Tuesday 22 April 2008

Accor refuses to throw in towel on environment - reusing towels leads to reforestation


I'm sure in your many stays at hotels you've seen the little sign in the bathroom saying "re-use your towel and help save the planet"? You may have thought the sentiment was good, but maybe you've been cynical about hotel's simply wanting to save their bottom line.

So Accor is going to do something about it, because while I'm sure everyone agrees with the principle, there are many who are also cynical about the motives of hotels. Interestingly 9 out of the 52 hotels in the global trial were based here in Australia, including 5 in Sydney.

The good thing about the project is that it is relatively straightforward and everyone can participate. The big problem in the past has been that even when guests want to reuse their towels, very often they hang them up and housekeeping take them anyway. So a fundamental part of the programme is to involve housekeeping staff in the process, as well as motivate guests to participate.

The first thing we needed to highlight was that savings made would go towards a good cause – and the UN's billion tree programme is well-respected – and given that drought and dwindling tree stocks are concepts that Australians understand, we thought that both staff and guests would be very sensitive to this issue. Basically, a small gesture could lead to big outcomes.

We wanted to increase the impact of these gestures, which many of our guests support, by involving all of our 4000 hotels in the Plant for the Planet programme, irrespective of whether they were 5-star or 2-star, city hotels or resorts. It really is comprehensive.

What makes the project innovative?

- It's the first time that such a simple gesture—hanging a towel on a rack—serves a major global cause: reforestation.

- It's also innovative because it concerns all our brands, since all Accor hotels will gradually be involved.

- In addition, it's innovative because we're used to involving our employees, but this time we're involving our guests as well.

- Lastly, it's innovative because it's not exclusively an environmental project. The reforestation projects that we will support will always include not only an environmental aspect but also economic and social aspects that support community development.

I've attached the press release (below) for your background. We are announcing it today as part of Accor's Earth Guest day.

I do also have photos of the forestation projects if that is of interest.

Accor launches hotel towel re-use initiative to reforest with UN's Plant Trees for the Planet programme

22 April 2008: Global hotel group Accor today announced an innovative towel-re-use programme that aims to reduce use of water, energy and chemicals across its 4,000 hotels with the savings contributing to the funding of up to three million trees annually by 2012.

The announcement was made on Accor's Earth Guest day, where staff at all of the group's hotels, including over 136 hotels in Australia, focus on environmental and community social responsibility projects.

Funds raised by the towel re-use initiative will be donated to the "Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign" administered by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)*.

Giving incentive to guests to re-use their towels

Many hotels have towel re-use programmes in place, but often these programmes are not as successful because of a lack of promotion to guests, a lack of training for housekeeping staff or cynicism about how savings will be used by the hotel. To counter these issues and encourage greater participation, Accor has introduced a formula to determine how much savings can be made through towel re-use and pledged to donate funds to UNEP's reforestation programme.

The programme will be rolled-out progressively across the Accor network after a current pilot programme involving 52 hotels (including nine hotels in Australia) is completed and reviewed.

To prepare for the full-scale introduction, Accor is offering special training for housekeepers and is planning a campaign to build awareness among guests, who will be personally encouraged to take part in the program through a message posted in their bathrooms informing them that "Here, your towels plant trees."

Planting 3 million trees by 2012 in 7 of the world's forest regions

"The project should enable us to finance the planting of three million trees by 2012," said Gilles Pélisson, Accor Chief Executive Officer. "I am very proud that the Group is actively supporting the United Nations Environment Programme in this reforestation project, which involves operators and customers of all our hotel brands, from economy to luxury."

Accor will take part in projects in seven of the world's forest regions, working closely with seven associations chosen for their ability to manage planting programs while also developing local business opportunities.

In France, for example, through Forestour's Forestavenir program, Accor will help to combat the greenhouse effect by supporting planting initiatives in forests in the southeastern part of the country. With SOS Sahel in Africa, Accor will help reforest coastal areas in Senegal by planting casuarina shrubs in the Niayes region to restore the natural surroundings, prevent sand from invading low-lying farmland and, over the longer term, create local revenue sources. In Asia, Accor will work with Plant A Tree Today (PATT) to protect a drainage basin in Thailand and set up an environmental education center. In Brazil, in cooperation with Nordesta Reforestation & Education and ten local communities, the Group will help replant the banks of the Rio Soa Francisco to promote the return of natural ecosystems and improve water quality.

One Billion Tree Campaign

The UNEP launched the Plant for the Planet: One Billion Tree Campaign under the sponsorship of Prince Albert II of Monaco and Wangari Maathai, winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize, whose Green Belt Movement supports reforestation projects in Africa. Thanks to this global initiative, more than 1.6 billion trees were planted in 2007.

"All countries are concerned by deforestation," said Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP. "With this reforestation project, Accor is also helping to combat global warming, restore ecosystems, wipe out epidemics and preserve the planet's fresh water."

Mobilising Accor's 150,000 employees on Earth Guest day

Accor's involvement in "Plant for the Planet: Billion Tree Campaign" is fully in line with the Earth Guest program, launched by the Group in 2006 to guide its sustainable development policies in all its host countries and all its businesses. Through the program, Accor supports EGO projects to protect children, support local development, promote balanced nutrition and eliminate epidemics as well as ECO projects to control energy use, limit water consumption, manage waste and preserve biodiversity.

Earth Guest day is being held this year on April 22 and for the occasion Accor is once again mobilising its 150,000 employees to demonstrate support for the principles of sustainable development. For the second year in a row, the Group is holding its own Earth Guest day, with employees in Accor's 100 host countries scheduled to take part in local development, health and environmental initiatives. In Australia the focus this year is on energy conservation.

(* a percentage of the funds saved will be used to administer the scheme)

Accor, the European leader and a major global group in hotels, as well as the global leader in services to corporate clients and public institutions, operates in nearly 100 countries with 150,000 employees. It offers to its clients over 40 years of expertise in two core businesses:

Hotels, with the Sofitel, Pullman, Novotel, Mercure, Suitehotel, Ibis, all seasons, Etap Hotel, Formule 1 and Motel 6 brands, representing 4,000 hotels and nearly 500,000 rooms in 90 countries, as well as strategically related activities, such as Lenôtre.

Services, with 30 million people in 40 countries benefiting from Accor Services products in human resources, marketing services and expense management.

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