AHLA launches “Responsible Stay” program for a greener hotel industry

The American Hotels and Lodging Association has launched a new initiative to encourage greater environmental and social responsibility in the hotel industry.

The “Responsible Stay” program will focus on promoting more efficient use of energy and water, cutting waste and prioritizing sustainability in supply chains.

“The hotel industry has shown a longstanding commitment to sustainability, and many of our member companies have been on the leading edge of these efforts. We’re thrilled that the industry is committed to this critical issue that will shape how we travel for years to come,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA.

Hotels need to cut carbon emissions by 66% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 if they are to play their part in keeping global warming under 1.5 C.

“The launch of Responsible Stay is the next step of our industry’s sustainability journey, and we are uniting as an industry to provide a responsible stay for our employees, guests, communities and our planet.”

The program brings together the ALHA’s existing initiatives to reduce carbon emissions and cut food waste and establishes new partnerships with the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance to support sustainability programs and solutions, and with GreenView to benchmark sustainability practices and share best practices.

Hotels have been quick to adopt more environmentally sustainable operations. Hotels participating in the AHLA’s Hotel Kitchen program saw reductions of up to 38% in food waste; the introduction of high-efficiency toilets, shower heads and faucets can cut water usage by at least 20%; Park Hotels and Resorts estimates that they reduced their carbon footprint by over 1,200 tonnes in 2020, and MGM Resorts has achieved water savings of 5.6 billion gallons through water optimization systems and recycling.

But hotels face a dilemma. For most of human history, the concept of luxury has been defined by excess, and hotels were no exception — more food than one can eat; clean sheets and towels every day; or emerald-green greens in the middle of the desert.

The challenge for hotels today is to find new ways to produce more luxury with fewer resources. The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance estimates that the global hotel industry needs to reduce carbon emissions per room by 66% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 if it is to play its part in keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees C.

The AHLA’s new initiative equates excess with irresponsibility and feeds into an increasingly powerful stripped-back aesthetic being adopted by high-end destinations. Guests seem to be buying into less-is-more experiences, from tented holidays to salt-water swimming pools to reusable water bottles.

And corporates are also on board. Hilton launched its carbon-neutral meeting option for companies last year. Participating hotels calculate a meeting’s predicted carbon, energy, water and waste consumption to enable planners to cut and offset its environmental impact. The initiative not only helps cut the environmental footprint of their hotels, it also assists companies who have committed to cutting their Scope 2 (indirect) and Scope 3 (supply chain) emissions.

The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance also makes the argument that sustainability drives profitability through a combination of utility savings, greater customer satisfaction, future-proofing investment strategies and safeguarding against regulatory risk.