Marriott announces net-zero pledge by 2050

Sep 24, 2021

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The Marriott International hotel chain is pledging to reach net-zero emissions across its nearly 8,000 hotels by 2050, Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano said at the Skift Global Forum on Wednesday, 22 September.

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“We’ve been on a sustainability journey for years but we are making an announcement today that I think is a quantum leap forward in terms of our efforts,” the CEO said, adding that the company has made a two-fold commitment to “reduce our emissions and set targets for that across our portfolio and our supply chain,” while also agreeing to set targets to reach net-zero emissions by no later than the year 2050.

The timing of today’s announcement is unsurprising, as the U.N. General Assembly proceeds this week in New York City after a two-year pandemic-induced hiatus, bringing together its 193 member nations and their representatives. Capuano noted Marriott’s commitment aligns with the United Nations’ Race to Zero initiative, a global campaign among businesses, cities, regions and investors working toward a zero-carbon recovery.

On Monday, 20 September, nearly 90 companies, including Procter & Gamble,  HP and Salesforce, joined Amazon’s Climate Pledge initiative, aimed at achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040.

Related: What your favorite travel companies are doing about global warming

“I think it really dovetails well with one of the company’s core values, which is to serve our world,” said Capuano, who noted that he expects the U.N. to “continue to evolve metrics … to inform our progress.”

As Marriott continues to push growth, particularly in China,  the brand’s ability to fulfill its newly announced commitment will hinge on incorporating environmentally friendly design in the construction of new hotels. Buildings generate nearly 40% of annual carbon dioxide emissions globally, while building materials and construction, also known as embodied carbon, are responsible for an additional 11%, according to data from Architecture 2030.

“We’ve made this announcement, which is the easiest part of this work; now the real work starts,” continued Capuano, who noted that “deep engagement and transparent communication with the owner and franchise community is critical,” a conversation that will involve “looking at sustainable materials, new building methods, energy efficiency and all of the elements of new construction to help us move towards that net-zero goal.”

Of the almost 8,000 hotels under the Marriot umbrella, the company owns fewer than 20.

Related: An Introduction to the Marriott Bonvoy Hotel Loyalty Programme

“Just last week, we spent two days with 130 of our most significant franchise partners here in the U.S. and Canada and this was the first topic that came up,” he said. “We’ve got a group of partners who are passionate globally not just talking about sustainability but evolving our business model in a way that will allow us to achieve these ambitious goals.”

When asked why the mega hotel chain is accelerating its environmental, social and governance commitment in the midst of recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, arguably the biggest crisis the hotel industry has ever seen, Capuano said his answer was “two-prong.”

“As human beings, I think it’s our responsibility,” he said. “We really answer to four distinct constituents — our associates, our guests, our owners and our investors. Each of those groups has a rapidly growing urgency around sustainability.”

In perhaps acknowledging the outsize role companies play in global carbon emissions, Capuano bucked the idea of relying on government support, despite the inherent involvement and cooperation required from world, national and local leaders.

“My words were deliberate, 2050 at the latest. We will from today forward try to lift that lofty goal as quickly as we can,” he said. “There is so much work to do. We want to make sure we don’t disappoint, but we will try to get there as quickly as we can.”

Featured photo of a Marriott hotel in San Francisco on 29 July by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

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