Moving forward collectively

Accor’s story of bedding down ESG

In the newly created role of Director of ESG, Accor Pacific’s David Young needed to start from scratch - literally. Charged with driving the group’s ESG strategy, he faced the added complexity of engaging with stakeholders at many different levels. Accor Pacific is part of Accor Group, the French-owned hotel group with just over 5,000 hotels around the world. Locally, they are the largest player in the Pacific with just over 400 hotels in Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and French Polynesia. At the recent Ideas Exchange event, FCM Meetings & Events spoke to David about the challenges of navigating the company’s network of managers, owners and franchisees to get all stakeholders on the same page.

People sitting in room discussing

“In the Accor model today, we no longer own any hotels, we manage them on behalf of owners, so that means we have a lot of internal stakeholders to engage with every time we want to initiate any change. So, when I was tasked with exploring and embedding new ESG strategies, I needed to work to bring the Accor leadership team, CEOs, finance directors, owners and franchisees along for the ESG journey.” David explained.

Essentially, the hotels are split into three groups, each with very different dynamics and views. “We have hotel management agreements where we manage a hotel almost in its entirety. The second group are the franchises, where the owner can be really engaged in the business. And then the third business is apartments and realty, largely under the Mantra brand.”

people sitting having a discussion

In 2020, the Accor group took out a 5 billion Euro financing facility, with a number of KPIs attached to it, including actions which had been identified as necessities to drive sustainability transformation. “Hotels generally were all on the bandwagon of asking guests to hang up towels that don’t need washing, but that's nowhere near enough anymore. All hotels need to move forward, and we've been generally slow to act as an industry. That prompted Accor to say, "we need to change now” and to establish a series of sustainability pillars that align with our goals. The first one is eliminating single-use plastic, the second is reducing carbon emissions and the third is around gaining independent certification of our hotels.”

Accor believe that it’s crucial to have an independent company complete the certification against global sustainability tourism initiatives. “Our view is that you can't self-certify anymore, people just don't believe it if you can’t back it up. So Accor recently signed a partnership with Ecotourism Australia to certify all of our hotels over the next two to three years. It’s a big step forward for us and we’re saying to owners, if you don't get these certifications, you will be ranked accordingly by some online booking engines. Now that you can select hotels based on their sustainability credentials, if you don’t get the sustainability tick, you’ll drop down the list if people search for that criteria. That's helping us drive the discussion with owners to say we need to go through the certification process – and it’s not an expensive exercise, but it's worth it.”

women sitting in accor hotel room on phone

The fourth thing Accor is focussing on is food waste and food sustainability. There are some very sobering stats that came out from the United Nations and from the World Wildlife Fund. Shockingly over 66 trillion gallons of water is used to grow food that is never consumed.

“What I’ve learned throughout this process is that whichever ESG value you are championing in a corporate setting, the focus needs to be on education, awareness and engaging all stakeholders as a collective group if you want to achieve long-term change. It’s an interesting position for Accor, because in France where we are headquartered, and also in the broader EU, there are much stronger environmental laws that the company is required to meet. While Accor Pacific is challenged with driving ESG changes from within. However, through raising awareness internally, there is now a genuine understanding at Accor that we can’t just replicate what we are currently doing - we need to think about ESG differently and we need to embed it in our culture.”

Person checking into accor hotel

There is now a large focus on educating and informing staff globally through a program called School for Change. It’s a six-hour program designed to have a real impact as it talks about what's really happening to the planet. “We’ve had the entire corporate team complete it, and we're working on rolling it out further to give people a broader understanding of what's happening to the environment and what our role is in it. It’s an initiative the reflects Accor’s belief that it’s important to not just have ESG as a side function, but to have it as part of the core business and purpose – and that’s what we're trying to do.”

Learn more about FCM Meetings & Events now. 

You might also like...