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by Sarah J.F. Braley | March 25, 2015

Jane MackieFairmont Hotels & Resorts has reduced its operational CO2 emissions by 20 percent below its 2006 output, achieving a goal set by the World Wildlife Fund's Climate Savers Program, designed to encourage companies to develop innovative ways to cut greenhouse gas emissions. "It was a very ambitious goal, and we had to be very, very creative to meet that goal," says Jane Mackie, right, vice president of the Fairmont brand. "But the results were audited by Deloitte, so it's not just that we said we were going to do it — we had to go through a pretty rigid audit requirement on an annual basis."

Next up, Fairmont wants to go further as a member of the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative, a program developed by the International Tourism Partnership, the World Travel & Tourism Council, KPMG and a working group of 23 global hotel companies. HCMI aims to help hotels measure and report emissions in a consistent way to corporate customers. More than 21,000 hotels are using the methodology. "Designed predominantly for the meetings industry, this is a standardized way to measure the carbon footprint of a meeting on an hourly basis," says Mackie. "A meeting planner will be able to evaluate destinations and other hotels, apples to apples, if that's important to them."

Since Fairmont already had been tracking for the World Wildlife Fund, the data already was available for 30 of the chain's 70 hotels. "We did mock meetings for HCMI at the Fairmont Chateau Whistler [British Columbia] and the Fairmont Royal York [Toronto]. The test was in the form of data validation -- ensuring that we were properly allocating the emissions to the correct parts of each property," Macki explains. "The hotels will be working with us to draft the policies and procedures for all properties so they can accurately calculate HCMI for potential groups. It's based on room nights and meeting room configurations."

To support these initiatives, sustainability teams were created at each hotel, starting in 2006. "Generally, sustainability falls on the main office and engineering at the individual properties, but these teams bring in representatives from all the departments," Mackie says. "We're now starting to really look at water; it's more controllable than energy in many ways. At the Fairmont the Palm in Dubai, the colleagues noticed the water pressure was really strong. When it was measured, it was way beyond what it needed to be. By bringing the pressure back to just beyond what it needed to be, the property now is saving about 1 million gallons a month." That translates to about $20,000 a year in savings, just by making an adjustment that didn't really impact the guest experience.

"We need to keep looking at these numbers and make sure we are still meeting the numbers and doing things that will continue to improve," says Mackie. "And I hope our meeting-planning partners will hold our feet to the fire. We think we'll have a good system of checks and balances."