Sustainability in action: InterContinental Hotels Group partners with the Water Footprint Network

by Rahim Kanani | rahimkanani | Rahim Kanani Media Group, Inc
Wednesday, 23 September 2015 19:20 GMT

Paul Snyder, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, IHG at the InterContinental® Atlanta Buckhead. The hotel implemented a water reclamation system that sanitizes and reuses the laundry water, saving a significant amount of water since its application.

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We aim to take a leadership position in our industry when it comes to water stewardship,” explained Paul Snyder, Vice President, Corporate Responsibility, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG). In an interview with Snyder about IHG’s recent collaboration with the Water Footprint Network, we discussed the origins of the partnership, their ambitions, strategy and potential impact in the coming years, corporate responsibility more broadly and much more.

IHG Green Engage is an innovative online sustainability system designed to help IHG-branded hotels monitor, reduce and manage waste, water and energy consumption, as well as carbon emissions. With more than 4,900 properties around the world, IHG-branded hotels are an important part of the local communities in which they operate and play a critical role in balancing economic, social and environmental impacts.

Tell me a little bit about the origins of the relationship between IHG and the Water Footprint Network.

Our focus on water conservation is not new. We’ve been helping our hotels save water for several years through our group-wide online sustainability program, IHG Green Engage™. The Green Engage system measures carbon, energy, waste and water use, and helps hotels create environmental action plans and targets to reduce their impact. Our partnership with the Water Footprint Network is a progression of this ongoing strategy. We wanted to explore how we could expand our efforts and we’re pleased that we’ll be working together to develop a water stewardship program and continue to work toward our goals.

What inspired you to bring them on board as a true collaborator and advisor, and what do you hope to achieve with this partnership?

One of our priorities for 2015 has been to develop a water stewardship program to better understand and manage our water impacts and challenges at a local level, which is exactly what the Water Footprint Network is going to help us accomplish. We aim to take a leadership position in our industry when it comes to water stewardship. The Water Footprint Network is a global organization that focuses on solving the world’s water crises by advancing fair and smart water use. IHG operates in 100 countries around the world in many local communities, so we have an opportunity and an obligation to take action. The partnership will not only provide significant environmental and economic benefits in the local communities in which we operate, but it will also allow us to simultaneously grow our business. At the hotel level, the partnership will provide the opportunity to increase good water stewardship while not sacrificing guest satisfaction and will identify measures that are profitable in the short term and sustainable in the long term for our franchisees.  

Give us a sense of the scale of potential impact if your processes and systems around water stewardship are significantly improved worldwide.

IHG is one of the world’s leading hotel companies with a broad portfolio of brands, including Crowne Plaza®, Holiday Inn® and Hotel Indigo®, across over 4,900 hotels and 724,000 rooms in nearly 100 countries, so we have the potential to make a significant impression worldwide.

One example of where we have made a notable impact in a water-stressed area is California, where 28% of the state is currently experiencing exceptional drought conditions. IHG has a portfolio of 230 hotels in California, and in 2014, we delivered Water Conservation Kits to all of our hotels in the state. The kits included 12 faucet aerators to be installed in guest restrooms as well as details on how hotels can actively participate in conserving water through the IHG Green Engage system. Over 80% of the hotels have installed the aerators, making an estimated potential savings of over seven million gallons of water annually.

How does this particular water stewardship goal relate to other corporate responsibility targets?

We set a five year target in 2013, and we are already making great progress towards these goals. One of our key 2013-2017 Corporate Responsibility targets is to reduce water use per occupied room in water-stressed areas by 12%. We are very proud to say that as of December 21, 2014, we already achieved a 4.2% reduction. A second target is a 12% reduction in our carbon footprint per occupied room, and we’ve achieved a 3% reduction through 2014. Additionally, we know that in 2014 our managed hotels have avoided $92 million in costs through their participation in the IHG Green Engage system.

More broadly, how well are you measuring up against your 2013-2017 responsibility strategy?

In addition to our goal to develop a water stewardship program, our other priorities for the year are to support all hotels to achieve IHG Green Engage Level 1 certification or higher, to work with all hotels to make the best use of the tool, to complete new green solutions to help them reduce their environmental impacts and operating costs and to support travel buyers by providing information about the environmental impact of our hotels. Through our IHG Green Engage system as well as a range of other activities and measures – and through our specific targets – we are putting the environment right at the heart of how we operate. Our long-term success, as well as the comfort and well-being of our guests, depends on it.