Professional Comment

Will The Pandemic Derail GHG Emission Targets of the Hospitality Sector?

By Kunal Sawhney, CEO of Kalkine (

The economies across the world have started to reopen, waiting to recover from the slumps of the pandemic.Though some sectors have already shown signs of recovery or have charted their path to recovery, the crippled hospitality sector worldwide, grappling with the year-long crisis, might have to face a double difficulty: meeting green targets set to meet global standards along with a post-pandemic recovery.

As per UNWTO (The World Tourism Organization), the hotel industry contributes around 1 per cent of global emissions and this will obviously go up as the demand is set to grow in the future. A research done by the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) has shown that the hotel industry across the world must bring down its greenhouse gas emissions by 66 per cent by 2030 and 90 per cent by 2050 to keep the global temperature within the 2-degree Celsius limit as agreed at CoP21.


In 2017, ITP, which is now called the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, had laid out targets for the hotel industry based on the Paris inter-governmental climate agreement. Many hotel groups have come forward and declared their targets. For instance, the Marriott group had pledged to bring down its carbon footprint by 15 per cent between 2016 and 2025.The Hilton group has pledged to reduce its direct greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from its hotel branches and sites by 61 per cent by 2030, taking 2008 as the base year.The IHG’s 2030 target is a 15 per cent emission cut, and a 46 per cent reduction in its franchised hotels, taking 2018 as the base year. As per the latest data of ITP, the sector has slashed emissions by 55 per cent since 1990, meeting its 2025 target already.

Apart from this, the industry had also pledged to reduce energy, water consumption, food wastage, bring down the use of single-use plastic, reducing operating and maintenance costs and raise awareness about sustainable practices. Food wastage is one of the biggest problems faced by the hospitality sector as the food we eat is responsible for global climate emissions of between 15 and 50 per cent. In 2020, the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said that the UK’s food and drink manufacturing sector was able to cut its emissions by some extent and intends to lower the emission by two-third by 2050.


Post pandemic, the situation has changed in a big way. As the hospitality sector is gradually reopening after a series of lockdowns and strict restrictions, the road to recovery will be a bit more challenging than the rest. Recently, the FDF, which has around 300 companies under its umbrella, said that the sector would meet its net-zero emission target by 2040.

But with the tough situation during and after the pandemic, where hospitality companies, pub and restaurant owners have lost more than £200 million a day, following green measures and reducing carbon foot-print will be a difficult task.

Catherine Dolton, vice-president of global corporate responsibility, InterContinental Hotels Group, explained that the road ahead will be harder than the pre-pandemic times as environmental improvements require a lot of upfront investment, which at present will be difficult as most owners and operators are struggling to stay afloat. She added that the 2030 targets may be achieved but the next few years might see very little movement.

Dolton further added that though there is increased investor interest, the momentum has come down due to the pandemic and that the trend may continue for a few more quarters before the economy bounces back. She said that in the present scenario, green financing and government incentives can play a major role in supporting the green targets.