The Cornell Hotel Sustainability Index: A Valuable Tool for Event Planners
Event planners play an important role in ensuring that gatherings, conferences, and meetings are not only successful but also environmentally responsible. One useful tool that event planners can use to assess and compare the sustainability efforts of hotels is the Cornell Hotel Sustainability Index (CHSI). The (CHSI) is the biggest industry benchmark and provides a standardised framework for evaluating and measuring hotel sustainability, using Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI) and Hotel Water Measurement Initiative (HWMI) metrics from over over 20,000 properties to track energy, greenhouse gas emissions and water usage. The 2023 report just out indexes data from 25,576 hotels from 31 international hotel groups and has some fascinating findings.
But, first a bit of history and an overview of what the CHSI is and what it covers;
History of the Cornell Hotel Sustainability Index
The Cornell Hotel Sustainability Index, also known as the CHSI, was developed by the Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. The index was introduced in 2011 as an initiative to assist the global hospitality industry in measuring and improving sustainability practices. With the aim of providing a consistent benchmarking tool over time, and across geographical locations, the CHSI enables hotels to assess their sustainability performance and to identify areas for improvement.
Coverage and Components of the CHSI
The CHSI covers a broad range of sustainability-related areas within the hotel industry. It evaluates and measures sustainability efforts in six key categories:
- Environmental Management: Focuses on environmental policies, practices, and certifications, such as energy efficiency, water conservation, waste management, and green building certifications like LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).
- Operational Practices: Examines day-to-day operational activities and procedures, including purchasing practices, supplier relationships, employee training, and guest engagement programs.
- Social Impact: Evaluates the hotel’s impact on local communities, including social responsibility initiatives, community involvement, and employee well-being programs.
- Human Resources: Assesses human resource practices, such as employee satisfaction, diversity and inclusion, talent development, and labor practices.
- Risk Management: Focuses on the hotel’s preparedness and resilience to various risks and emergencies, including crisis management plans, safety procedures, and disaster response.
- Innovation: Recognises and rewards hotels for their innovative sustainability practices, encouraging the industry to continually evolve and adopt new environmentally friendly technologies and approaches.
Key Findings 2023 CHSI
The 2023 report provided key findings as follows;
- Average hotel greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions per square meter have reduced by 30.42% between 2019 and 2021 (the full year on which the 2023 Index is based).
- The best performers in the Top 25% of hotels are emitting 2.5x less than the hotels in the bottom 25%.
- Renewable energy is key to reducing hotel carbon emissions.
- Luxury hotels tend to have the highest carbon intensities compared to other segments.
- Limited-service hotels are less carbon intensive than full-service hotels.
- The limited service segment is reducing emissions faster than the full-service segment.
- Resort properties are slower to reduce GHG emissions than other properties.
- The top three countries with the lowest hotel GHG intensity were; Norway – 13.5 (kgCO2e/m2), Sweden – 14.9 and Costa Rica – 15.6.
- The bottom three countries with the highest hotel GHG intensity were; Hong Kong, China – 214.5 (kgCO2e/m2), Barbados – 194.5 and Kuwait – 167.0.
Why use the Cornell Hotel Sustainability Index (CHSI)?
Being aware of the CHSI could provide event planners with several advantages:
- Sustainability Alignment: Event planners who prioritise sustainability in their events can use the CHSI as a valuable tool to identify hotels that align with sustainability goals. By selecting hotels with higher CHSI scores, event planners can ensure that their event venue shares their commitment to environmental responsibility.
- Benchmarking and Comparison: The CHSI offers a standardised framework for evaluating and measuring hotel sustainability performance. Event planners can use the index to benchmark and compare different hotel venues based on their sustainability practices, empowering them to make informed decisions and choose hotels that demonstrate strong sustainability performance, setting higher standards for the industry.
- Transparent Evaluation: The CHSI provides a transparent evaluation of hotels’ sustainability efforts. Event planners can review the index to gain insights into the specific areas where hotels excel or need improvement in terms of sustainability practices, enabling event planners to ask targeted questions, have informed discussions with hotels, and ensure that sustainability considerations are adequately addressed in event planning and execution.
- Event Reputation and Stakeholder Expectations: Sustainability has become an essential factor in shaping the reputation and image of events. Event planners who select hotels with higher CHSI scores demonstrate their commitment to hosting sustainable events. This, in turn, enhances their reputation among attendees, sponsors, and other stakeholders who increasingly prioritise environmental responsibility.
- Collaboration Opportunities: The CHSI highlights hotels that are leading the way in sustainable practices. Event planners can leverage this information to initiate collaborations and partnerships with hotels that prioritise sustainability. Collaborations can lead to shared knowledge, innovative event solutions, and the creation of more environmentally friendly event experiences.
- Positive Impact and Legacy: By choosing hotels that prioritise sustainability, event planners contribute to reducing the environmental impact of events. By promoting sustainable practices through venue selection, waste reduction, energy efficiency, and more, event planners are contributing to fostering a culture of sustainability within the events industry.
If you’re interested in finding out more about sustainable event planning, why not explore our tool track to calculate your event’s projected carbon footprint. If you get in touch, we can give you a demo to illustrate just what it could do for you.