In the world of hospitality, sustainability doesn’t stop at the property limits. Beyond on-property efforts, the concept of sustainability also encompasses their surrounding environments and the communities that call them home. For Accor, committing to that expanded idea of sustainability has inspired the company to hone in on biodiversity. “All of our hotels, from luxury to economy, have sustainability at the heart of their operations in line with our overall commitments to help protect the environment and societies,” said Brune Poirson, Accor’s chief sustainability officer.
Accor is taking big steps to preserve the natural environments and ecosystems that surround its properties. Here’s what that looks like across the company’s global presence.
Growing Demand for Sustainability in Hospitality
As the weight of climate change looms closer with each passing year, more and more travelers are choosing hotels that prioritize environmentally sustainable practices. In a recent Skift Research survey, an overwhelming majority of respondents said they believe it’s important for travel companies to adopt sustainability in their business. According to Booking.com, 83 percent of travelers agree that sustainable travel is vital. A further 69 percent say that they are waiting for more sustainable options from the industry.
Hospitality companies understand the urgency around sustainability, and many, including Accor, are adapting as quickly as possible to both meet the moment and satisfy consumer demand. “Our guests are asking for more sustainable options across the board, along with responsible experiences that are more rooted in local ecosystems,” said Poirson. “Conservationists and scientists have long understood that investing in sustainability and biodiversity is not just a ‘nice to do,’ but a matter of survival for any company.”
As sustainable hospitality becomes the norm, it will become increasingly important for companies to educate and inform their customers about the measures they are taking. While three out of four accommodation providers say they have implemented at least some kind of sustainability practices at their properties, only one-third proactively communicate about their efforts with potential guests, according to Booking.com’s survey.
Finding impactful solutions to climate change and biodiversity loss requires new ways of working. Private companies have to join forces and set up new types of partnerships to find common solutions to such seemingly intractable problems. For example, Accor is actively engaged in the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, which “brings the hospitality industry together on environmental and social challenges, and uses its collective power to deliver impact locally and globally.” The company also signed the Glasgow Declaration, which was launched at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 and calls for increased urgency to accelerate climate action in tourism. More recently, in 2022, Accor joined the Ocean Framework, created by Fondation de la Mer and supported by Amundi, to help assess how its business activities impact ocean wildlife. Efforts like these demonstrate a collaborative approach that speeds up concrete impact.
Accor also acts as a pioneer when it comes to protecting biodiversity. The company is following the recently launched standards set by the Science Based Targets Network (SBTN), which proposes a systemic response to biodiversity issues and advocates for ambitious corporate climate action. Integrating sustainability with business logic helps Accor promote internal standards that help make biodiversity a core strategic issue within the company. “At Accor, taking concrete action in favor of biodiversity means completely rethinking our food chain, from more responsible sourcing of our products to shifting our food consumption habits, all while reducing food waste,” Poirson said.
Accor’s Biodiversity Commitment Starts Internally
Based on the recommendations of the latest Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change (IPCC) report, Accor has elected to make biodiversity the heart of its sustainability strategy. “Accor is largely dependent on ecosystems and natural resources to exist,” explained Poirson. “Hospitality depends on the supply, regulation, and cultural services that biodiversity offers us.”
In the same way that biodiversity honors all the innumerable lifeforms that allow our planet to thrive, Accor encourages an all-for-one and one-for-all approach to corporate sustainability. The roll out of concrete and ambitious biodiversity measures are supported by the top management of the company. In addition, Accor encourages every employee and stakeholder to embed sustainability practices in their daily activities through dedicated programs and initiatives.
At Accor, employees are encouraged to become agents of change and are empowered to challenge their managers to do even more for the environment. “Our Saving the Environment Every Day (SEED) network is made up of people from every department across Accor, who meet to brainstorm about upcoming local initiatives implemented in our teams’ day-to-day work lives,” said Poirson. “It’s not just for sustainability experts, but for anyone who wants to get involved, whether they are curious or committed, well-informed or just starting out on their climate change journey. Our employees can also take part in Clean Up Day, which we organize at both the local and corporate levels. All of this is geared toward unlocking a sustainability mindset.”
Real Progress Requires Real Programs
From that foundation, meaningful and measurable sustainability programs arise naturally across all of Accor’s business divisions. One example of this in practice is the recently launched School For Change, a biodiversity-focused sustainability training program that is mandatory for all Accor corporate employees. In the three-hour course, employees learn about the basics of climate change, the biodiversity loss the planet currently faces, and the impact these changes are having on societies today. ”We are raising awareness among our employees to have sustainability at the top of everyone’s minds, and reacting consequently to the challenges presented in the mass training program,” said Poirson.
In addition to company-wide ambitious commitments and concrete projects, Accor also invites guests to experience its corporate commitment to biodiversity by developing local voluntourism programs tailor-made for each hotel’s immediate environment and community.
At the Fairmont Maldives Sirru Fen Fushi, guests can take part in the resort’s coral restoration project by helping resident marine biologists attach baby coral fragments to underwater frames. The Pullman Luang Prabang resort has been recognized for its approach to sustainability as well: The local community participates in various initiatives, including a farm-to-table restaurant concept focused on local, seasonal, and organic ingredients grown onsite or by neighboring farmers. And at the Fairmont Orchid Hawaii, guests can help restore a 275-acre lowland reserve in partnership with the Waikoloa Dry Forest Initiative.
The Fairmont Beehives program, for example, was designed to support the health of honeybees, whose pollination behaviors are absolutely critical to natural ecosystems. To date, Accor has installed more than 20 honeybee apiaries and 20 wild pollinator bee hotels in rooftop gardens at Fairmont locations around the world. At the same time, other sustainability initiatives allow Accor to tackle biodiversity on a global scale.
The Urgency of Biodiversity and Sustainability
The unfortunate reality of climate change is that issues of biodiversity and sustainability come with a real sense of urgency. “As a sector, we do not have the luxury of time,” said Poirson. “At Accor, we know we can’t protect our planet and shape the future of travel alone. We need all guests, owners, suppliers, investors, and employees to advance on a sustainable journey… That’s why we encourage our peers to be bold and dare to make a start. We must favor collaboration over competition and adopt a twenty-first century mindset.”
For Accor, committing to biodiversity and sustainability in hospitality today equates to a promise to protect the planet for many tomorrows. The company is ultimately determined to achieve a contributory model, in which each hotel stay fundamentally contributes to local ecosystems by giving more than it takes. ”The industry must accelerate its contribution to restoring and healing the environment and society,” Poirson said. “We aim to fast-track our efforts towards achieving a sustainability revolution.”
If you want to learn more about Accor’s biodiversity initiatives and other steps it is taking toward sustainable development, please visit Accor’s press page or watch Accor’s recent brand talk at Skift’s Sustainable Tourism Summit here.