Skip to main content

A roadmap for sustainable hospitality

Whether you've already made significant changes or are just starting to move from intention to action, sustainable hospitality can take many forms. To help you get the most from your efforts, Deloitte looks at some of the sustainability factors specific to the hospitality industry, along with some suggestions for how to realize a return on your investment into sustainability.

Customers are demanding sustainable travel options

Like many other consumers, travelers are increasingly concerned about climate change and the environment. Sixty-eight percent of respondents to the Deloitte’s Global State of the Consumer Survey described climate change as an emergency, and reports that 53% of global travelers say they’re more determined to travel sustainably than they were a year ago. And for a large and growing segment of travelers, it’s become more and more important to choose travel brands that embody their values.

Today, sustainable practices can be essential to the health of your business—not to mention the communities you operate in. Whether you’ve already made significant changes or are just starting to move from intention to action, sustainable hospitality can take many forms. To help you get the most from your efforts, Deloitte looks at some of the sustainability factors specific to the hospitality industry and the type of impact each activity can have.  

But first, how is “sustainable hospitality” defined? It depends whether you ask customers, employees, or management. Large hotel chains, local operators, and small ownerships groups will likely also have varied environmental, social, and governance (ESG) priorities, as will the corporate and client-facing divisions of a business. Despite these differences, sustainable hospitality enables the future of travel for years to come by minimizing the impacts of hospitality while maximizing positive influence of hospitality on consumers, communities, and the planet. 

Perspectives, priorities, and considerations

In sustainability as in life, however, one size doesn’t fit all. A successful environmental initiative should be tailored to the particular property, considering factors such as:

  • Age. Is the hotel a new build? If not, does it need major upgrades?
  • Location. Urban or rural? Hot and sunny, or colder climate? 
  • Size. How big is the building? How many rooms? 
  • Configuration. What's the ratio of guestrooms to public space? Indoor to outdoor space? Overall footprint and roof space? Orientation of the available spaces?
  • Unique features. What services and amenities does the hotel offer?
  • Incentives. Does the local, regional, or national government offer environmental tax credits, subsidies, or other incentives? How could those influence return on investment?


Three opportunities for implementation

Some sustainability changes can be implemented immediately and may require little investment. Others may require a coordinated multiyear effort. Deloitte sees three major areas of opportunity:

Operational changes are crucial for improving hotel sustainability. To start, hotels can conduct comprehensive energy audits to identify areas where energy consumption can be reduced. This may result in small fixes like changing out a filter or replacing lighting that provide quick reductions in energy usage while driving down the hotel’s carbon footprint. They may also inform capital plans for larger infrastructure changes like replacing the HVAC system at end of life. Water conservation measures, such as installing low-flow fixtures and implementing laundry and irrigation efficiency, also play a vital role in sustainability efforts. Furthermore, waste management programs, including recycling and composting, can significantly decrease the volume of waste sent to landfills. Operational efficiencies can be found throughout a hotel and often can be implemented with little to no impact on the guest experience.

Hotels can make sustainability initiatives an interactive experience for guests by providing information about their green initiatives in guest rooms and public spaces, encouraging guests to participate in conservation efforts like reusing towels and linens. Offering eco-friendly amenities, such as toiletries in refillable containers, can reduce single-use plastic waste. Some hotels even incentivize guests for sustainable behavior, like offering discounts for opting out of daily room cleaning. Hotels should also consider seeking feedback on their sustainability efforts to prioritize actions that guests are motivated by. By involving guests in sustainability initiatives, hotels not only reduce their environmental impact but also raise awareness and foster a sense of ownership among their clientele.

Training and educating staff about eco-friendly practices, waste reduction, and energy conservation can lead to more efficient operations and can cause a ripple effect where staff bring these practices to their homes and their communities. Staff can also serve as ambassadors, promoting sustainable practices to guests and encouraging their participation. Moreover, recognizing and rewarding employees for their contributions to sustainability efforts can boost morale and motivation. Ultimately, a committed and informed workforce is an invaluable asset in achieving and maintaining a sustainable future for hotels. Learn more about Deloitte’s perspective on acquiring, retaining, and rewarding frontline employees in the hospitality industry.

Whatever improvements you make, take the opportunity to share them transparently and honestly with your customers, celebrating and reinforcing your commitment to sustainability. And as your sustainability journey continues, be sure to track, quantify, and disclose your improvements in environmental and financial impact reports.

How Deloitte can help

If you're ready to move the sustainability needle, Deloitte can help. Our extensive global network can help deliver sustainability knowledge in hospitality, tax, energy, transportation, food systems, waste management, utilities, and other critical areas. Deloitte’s strategic and operational specialists are ready to help you tackle your highest priority sustainability initiatives and help drive transformation in areas from tax advisory, data analytics, and change management to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable sourcing. 
Contact us today.


Katrina Goulden                                                                                             
Senior Manager, ESG Strategy, Deloitte US

A roadmap for sustainable hospitality

Customers are demanding sustainable travel options