Using ISO 14001 to identify environmental aspects in the hotel sector

Industry specialists predict the worth of the hotel industry to the US economy in 2016 to be $550 million (source:, and the sector is equally valuable in almost all other regions of the world to the respective economies of those areas. Having grown spectacularly over the last two decades as traveling and technology allowed people to move freely, this sector has also grown more competitive and forward-thinking in terms of the services offered in comparison to what was available some 20 years ago. As a result, the hotel sector has become a significant consumer of natural and manufactured resources, and therefore has a significant impact on the world’s reserves. While it is necessary for hotels to remain attractive and competitive in the current market, there are nonetheless many areas that hotel chains can examine through the use of ISO 14001:2015 to ensure their environmental impacts are managed and minimized.

Identifying environmental aspects for your hotel or hotel chain

If your organization has an EMS (Environmental Management System) and is certified against ISO 14001, you will be familiar with identifying environmental aspects for your business, which you can read more about in the article ISO 14001 risks and opportunities vs. environmental aspects. Identifying and minimizing environmental aspects that exist for businesses in the hotel sector is key to lessening the sector’s impact on the greater environment, so let us examine where this can be done:

  • Recruit locally where possible. Also, encourage employees to use public transport and car share, where possible. Hotels employ many people, and minimizing the impact of staff travel is a key aspect – also, consider the impact of split shifts, which require people to travel to work more than once per day, and consider consulting with your staff to try and avoid this.
  • Use local products where possible. Apart from supporting your local economy, this will minimize your impact to the environment if you can use local products where possible, lessening the effects of carriage and transport use.
  • Manage your food processes efficiently. Consider how food is ordered, from where, and how much is wasted. Consult with your team and find a system whereby your ability to store, refrigerate, and freeze goods matches as closely as possible with your customer’s demands. The article Case study – Using ISO 14001:2015 to reduce environmental impact and increase profit in a restaurant may help you here, and as with most environmental aspects it is wise to remember that prudent management will not only lessen environmental impact, but also save money for your organization.
  • Use recyclable products where possible. Manage your supplier list intelligently and use environmental criteria to do so. If you can use suppliers who are ISO 14001 certified, this will help you; if not, ensure you can examine their environmental aspirations and decision-making processes as part of your selection. Reading the article Driving your supply chain to ISO 14001 compliance will give you more detail on managing this process. Consider whether using recyclable paper napkins is more efficient than washable napkins; all of these decisions make a difference.
  • Get the basics right. Hotel guests may expect an element of luxury and good service, but people are increasingly aware of the need to protect the environment. This includes not heating unoccupied rooms and areas, using energy-efficient lightbulbs and sensors to ensure unused corridors are not lit, and laundering all bedding and towels as efficiently as possible. Again, it pays to devise a process whereby best practice is established for all of the above, and communicated to staff and visitors alike – and, indeed, use good environmental practice as a unique selling point.
  • Establish a culture of environmental positivity. The ISO 14001 standard requires that continual improvement is established and can be demonstrated. Ensure your hotel or hotel chain makes informed decisions at both local and strategic levels; refurbishment and purchasing are regular occurrences in the hotel sector – therefore, it pays to ensure that environmental considerations are taken during these activities. Can refurbishment be undertaken using environmentally friendly materials sourced locally? Is good environmental practice at the core of your decision-making process? Can local labor be used? Place this train of thought at the center of your planning and decision-making process, and you can ensure continual improvement takes place.

Using ISO 14001 to improve environmental performance

The good news about ISO 14001 is that it can be applied across all industries and business sectors, and it can be applied from micro businesses to huge corporations. As such, applying the principles above can ensure that you can minimize the environmental impact of your organization, whether you own a single hotel or a chain of hotels across many regions and countries. The scalability of the ISO 14001 standard can ensure that your organization can not only learn to identify its aspects intelligently and quickly, but also that your following actions can help to preserve the environment for future generations.

Considering that most improvements your organization makes go hand in hand with financial benefits, then your bottom line can also see the benefit of good environmental practice in your hotel business. Has there ever been a time when the case for ISO 14001 implementation in the hotel sector has been so compelling?

Why not use the free  ISO 14001 Gap Analysis Tool to measure your EMS against the requirements of the standard?

Advisera John Nolan
John Nolan
John Nolan is a Fellow of the Institute of Leaders and Managers in the United Kingdom, and Prince 2 accredited with a background in Engineering and Electronics and Data Storage and Transfer. Having studied and qualified as both a Mechanical and Electronic Engineer, he has spent the last 15 years designing and delivering Quality Systems and projects across many sectors in the UK, including both national and local government.