotels decrease their environmental impacts.
  2. Franchise business model: IHG operates predominantly under a franchise business model. This means the company has limited direct control over most of the operations across its hotel estate, including hotel-level approaches to environmental sustainability.
  3. Global footprint: With hotels in almost 100 countries, IHG must navigate different political approaches, cultural priorities and climate zones.
  4. Brand diversity: IHG operates a robust portfolio of brands across different hotel segments, from mainstream to upscale and luxury, meaning that its hotels have varied needs. For example, limited-service properties have a very different set of resources available and environmental needs than full-service properties, including a limited staffing model.
  5. Rising utility costs: Rising energy and water costs make it even more crucial for hotels to drive efficiencies and decrease utility consumption. Energy is typically a hotel’s second-highest operational cost after staff.
  6. Increasing green preferences among guests: Research showed an increasing preference for environmentally engaged hotels among frequent travelers. Hotels also saw an increased frequency of sustainability-related questions as part of corporate clients’ requests for proposals.

With these considerations and the potential risks and opportunities for IHG’s business, the company and its senior leaders supported the development and rollout of Green Engage, an IHG-specific tool to drive environmental engagement.

The tool was initially mandatory for all company-managed hotels, with franchised properties having the option to enroll. From 2015, IHG Green Engage became a global brand standard for all IHG-branded hotels and, in 2019, Carbon Reduction became a global hotel metric, with performance against annual targets measured through the system.

How Green Engage Works

Hotels input their monthly utility data into the IHG Green Engage system, which automatically calculates their carbon footprint, generates hotel-specific reports, and provides regional benchmarks to help hotels track their performance and review their progress over time. IHG Green Engage includes “Green Solutions” for both new-build and existing hotels, outlining specific actions they can take to reduce their impacts. These solutions cover different aspects of hotel operations, from selecting the correct lighting for the hotel to providing staff training on sustainability. The system also allows hotels to calculate utility cost savings as well as carbon reductions.

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. All IHG-branded hotels are required to achieve Level 1 certification within the system. This is a global standard fully supported by the IHG Owners Association and demonstrates IHG’s absolute commitment to sustainability across the business.

To achieve a given level of Green Engage certification, a hotel needs to complete a required set of actions, mark them as “completed” in the system, and provide supporting evidence of completion. Evidence is reviewed by the IHG Green Engage team and in some cases by an external consultancy firm, to provide third-party assurance around the process. In addition, IHG’s aggregate environmental performance data is reported and independently verified as part of the company’s Annual Report.

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 key resources to hotels.

Property Resources

IHG Green Engage and the recommendations it makes, the “Green Solutions,” are divided into eight key action groups:

  • Operations & Processes
  • Site
  • Water
  • Products & Materials
  • Waste
  • Building Envelope
  • Mechanical
  • Energy

Hotels can view their own month-by-month performance for each utility and compare it to regional brand averages, as well as their own previous year's performance. Hotels can then use guidance resources, best practice examples, case studies from other hotels, and ROI information to decide which specific actions to implement on their properties and develop more long-term action plans.

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 configure their reporting to their specific property operations, by different energy sources, etc. Data can be visualized in a number of different ways, e.g. per occupied room, per square meter, or by cost, to help make the most sense of their trend information. The tool also allows hotels to set and track their performance against annual reduction targets.

Employee Education

Employee engagement and training are essential to achieving IHG’s sustainability objectives. IHG Green Engage includes action items that 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 routines of employees. For example, one of the requirements for Level 1 certification is the creation of a “Green Team” to drive sustainability efforts at the hotel.

Guest Education

IHG Green Engage also encourages hotels to engage their guests in responsible behaviors, enabling further success of property sustainability measures. IHG Green Engage includes examples of how hotels can engage guests in their sustainability journey, such as: 

  • 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 sustainable choices via local shops, activities, and alternative means of transport.
  • Offering a carbon footprint calculator for meetings, providing environmentally-conscious users of meeting spaces with the carbon impact of their event.
  • Promoting recycling across the hotels and offering guests towel/linen reuse options.

IHG measures the program success of IHG Green Engage in multiple ways:

  • The ability of properties to achieve reductions in energy, water, and waste and support the achievement of IHG’s external commitments and targets.
  • The number of “Green Solutions” completed across the IHG portfolio.
  • The ability of the tool to help answer customers’ questions and sustainability needs.
  • The ability of the tool to help properties meet their individual sustainability commitments.

Recently, IHG launched a 10-year action plan outlining a series of ambitious commitments to drive positive change for people, communities, and the planet, which include:

  • Champion a diverse culture where everyone can thrive.
  • Improve the lives of 30 million people in our communities around the world.
  • Reduce IHG’s energy use and carbon emissions in line with climate science.
  • Pioneer the transformation to a minimal-waste hospitality industry.
  • Conserve water and help secure water access in those areas at greatest risk.

The IHG Green Engage system will play a critical role in supporting and measuring progress across a number of these areas.

Since becoming a brand standard, IHG Green Engage has helped IHG-branded hotels reduce their overall utility costs and environmental impacts. By implementing solutions recommended through the system, IHG-branded hotels together save millions in utility costs every year and make significant strides in reducing their carbon footprint. For example, in 2018, hotels using the IHG Green Engage system avoided $67 million in costs.

Looking ahead, IHG has set 2030 science-based targets to achieve a 15% reduction in absolute carbon emissions from its owned and managed estate; and a 46% reduction in carbon emissions per m2 from its franchised estate.