As we see an increasing number of eco-friendly holiday destinations popping up around the globe, a study from Cornell University has some great news for hotel owners and green vacationers alike: Spanish hotels that have earned the international environmental standard ISO 14001 show greater earnings and stronger performance than those who have not.
The study by Cornell University’s Center for Hospitality Research sampled 2082 Spanish Hotels, of which 108 had attained the ISO 14001 environmental standard. The standard, which is often utilized in Europe, is awarded to organizations which demonstrate a commitment to follow the International Organization for Standardization‘s “framework for a holistic, strategic approach to environmental policy, plans and actions.”
Such a commitment from hotels can have a significant impact – the study notes that “tourism is a resource-intensive industry that leaves a considerable footprint on the environment”. Spain is the second largest tourist destination in the world, with around 59.2 million visitors each year, so its footprint is among the most considerable. But by looking at the net profits and depreciation of Spanish hotels, alongside variables such as the size and surroundings of each business, Cornell’s researchers were able to debunk often held misconceptions that “adopting sustainability programs will diminish hotels’ performance.” Indeed, ISO 14001 Hotels in beachfront locations boast close to twice the mean income of those who have not adopted environmentally conscientious business practices.
While we may often associate the notion of an eco-friendly hotel with more boutique resorts, the report found that the hotels with ISO 14001 certification tended to be larger scale businesses than those without. The study did not look at any of the large hotel chains. This is not to say such chains are naive to green practices; several European hotels chains have begun to adopt environmentally friendly policies and eco-branding predicated on their ISO 14001 certification.
Taken together, it offers a promising suggestion that going green can be good for business, and that consumer pressure and preference for eco-friendly services can indeed change the behavior of major industries.