From reducing the use of single-use plastic and recycling water and waste to reducing food wastage, while several players in the hospitality sector have adopted eco-friendly practices aiming at greener travel, it is far from enough to achieve India’s target of becoming carbon-neutral by 2070. While steps have been taken in the operations’ side, more should be done in making newer and existing buildings more sustainable and eco-friendly, as per a report, “Sustainability in the Hospitality Industry” by HVS ANAROCK and Saint Gobain, released Thursday in Goa at the Hospitality Overview Presentation & Exchange conference.
“As per United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) buildings, including hotels, account for 37% of global energy related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and with 75-80% of the existing buildings across the world expected to still be in use by 2050, the hospitality industry must now prioritise sustainable construction practices and retrofitting existing hotels to achieve sustainability goals,” said Mandeep S Lamba, president (south Asia), HVS ANAROCK. “To achieve the net zero goal by 2070 set by India, it is crucial to decarbonise buildings – both from design as well as operational perspective. Unlike the carbon emitted during the operations phase, embodied carbon cannot be brought down by retrofitting. It is essential to incorporate sustainability in the design and planning stage of the project. We must, therefore, start today, as buildings that would be operational in the future are already being planned and designed,” said Hemant Khurana, executive director, Saint-Gobain India.Some steps towards sustainable construction that the report highlights include designing the hotel such that it is in harmony with the environment with optimal use of daylight and natural ventilation to minimise energy use. India’s ancient forts and palaces can be an inspiration. There are other measures too, such as rainwater harvesting, reduction of construction waste during construction, use of locally-sourced and bio-degradable material like bamboo, timber, clay brick and natural paints, use of renewable energy sources such as solar panels, cement-free and carbon-free cement, among others.
“The scope and bandwidth of sustainability have multiplied exponentially post the pandemic,” said Anil Chadha, divisional chief executive, ITC Hotels. In what he termed as a “remarkable feat”, “ITC Hotels and Welcomhotel have achieved their 2030 carbon emission targets as per COP21 Paris agreement.”
Similarly, Suma Venkatesh, executive vice-president – real estate & development, IHCL, said “for the continued growth and development of the sector, it is essential for our industry to step up sustainability efforts, which are currently mostly focused on hotel operations. It is time for the industry to increasingly consider building with green materials and technologies so that hotels have net-zero energy consumption from the start of their lifecycle”.
Although steps have been taken, it is far from enough to meet the target of achieving the net zero goal by 2070. Reports suggest that India currently has just 73 LEED certified hotels with ITC and IHCL being early adopters.
“Despite all mediums of communication announcing the perils of ecological degradation, industry at large has still been dragging its feet in adopting eco- responsible practices,” said Niranjan Khatri, founder at iSambhav, a sustainability training organisation, which has been instrumental in ITC’s sustainability efforts.
“Thanks to regulatory thrust, many initiatives have been implemented, although reluctantly, and some of the practices have been short-circuited in order to save energy myopically, compromising natural capital which nourishes our very existence,” he added.
According to him, “very few big hotel chains have been proactive in sustainable development along with a few niche boutique chains which have taken pioneering steps, while the majority of the hotels are regulatory led, adopting low hanging fruit, not realising that when the industry unleashes their creative minds and employs strategic thinking, so much more can be done.”
Among the prominent steps he recommends is water management. “I believe a bathtub should only be seen in the London Museum. Some resource optimisation suggestions include using water timers in the shower cubicle. If the shower is used for more than three minutes, the meter should run for luxury use of water at a scarcity mindful rate, for billing purpose,” he said. Also, bedsheets should be changed in rooms once in three days worldwide. Not just that, “the size of the rooms needs a relook, as 80% occupancy is single occupancy, and we are cooling a large volume of air sub optimally. It has been said time and again that the “luxury of few should not cause harm to others,” he added.
Increased cost can be an issue for companies. However, with more number of greener building material options available in the country, the cost has come down over the past 5-7 years, he said. “Currently a well thought through green building costs less than conventional buildings,” Khatri said.
The 2022 Sustainable Travel Research Report by digital travel agency Bookings.com found that 91% of Indian travellers would want to travel more sustainably over the next 12 months. Not just that, 64% said that sustainability efforts of accomodation and transport providers have a strong impact on travel decisions, which provides more incentives to the hospitality players to shift their practices to better align with Earth.