How to reduce carbon emissions and improve resource efficiency in tourism

We hosted four webinars over September and October 2022 to support tourism through a green transition as part of UNEP’s ‘Transforming Tourism Value Chains’ Project, which aims to reduce carbon emissions and improve resource efficiency from tourism, by transforming activities and services along the whole supply chain. The webinars covered sustainable food, climate action planning, nudging green behaviours and single-use plastics. Here’s what we learned. 

Climate action planning 

This webinar highlighted the importance of the Glasgow Declaration on Climate Action in Tourism, and gave practical guidance on climate action planning and implementation for accommodation providers.  We also heard from businesses already taking action. There are many incentives for businesses to create a climate action plan. It future proofs business, reduces operating costs, responds to tour operator/investor expectations, meets customer demands, creates a framework for action and to track progress, contributes to wider climate action in a destination, and provides opportunities for collaboration.  

The Declaration follows five pathways:  Measure, Decarbonise, Regenerate, Collaborate and Finance  


Carbon emission measurement covers Scope 1 (direct emissions from owned / controlled sources), Scope 2 (indirect emissions from purchased energy ) and Scope 3 (indirect emissions produced in the value chain). Scope 3 is the hardest to measure but businesses should work with suppliers and guests to get a broad estimate as a starting point. Al Judge, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Alikats Mountain Resorts, added that they found it helpful to incorporate measurements into regular financial processes, so it becomes embedded into an ongoing system.  


Decarbonisation can be achieved through changes in practice/efficiency measures, product service changes, new technology and equipment and behaviour change. It can be difficult to know where to start, so businesses should prioritise actions according to impact, urgency and capacity. Thierry Montocchio, CEO of Rogers Hospitality outlined some of the decarbonisation work from their Now for Tomorrow Initiative including using locally-sourced food and gaining approval for a solar farm. Both Rogers Hospitality and Alikats acknowledged the vital role the supply chain plays in decarbonisation. Rogers Hospitality now only procures from responsible supply chain partners, and Alikats has also moved away from working with chalets heated by oil.  


Regeneration can include supporting nature-based solutions, protecting or restoring ecosystems, enhancing your destination and supporting climate adaptation. For example, the Maldives Underwater Initiative (MUI), an award-winning programme run by Six Senses Laamu, works to protect the local marine seagrass which is vital for coral reef health, shoreline protection and helps to fight climate change through carbon sequestration. 


Collaboration with others can accelerate your journey. Forms of collaboration include exploring collective/bulk procurement opportunities, creating local partnerships, working with suppliers or considering impacts in vulnerable community groups. Ali Shareef, Community Outreach Coordinator at MUI SAID said they sought expertise initially to help monitor the local marine region and now partner with three NGOS. The team also provides placements for students in the Maldives. 


For success in financing climate action, businesses should ensure resources will be sufficient to deliver planned initiatives, identify funding sources and revenue streams, work with others to maximise finances and advocate for/support development of fiscal mechanisms to accelerate transition. Arnfinn Oines, Social & Environmental Conscience at Soneva, said that Soneva Fushi partnered with a solar company, through a power purchase agreement, to build a solar plant on their resort. They are now expanding this through loan financing. Other innovative ways Soneva finances climate action include its ‘waste to wealth’ project, which sees 95% of glass recycled and made into art which is then sold. 

Watch the climate action webinar and access all the resources

Nudging green behaviours 

This webinar explored why influencing the behaviours of staff and guests must be a key part of any plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to achieve broader sustainability goals in the accommodation sector. Milena S. Nikolova, Chief Behavior Officer, BehaviorSMART, introduced the concept of nudging behaviours. She said that sustainability can be difficult because, from a traveller perspective, it tends to be a nice add on and not the core focus, even if values are aligned. Being ‘behaviour smart’ means being realistic about how people really think, decide and act, to enable the design of sustainability solutions that work better and cost less. It is not enough to simply educate or inform about the more responsible choices, greener choices need to be incentivized, by designing out irresponsible options, making sustainable options the default and making responsibility the easy choice.  

Sarah Logan, Director of Sales & Marketing at Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, found that nudging the behaviours of employees helped lead to nudging guests’ behaviours, bringing everybody together towards a united sustainability ethos. Examples that Bucuti and Tara use include providing green loans for staff for EV vehicles and reducing portion sizes and the amount of beef on menus. Carl Ryan-Hunter, Property Manager for Anse Chastanet & Jade Mountain Resorts, St Lucia found that behavioural change (in staff) often doesn’t happen due to cultural reasons. To overcome this, they opted to link the desired behaviour change into the existing culture to increase buy in to energy conservation. They made energy consumption relevant to individuals first by informing staff how to manage costs within their own environment, with no focus on the workplace. After three months, they asked staff to do at work what they did at home. This approach resulted in 27% lower water consumption and 15% reduced electrical consumption.  

Watch the nudging green behaviours webinar and access all the resources 

Circularity of plastic products in the tourism sector 

This webinar focused on practical tips to inspire, incentivise and guide hoteliers to reduce consumption and increase the circularity of plastic in their operations. Moving towards circularity of plastic products offers many opportunities for the hospitality industry. It is a great tool for motivating staff and unifying teams and leadership around a shared vision or goal, it boosts customer feedback and helps businesses stand out as a sustainability leader and ultimately contributes to broader goals around decarbonisation and regeneration. 

Both Ele Papapetrou, Hotel General Manager at Atlantica Sancta Napa and Megan Morikawa, Global Director of Sustainability at Iberostar Group reflected on their resorts’ success in the reduction of single-use plastics. Atlantica Sancta Napa is now 96% plastic free. The resort was involved in Cyprus’ Keep Our Sand and Sea Plastic Free project. Iberostar radically overhauled their operations to become plastic free within 18 months across 100 hotels and 16 countries through their Wave of Change initiative. Jo Hendrickx, Founder of Travel Without Plastic, talked about the business case for removing single-use plastics which included greater financial benefits over time and reputational impact. Challenges discussed included changing mindsets about whether plastic, or any alternative, is needed and the need to take local context into account.  For example, this might include whether a biodegradable alternative can be recycled locally, assessing whether alternatives may be more damaging for the environment than single-use plastic, and addressing the perceived increased hygiene of using single-use plastic, whereas in fact it is robust cleaning and hygiene protocols that are most effective.  

Communication to both staff and guests is key for success, but for it to be of maximum benefit messages should be simple and clear, in the right place, at the right time, positive and explain why the changes are necessary, relating it specifically to the local destination. Serious operational changes won’t be implemented without the buy-in of all staff and so it’s vital that the reasons behind changes are communicated and that adequate training is provided so that staff have the knowledge and confidence to get on board.  

Other key ingredients for success in single-use plastic reduction include an unfailing commitment to change and clear goals, revised standards and procedures and collaboration with others, for example, inviting suppliers to collaborate to find solutions.  

Watch the plastics webinar and access all the resources 

Sustainable food – transforming tourism by transforming our food system 

There are big gaps to fill before we can reach a sustainable food future, in food, climate and land. The food gap is not as simple as a shortage of supply, it’s how we produce food within planetary boundaries. Food accounts for 27% of global carbon emissions, 10% of this comes from food waste and nearly 60% from meat production. And over 50% of crops are used to feed animals and not people. Addressing these gaps will involve reducing food loss and waste, dietary changes and changes in food production practices. The climate impacts of transportation are widely focused on in the travel industry but Alessandro Galli, Senior Scientist and Director of Global Footprint Network, highlighted that once at a destination, it is food which has the greatest impact. This webinar focused on opportunities for what the hospitality sector can do to address and improve these food-related impacts. 

Anna Drozdowska, brand strategist and tourism consultant, encouraged the industry to support regenerative farming. Regenerative farming practices are key for healthy, fertile soil, therefore keeping more carbon in the ground and reducing agriculture’s impact on the planet. Ways to support regenerative farming could include partnering with regenerative farms, sourcing nature positive foods, bringing visitors to regenerative farms as an excursion and supporting local farmers to switch to regenerative farming. Caroline Baerten, co-owner of humus x hortense, a Michelin star zero waste, plant-based restaurant in Belgium, uses 100% regenerative, bird and bee friendly farming. The restaurant also reduces food loss by using every part of an ingredient, and by talking regularly with farmers to assess what produce is in surplus and whether they can incorporate it into menus.  

Both speakers said that supporting regenerative farming and/or using nature positive products can be a great opportunity for tourism businesses to use for marketing, both to promote the sustainability of meals/products and to highlight uniqueness. Marketing skills are important when offering non-mainstream cuisine but offering something alternative can also naturally attract people and support word-of-mouth referrals.  

Watch the sustainable food webinar and access all the resources

PFDarrowarrow_downarrow_down_circlearrow_down_cirlcearrow_down_rounded_whitearrow_leftarrow_rightarrow_right_whitearrow_upboatbookbriefcase_areaofwork-newbriefcase_areaofworkcase_studyclock_datecloseclose_cross copyclose_crossclose_cross_blueconversation_discussion-01conversation_discussiondata_collectiondecision_makingdown-arrow-whitedownloadearthemailenergyenvironmentfacebookgroup_peoplehandshake-newhandshakehandshake_partnerknowledgelocal_producelocation_pointer-newlocation_pointerlogo_whitemap-iconmap_iconnews_blognumber0number1number2number3number4number5number6number7number8number9organisationpdfphone-call-whitephone-callpluspositive-actionpositive_actionproject-reportproject_reportrecycle_sustainable-01research_impactreturnright-arrow-dark-bluesearchsend-symbol-whitesend-symbolsingle_persontickresearch_impactresearch_impactresearch_impactresearch_impacttwitterwastewaterweb_resourcewhite_paperworking_togetheryoutubezoomlinkedin