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Accor Lifecycle Analysis: Only 13% of Water Use Occurs On-Site

Accor’s main water impacts come food production, in one surprising finding from the hotel company’s lifecycle analysis of its environmental footprint.

The Earth Guest Research report, carried out together with PricewaterhouseCoopers, found that farms supplying the company with food account for about 86 percent of its water consumption. Direct consumption in bathrooms, kitchens, laundries, housekeeping, landscaping and swimming pools, along with water leaks, account for about 11 percent of the hotelier’s water use. Another two percent is consumed by air conditioning.

The hotelier, which operates more than 4,200 hotels in 90 countries under brand names including Sofitel, Novotel, Ibis and Motel 6, found that it consumes 544 million cubic meters of water – or as much as 438,000 Europeans – every year.

Accor says the study, undertaken in 2010, is the first to examine greenhouse gas emissions, water and energy consumptions, water pollution and waste production spanning an international hotel group.

Of the company’s impacts on watercourse pollution, 94 percent come from fertilizing and crop protection products used to meet its food service requirements. The company noted that wastewater released from hotels to deficient sewerage systems may increase this impact, but it could not quantify this due to a lack of solid data about wastewater treatment facilities in the countries where it operates.

Accor said another surprise in its findings was that only five percent of its waste comes from hotels’ daily operations. The majority, 68 percent, comes from construction and renovation, while 26 percent comes from energy-related waste (that is, extracting and preparing fuel). Every year, Accor produces 1.25 million tons of waste, as much as about 219,000 Europeans.

The company said it has made considerable progress in reducing the 75 percent of its energy which is consumed by hotel’s on-site operations (not counting air conditioning). But the company said it must broaden its efforts.  Twelve percent of its energy use comes from AC, seven percent from laundry and six percent from food and beverage.

Overall, Accor emits about 3.7 million tons of CO2 equivalent a year.

Accor also said it discovered that U.K. diners can shrink their carbon footprint by eating lamb from New Zealand, rather than from a local farm. This is because Kiwi farms run less intensive operations, their power comes mostly from hydroelectric plants, and the lamb is transported by cargo ship, which has lower carbon intensity than road transport.

Accor undertook the lifecycle analysis to gather a comprehensive set of data on which to base its sustainability strategy. Since mid-2011, Accor says it has been using these findings to hone its environmental strategy, and in Q2 this year plans to publish a new action plan with targets for 2015.

To form its methodology, the company had to answer a myriad of questions: for example, what room furniture it should include, to what extent it should include laundries, whether to count employee commutes, and exactly where the group’s CO2 emissions stropped.

Accor and PWC decided to analyze every operation and by-product that contributes significantly to the group’s impact, and to adjust the approach exclusively when they had to for feasibility’s sake. For example, when it came to room furniture, they counted the main items – beds, desks, chairs, tables, televisions and shower units – not the paintings, pedestal tables and other more ornamental items.

Accor included employee travel and food supply chains. It did not include customer travel outside hotels, saying that the numerous variables made reliable data collection impossible. Wastewater processing was a poorly documented operation, Accor found, so was also left out.

The company said complexities arose when trying to compile data from countries that varied markedly in their energy production and recycling operations, and tallying up information from a wide range of operations was also a hurdle.

Two LCA specialists and an international hospitality industry expert spent two months analyzing the study’s findings, which allowed Accor to then fine-tune and expand a few types of data.

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