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New Sustainability Directives are on the Horizon. Is Your Company Ready?

New Sustainability Directives are on the Horizon. Is Your Company Ready?

With global leaders committing to accelerate the shift away from fossil fuels at the recent COP28 Climate Conference in Dubai and the requirement for countries to submit a detailed plan as to how they intend to curb greenhouse gas emissions through 2035 in the next two years, companies need to be ready for an influx of new regulations and frameworks governing environmental, social governance (ESG) as well as sustainability reporting.  

Businesses operating in the European Union should already be preparing to overhaul their sustainability-related practices as directives like The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive and The Corporate Sustainability Due Diligence Directive (CSDDD), currently at the provisional agreement stage, come into play.  

The latter sets out the rules and obligations that large companies have towards the environment and human rights across their entire business, including partners and suppliers. But CSDDD cannot exist without CSRD and the related European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS), which together set the legal framework and reporting obligations and provide a roadmap for compliance.  

On top of increasingly aggressive legislation are voluntary sustainability frameworks that can be downright dizzying to navigate. Take the hotel and hospitality industries, for instance. There are more than 200 companies worldwide offering sustainable accreditation and certification processes to these sectors, each with its own methods and criteria for evaluating sustainability, making compliance incredibly costly and time-consuming, particularly when you consider that for many companies, the only option is to manually collect and share data with certification entities.

Removing the burden (and inefficiencies) of manual processes

Shackled by such complexity, hotels cannot undertake the types of ambitious, transformational sustainability projects required to reduce travel’s negative impact on the planet. Yet those who don’t will quickly find themselves at a disadvantage when meeting consumer demand.

According to Booking.com’s 2023 Sustainable Travel Report, 76% of consumers say they want to travel more sustainably in the near term, a 16% increase from the company’s 2021 survey and 5% higher than in 2022. More importantly—at least from a business perspective—is the willingness of nearly half (43%) to pay extra for travel options with sustainable certification. By the same measure, 49% of consumers say sustainable travel options are too expensive.  

A key reason they are too expensive comes from the complexity surrounding data collection and reporting. Booking.com (a BeCause partner) includes a flag on its front end, which provides customers with a quick and easy way to determine a property’s sustainability status.

Until recently, the only way to get that information in front of consumers was by manually uploading spreadsheets from different certification entities to its database and mapping requirements to each hotel. It was a significant time suck, resulting in infrequent uploads, mapping errors and an erosion of trust. If a marketplace, which communicates existing data to its customers faces such hurdles, imagine the burden on hotels!

In an environment of heightened legislation governing ESG reporting and compliance — one which is also supported by consumer demand — it’s imperative that hotel and hospitality groups, as well as industry partners, operate within a connected ecosystem where the collection, management and communication of sustainability data flows in real-time between all concerned players. This increases transparency and makes it easier for hotels to gather the requirements needed to comply with voluntary frameworks and regulations as they evolve or change.

A much better way to manage the masses of sustainability data

While some may think that’s easier said than done, it’s more than doable if we ditch the spreadsheets and instead take a hub approach to sustainability management.

Here’s how that works:

Instead of collecting metrics through email, surveys and on paper, individual hotels input all sustainability data into a single platform. Sustainability managers at the chain level who want properties to qualify for specific certifications can indicate which data types need collecting by simply checking off a box in the platform, which automatically pulls the requirements from the certification bodies. The same goes for legislation.  

For instance, if a hotel brand headquartered in the United States has European properties, managers must know all the requirements of CSRD, ESRS, and CSDDD. With a purpose-built sustainability hub, they don’t have to, as those requirements are already in the platform and can be applied to any hotel with EU operations.  

Future-proofing processes to be ready for what comes next

The real time-saver, however, is in how the hub connects data to these requirements.

While the world would be a much simpler place if every government and certification body used the same language when it comes to sustainability compliance, this is sadly not the case. Without a hub, a person might be tasked with deciphering all the different tasks, which is often why sustainability management suffers from double accounting. But with a hub, that tedious mapping work is fully automated, enabling hotels to upcycle their sustainability data. It also means that a hub can flag for sustainability managers when vital data is missing, enabling much faster compliance.

With all this critical information in a centralized hub, we can start doing some really exciting things, like using machine learning to push hotels to be more sustainable, especially regarding voluntary certifications.

Imagine a sustainability manager receiving an alert on their hub informing them that they are just one requirement shy of qualifying for a certification around water usage. Wouldn’t they be more likely to consider implementing a new measure to enable them to obtain that certification than if that information wasn’t as easily obtained? Or if they received an alert warning that they are about to be disqualified from a certification because they are expending too much CO2? Within a hub environment, they can quickly analyze where the problem originates and take steps to correct it.  

To be ready for the upcoming sustainability revolution in Europe and worldwide, companies should refrain from putting the onus on their people to babysit data and catalog sustainability requirements.

A sustainability data hub is much more efficient at handling this information flow. Innovators can then leverage this data to convince their business leaders that sustainability measures above and beyond what’s strictly necessary are not only vital to protecting the planet but are investments worth pursuing.  

Alina Arnelle, Chief Sustainability Officer, BeCause

As the Chief Sustainability Officer, Alina’s main responsibility is to contribute and devise the company’s strategy with the aim of incorporating the latest sustainability trends and ensuring the company is up to speed with the relevant industry-specific developments. Additionally, Alina’s key role is to proactively develop specifications and direct the development of the BeCause platform within sustainability-related topics.