Skift Take

Leading bedbank Hotelbeds is paving the way forward as more businesses respond to consumer and stakeholder demand to level up on social and environmental responsibilities.

In these transformational times, more businesses are embracing the challenge to create a fairer, more inclusive, and environmentally sustainable world. As Skift Research stated in its “Sustainability in Travel 2021” report, “Environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) criteria have made steady inroads into the hotel industry, and now form part of many hotels’ performance metrics, investor criteria, and business travel procurement.”

Though ESG criteria was increasingly top of mind for companies, investors, and other stakeholders pre-pandemic, Covid-19 reshaped priorities — largely on the back of new consumer expectations — encouraging more companies to level up when it comes to their social, green, and diversity and inclusion measures.

Bedbank and wholesaler Hotelbeds has been driving momentum in this space with a platform of inspired ESG and sustainability initiatives. “We are a global company operating in more than 140 source markets, and as such, we totally recognize that we have a critical responsibility to do everything we can to protect our planet and the destinations in which we operate,” said Aina Aguilo, Hotelbeds’ head of events and CSR.

Going all in for a Greener Future

Hotelbeds — which supplies products (rooms, transfers, tours, etc), to other businesses rather than direct to the consumer — works to minimize any potentially negative impact it has on the environment through an effective mix of direct action, partnerships, and industry trade alliances.

“We set and attain ambitious targets around our environmental management by having robust, responsible, and ethical policies in place and by giving our employees the time to give back to the communities in which they work through our volunteering program,” said Aguilo.

Founded in 2018, the Hotelbeds volunteering program encourages all employees to take part in opportunities around the world to make a difference and give something back to the communities where they live and work. “Our teams feel a deep sense of pride in terms of what we give back to communities, a fact demonstrated by their commitment to our Online Volunteering Program which saw the involvement of more than 500 employees worldwide, representing over 2,000 volunteering hours given last year,” said Aguilo. “This year, Christmas volunteering initiatives have been implemented in 10 offices globally, the majority devised and led by our teams themselves.”

All in all, it’s a win-win here. The activities contribute toward making a difference, but also help each employee develop their own personal skills, which helps the company as a whole operate better. “The feeling that Hotelbeds is a socially responsible company and that employees feel we are doing the right thing is shared across the business,” Aguilo continued. “The internal positivity around our ESG initiatives is a key driver in increasing commitment to the organization internally, as well as driving interest from potential new talent externally.”

Green Hotels Programme

Meanwhile, the company’s watershed Green Hotels Programme — an initiative designed to identify and promote properties officially certified as a sustainable accommodation — helps bring Hotelbeds and its partners into the green economy and accelerate the transition of the travel industry towards greater sustainability.

“The Programme follows the standards developed by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council and currently has more than 20,000 hotels accredited to it, including chains such as IHG and Accor,” said Aguilo.

The Programme’s criteria is organized around four main themes: effective sustainability planning, maximizing social and economic benefits for the local community, enhancing cultural heritage, and reducing negative impacts on the environment.

“It was developed and launched quickly in response to the Covid-19 crisis when we recognized that hotels — and clients — needed a way to shout about their green credentials in light of changing traveler behavior,” said Aguilo.

Hotelbeds has received great feedback, not just from its hotel chain partners like Accor, but also from clients who are increasingly getting in contact with the group to find out more and to work with the hotels listed.

Sustainability is a key pillar for both companies. Therefore, Accor decided to join the Hotelbeds Green Hotel programme to better meet customer’s expectations.

“Market research clearly shows that sustainability is now a key criterion in customers’ choices, decisions, and desires when booking a night in a hotel,” said Accor’s Chief Sustainability Officer Brune Poirson. “Working alongside Hotelbeds allows us to monitor and respond to changing customer habits and to contribute to more sustainable behaviors. For example, we have been raising awareness of our hotels to highlight their electric charging ports to meet the growing consumer demand for electric and hybrid cars. This is what we have done through Hotelbeds to encourage new forms of clean and sustainable mobility.”

A Climate Pledge

As an adjunct to the Green Hotels Programme, Hotelbeds is driving sustainable action through alliances with key industry trade bodies.

“We signed up for Amazon’s Climate Pledge in February 2021, becoming the first B2B travel company to do so,” said Hotelbeds’ Aguilo. “It was a hugely important commitment for us as we felt it really demonstrated the importance we place on tackling climate change across our operations — and let’s face it, there is no hiding place once you have joined forces with such a global leader.”

It plans to complement this activity further by increasing its carbon emission reporting (from 70 percent of the workforce to 80 percent), with a plan to keep increasing the scope until it reaches its carbon neutral potential leading up to 2030.

Hotelbeds is also running a Green Office Program, where it sets targets to decrease emissions, identifies challenges to these targets, and creates solutions, including switching electricity companies to greener choices, installing solar panels, and swapping petrol and diesel company cars to electric or hybrid.

Aguilo explained, “These may look like small, easy steps, but imagine if all the companies in the world adopted a similar approach. We would be moving even more quickly to being net zero carbon by 2040.”

Fostering Diversity and Inclusivity

While sustainability and green travel have become front and center in recent years, ESG means a lot more than this for Hotelbeds.

“We are committed to the protection of human rights, the promotion of diversity and inclusion, the importance of being a responsible partner and employer, as well as to combatting worker exploitation. This is crucial for any company that operates on a global footprint,” added Aguilo.

Hotelbeds is currently building an Inclusion Strategy by listening to its employees and empowering them to identify barriers of inclusion, while at the same time putting measures in place to ensure that inclusion and diversity permeate the organizational culture from end to end.

Looking at 2022 and Beyond

An emerging area of focus for Hotelbeds next year is Green Destinations: partnering with accredited locations (Valencia in Spain, and New Zealand, for example), which are working towards or have been accredited as green choices for discerning modern travelers.

“Travelers and tourism professionals will want to know where these sustainable tourist destinations, or eco-destinations, are. We should be ready to promote them and add them clearly to our product offering,” said Aguilo. “We also want to foster collaboration with our clients and suppliers through joint volunteering programs so that we can amplify our impact by working together with their teams on the ground and contributing together,” she added.

Another emerging area is employee well-being — something the company sees as crucial not only for fostering great performance, but as part of the company’s responsibility to contribute to a healthier and more balanced society, particularly after the pandemic’s impact.

“These are areas of increasing importance and relevance to us at Hotelbeds, and something our CEO, Nicolas Huss, is particularly dedicated to […]. We’re excited to bring these areas of focus to life in 2022.”

This content was created collaboratively by Hotelbeds and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

Tags: hotelbeds, SkiftX Showcase: Hospitality, social impact, sustainability, sustainable tourism

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