Environmental Management in Hotel Companies

Today, various government agencies and the general public are growing more and more concerned with environmental issues, such as pollution, excessive energy use, and the waste of food and resources. An increasing body of structured environmental efforts from agencies, such as the UN, has put pressure on most businesses with regards to their sustainability and environmental impact. After the successful introduction of policies and practices aimed at decreasing the environmental impact of large manufacturing businesses, the policymakers shifted their attention to creating an all-rounded approach to environmental sustainability, which would involve all types of businesses in ensuring sustainability on a global level.

Naturally, the hospitality industry became involved in the process, with both large and small hotels aiming to adhere to the new industry standards for environmental impact management. This study aims to investigate the background and practices for environmental management in hotels, as well as to address the benefits and challenges of implementing a good environmental management strategy for businesses working in the hospitality area. The information for this study was gathered from ten separate scholarly articles on the subject of environmental sustainability management in hotel companies. The use of secondary data was a major limitation to this study; however, the impact of this limitation on the quality of research was kept to a minimum by ensuring the recency and reliability of the sources.


The involvement of hospitality businesses in the global approach to decreasing the environmental impact was not widely discussed until the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, also known as the Earth Summit, was held in 1992. Shanklin (1993) outlines the effect of the summit on the public’s perception of the environmental challenges ahead and the implications that the ‘age of ecology’ would have on hospitality businesses all over the world. For instance, the author states that one of the main ideas introduced at the conference was the need for a transnational approach to decreasing environmental damage: the representatives of different countries noted that there is a clear difference between the environmental damage inflicted by the Northern industrialized countries and the Southern areas of the world (Shanklin, 1993).

Thus, the contemporary popularity of tourism all over the world and the consequential increase in hotels and hotel chains located in different areas of the world created the need for the businesses operating in the hospitality sector to address various kinds of environmental issues. Shanklin (1993) also addresses the types of environmental concerns that are involved in hospitality management. For instance, increased energy use has a strong effect both on the environment and on the hotels’ profitability due to the increasing energy costs (Shanklin, 1993, p. 222). The issues of water quality and availability are also among those that need to be solved, for instance, by introducing water conservation efforts in all areas of hotels’ operations, particularly through changing the structure of water supply for public restrooms and bathrooms (Shanklin, 1993, p. 223). Finally, the solid waste remains a substantial issue, even though many hospitality businesses had composting and recycling programs in place even before 1992 (Shanklin, 1993, p. 223). Shankling (1993) notes that, in the future, “a total solid waste and environmental plan” is required to provide long-term solutions (p. 222).

Despite the overall progress in environmental impact management made over the past two decades, most of the issues described in Shanklin’s (1993) analysis are still present. Jones, Hiller, and Comfort (2014) describe the current state of environmental management structures in the hotel industry and state that one of the main reasons for the management’s weak approach to environmental solutions is that “the global hotel industry’s commitments to sustainability have been developed within existing capitalist business models which are focused on continuing economic growth” (p. 14). According to Jones et al. (2014), in the capitalist business model, there is a certain conflict between environmental management and cost-saving, which leads the businesses to pursue only the strategies that are economically beneficial or seek compromises instead of addressing environmental concerns on a full scale.

Current Efforts

There is a great variety of recent studies that provide an overview of current practices emptied by hotels for environmental management. For example, Chan (2009) provides an overview of existing measures for hotels’ environmental management systems, aimed at adhering to the requirements of ISO 14001 certification. The majority of 113 measures were found to relate to electricity conservation and the efficient use of energy (Chan, 2009). Fewer efforts were undertaken for solid waste management and the reduction in the use of oil and gas (Chan, 2009). Bohdanowicz, Zientara, and Novotnac (2011) performed a more specific analysis of the Hilton hotel chain and they’re We Care! the program, which targeted the environmental performance of 70 Hilton hotels all over the world. The researchers found that the enterprise managed to achieve a 15% reduction in energy use, as well as to decrease its water consumption and CO2 emission levels by 8% each over the three years of the program (Bohdanowicz et al., 2011). The program also targeted the employees to raise their concern for the environmental issues and the influence of hotels’ performance on pollution and resource usage, achieving increased environmental awareness and improvement of environmental behaviors in 95% and 97% of employees respectively (Bohdanowicz et al., 2011, p. 808).

However, other strategies could be implemented in the hospitality sector. For instance, Elliot (2011) discusses the use of information technology to empower sustainability-focused business transformation. He stresses that the optimization of IT technology use could help businesses to cut down their electricity usage (Elliot, 2011). The author also discusses the involvement of governments all around the world in various environmental efforts (Elliot, 2011). As no reports on hospitality businesses’ environmental management strategies mentioned the use of government resources in their environmental strategies, it is possible to suggest that cooperation with the countries’ governments could provide hotel managers with more opportunities for addressing environmental concerns relating to their businesses, especially in the areas where tourism is supported by the government.

Economic and Performance Benefits of Environmental Management

Contrary to the widespread view that environmental management strategies are not cost-effective and may increase both immediate and long-term business expenses, a large body of work suggests that environmental management can improve hotels’ profitability and overall performance. For instance, a study by Segarra-Oña, Peiró-Signes, Verma, and Miret-Pastor (2012) examines the data from over two thousand Spanish hotels to determine the variation in profitability between the hotels that obtained official environmental certification and those that did not. The study showed that there is indeed a positive correlation between the adoption of environmental operation standards and improved economic performance, particularly in urban and beach hotels (Segarra-Oña et al., 2012). Another study by De Giovanni (2012) investigated the influence of internal and external environmental management on the firm’s performance by three factors: social, environmental, and economical. The study found that the implementation of environmental management strategies had a strong positive influence on the social and ecological performance of the companies studied (De Giovanni, 2012).

Even though the effect on the financial performance was not direct, the author still argues that “The indirect improvement of an organization’s EC may be attained through EM initiatives, while improvements in environmental and SP per se do not lead to greater economic results” (De Giovanni, 2012, p. 282). Finally, a study by Sirakaya-Turk, Baloglu, and Mercado (2013) showed the impact of the customers’ perceived image of a hotel as ‘environmentally-friendly’ may positively affect their tourism choices. Thus, the study proves that introducing well-rounded environmental management strategies and making them known to the public can help the hotel to attract new clients, thus increasing the revenues. A useful resource to assess the effect of environmental management on the hotel’s performance is proposed by Moreo, DeMicco, and Xiong (2009). The researchers developed a tool called the Environmental Scorecard (ESC), as well as its version applicable to the contemporary hospitality businesses. The Scorecard can help managers to measure the efficiency of the hotel’s environmental practices, as well as the company’s global environmental impact (Moreo, 2009), thus providing a framework that can be used to determine cost-effective environmental practices and projects.

Real and Perceived Challenges of Environmental Management

Eric Ricaurte (2012) argues that one of the main reasons why environmental management is not yet popularised in hospitality institutions all over the world is that many managers working in the sector lack awareness of the processes involved. In particular, the author argues, several perceived challenges stop managers from implementing a full-scale environmental approach in their companies. For instance, one of the largest myths that act as obstacles to achieving sustainability is that green technologies and strategies are expensive, when in fact, “numerous initiatives that have been proven time and again to save money, including those that involve changing to more efficient lighting or reducing the waste stream by recycling” (Ricaurte, 2012, p. 7). Another assumption is that the customers do not care about the environmental sustainability of hotels; Ricaurte (2012) argues that nowadays, the customers are aware of sustainability notions and issues, which affects their hotel choices.


The proposed study is a systematic review of 10 articles related to the topic of environmental management in the hospitality industry. The articles for the literature review were found using Google Scholar, as well as Emerald Insight and Taylor & Francis databases of environmental studies journals. The articles for the study were chosen using purposeful sampling. One of the main criteria for the choice was the recency of publications – except one core source, dated 1993, the publication date of the articles had to be no earlier than 2008, with preference given to the more recent studies. The reliability of the sources was also an important factor: all of the sources obtained were either from peer-reviewed journals or official conference proceedings. Finally, the applicability of findings to the current study was evaluated to narrow down the list of chosen articles to 10. The articles are to be analyzed by their coverage of the topics explored in the current proposal, such as existing environmental management practices, as well as benefits and obstacles to effective environmental management for hotels and hotel companies.

Timeline of the Project

  • Proposal Submission – 24 February
  • First Draft – 10 March
  • Second Draft – 17 March
  • Final Draft – 24 March


Bohdanowicz , P., Zientara, P., & Novotna, E. (2011) International hotel chains and environmental protection: An analysis of Hilton’s We Care! programme (Europe, 2006–2008). Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 19(7), 797-816. Web.

Chan, W. W. (2009). Environmental measures for hotels’ environmental management systems. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 21(5), 542-560.

De Giovanni, P. (2012). Do internal and external environmental management contribute to the triple bottom line? International Journal of Operations & Production Management, 32(3), 265-290.

Elliot, S. (2011). Transdisciplinary perspectives on environmental sustainability: a resource base and framework for IT-enabled business transformation. MIS Quarterly, 35(1), 197-236.

Jones, P., Hillier, D., & Comfort, D. (2014). Sustainability in the global hotel industry. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 26(1), 5-17.

Moreo, A., DeMicco, F. J., & Xiong, L. (2009). Towards a model to measure the quality of environmental sustainability: The hospitality Environmental Scorecard. Journal of Quality Assurance in Hospitality & Tourism, 10(1), 44-58. Web.

Ricaurte, E. (2012). The hospitality industry confronts the global challenge of sustainability. Cornell Hospitality Roundtable Proceedings, 4(1), 6-15.

Segarra-Oña, M., Peiró-Signes, A., Verma, R., & Miret-Pastor, L. (2012). Does environmental certification help the economic performance of hotels? Evidence from the Spanish hotel industry. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 53(3), 242-256.

Shanklin, C. W. (1993). Ecology age: implications for the hospitality and tourism industry. Journal of Hospitality & Tourism Research, 17(1), 219-229.

Sirakaya-Turk, E., Baloglu, S., & Mercado, H. U. (2013). The efficacy of sustainability values in predicting travelers’ choices for sustainable hospitality businesses. Cornell Hospitality Quarterly, 55(1) 1-12.