How Hilton is going green

Energy spend is a hotel’s second-highest operating cost. Hilton has achieved significant energy reductions through low-cost, high-impact steps, and a portfolio-wide certification to ISO 50001.

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A few years ago, Hilton became the first global hospitality business to achieve portfolio-wide certification to ISO 50001, according to company representatives. The certification, which was achieved following a comprehensive upgrade to LightStay, the company’s corporate responsibility performance measurement platform, complimented its existing ISO 9001 and ISO 14001 management systems. With its three portfolio-wide ISO certifications, Hilton is a striking example of how companies can use ISO standards to manage their operations in an effective and sustainable way.

Earlier this year, Hilton released its Travel with Purpose targets for 2030, which include a commitment to halve its environmental impact whilst also doubling its investment in social impact, as part of its strategy to further the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ISOfocus asked Maxime Verstraete, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility & ADA Compliance at Hilton, how ISO 50001 will support these efforts and help Hilton to fulfil its mission to be the world’s most sustainable hospitality company.

Photo: Hilton
Maxime Verstraete
Maxime Verstraete, Vice President of Corporate
Responsibility & ADA Compliance at Hilton.
ISOfocus: Why is energy management a key focus in the hospitality sector in general, and at Hilton in particular?

Maxime Verstraete: Energy is typically a hotel’s second-highest operating cost after labour and Hilton has a long history of carefully managing energy consumption across its global portfolio, beginning with the creation of the Hilton energy management manuals in the 1970s. We have always been very focused on reducing our resource consumption and in 2008 we developed LightStay, our proprietary corporate responsibility measurement platform. LightStay enables every one of Hilton’s 5 400 hotels to track their environmental footprint for over two hundred sustainability-related metrics.

LightStay is a brand standard and its use is required for all managed and franchised properties globally. Through the system, we are able to set property-level energy, water and waste goals while tracking individual and collective performance against our global sustainability targets. The bespoke one-stop platform for all environmental, operational and social impact reporting has helped the company carefully manage its energy, carbon, water and waste, achieving cumulative savings of more than USD 1 billion in operating efficiencies since 2008. Today, energy management remains a key priority for our business as we continue to identify innovative ways of reducing energy consumption and costs for our owners.

Photo: Hilton
Hilton waterfront hotel pictured with city skyline in the background.
Hilton San Diego Bayfront hotel.
Could you tell us a little more about Hilton’s use of ISO 50001? How important was Hilton leadership in the process?

Support from the top has always been critical to our energy management and performance. When ISO 50001:2011 was released, our leadership became interested in leveraging our existing management system in LightStay to obtain certification. We had already achieved certification to ISO 9001 (quality management) and ISO 14001 (environmental management), so we knew all about the benefits an ISO standard can bring. After an overhaul to LightStay, we achieved portfolio-wide ISO 50001 certification in 2014. At that time, our triple ISO certification was the largest-volume certification of commercial buildings ever.

Since then, energy management has remained a key focus for our leadership and we continue to seek opportunities to drive our performance to the next level. Most recently, this has included undertaking a full revamp of our corporate responsibility strategy and setting new long-term goals for the future. In May 2018, we set ambitious targets to double our social impact and cut our environmental footprint in half by 2030 through our corporate responsibility programme, Travel with Purpose.

A big component of this commitment is our science-based carbon targets, which align with the carbon reduction levels stipulated in the Paris Agreement for climate change. We are proud to be the first major hotel brand to set greenhouse gas targets that have been approved by the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), an independent body that champions science-based target setting as a powerful way of boosting companies’ competitive advantage in the transition to a low-carbon economy.

What benefits has the standard brought, and can you give us an example or two of energy-saving measures and initiatives?

ISO 50001 has really helped us to ensure we are following a consistent approach to energy management across all our properties. The savings have been significant – we have reduced our energy intensity by 20.6 % and our carbon intensity by 30.0 % from our 2008 baseline.

We also estimate that we have cumulatively saved the equivalent of USD 1 billion through operating more sustainably. Our LightStay system helps us track all energy-saving initiatives taking place at our hotels, from low- and no-cost updates to major capital projects. For example, through LightStay, we can track which hotels have completed projects from LED re-lamping to the installation of solar panels or cogeneration plants.

Photo: Hilton
Rooftop view of solar panels against a colourful autumn landscape.
Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park.
What has been the key to the success at Hilton? What advice would you give other companies looking to use ISO 50001?

One initiative that has been critical to our success has been our close collaboration, both internally across all relevant departments and externally with our certification and assurance partners. When we first sought certification, we established a large working group with representation from nearly every Hilton department. Today, we continue to collaborate across those departments to ensure we are maintaining our certifications and receiving the corresponding benefits.

With the new edition of ISO 50001, how do you think the standard will change or influence Hilton’s approach to energy management?

As with our other two certifications, ISO 9001:2015 and ISO 14001:2015, we welcome the update of ISO 50001 and look forward to certifying to the new standard published in August 2018. We are eager to see its new High-Level Structure, which it shares with all management system standards, as it will enable us to streamline our integrated triple ISO certification process. However, we do not anticipate that the changes will fundamentally alter the way we tackle energy management at Hilton, since our integrated approach to quality, environmental and energy management is incorporated holistically across our day-to-day operations.


About Hilton

Hilton (NYSE: HLT) is a leading global hospitality company, with a portfolio of 14 world-class brands comprising more than 5 400 properties with nearly 880 000 rooms, in 106 countries and territories. Hilton is dedicated to fulfilling its mission to be the world’s most hospitable company by delivering exceptional experiences – every hotel, every guest, every time. The company’s portfolio includes Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Canopy by Hilton, Curio Collection by Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, Embassy Suites by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, Tru by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton, Home2 Suites by  Hilton and Hilton Grand Vacations.

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Elizabeth Gasiorowski-Denis
Editor-in-Chief of ISOfocus