France-based hotel group Accor has produced a carbon optimiser to help meeting and seminar organisers calculate and cut the carbon footprint of their events. Accor has meetings and seminars venues in around 2,000 hotels.
The interactive carbon optimiser takes into account the number of participants, the number of nights they plan to stay, how long the seminar will last, how big the meeting rooms are and the energy mix in the host country. It also factors in food services, i.e. the type of food and whether meals are buffets or table-served. The environmental footprint report the company published in December 2011 provided the necessary data to build the carbon optimiser.
Accor argues that there is no other tool that is so comprehensive. Calculators often only measure emissions from production processes and energy consumption to power hotel equipment. Accor’s solution includes indirect emissions associated with organising seminars, including waste treatment, paper and food, which is a substantial source of carbon emissions. Customers can choose menus based on their carbon footprint.
The carbon optimiser was developed to meet customer expectations. A guest survey run in six countries last year showed that 84% of business customers are sensitive to sustainable development – compared to 76% of all customers. Business customers are also more aware of large business firms’ responsibilities and 57% of them say that they take sustainable development into account when they choose a hotel. By the end of 2012 all Accor sales teams will have access to the tool to help their customers organise their seminars.
Bearing in mind that Accor is the world's leading hotel operator (or was before it sold 1,100 hotels in North America the other day) and market leader in Europe, this is a significant move. It will help those who are already concerned about their carbon footprint to focus on the issues and take appropriate decisions, but the fact that it exists at all will create awareness among less carbon-concerned event organisers.
What would be even better would be to have a similar calculator available online for anyone booking a hotel room. That doesn’t seem to be on the cards at the moment, but no doubt it will come.