Plastics Discussion with Brune Poirson, Chief Sustainability Officer at Accor (Excom Member)
Brune Poirson currently serves as Chief Sustainability Officer at Accor. Prior to joining Accor, Brune served as Deputy of Vaucluse and nearly 3 and a half years as Secretary of State for Ecological Transition and Solidarity at the French Ministry of the Environment. During this time, she designed and passed on the Law on Anti-Waste and the Circular Economy, the One Planet Summit, and the G7 Fashion Pact. Before joining Edouard Philippe's second government, she worked at Veolia (South Asia) as Sustainability Director, the French Development Agency as Project Coordinator, and at Nesta.
She holds an MC/MPA from Harvard Kennedy School and an MSc in Political Science and Government from The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She graduated in 2005 from IEP Aix (France).
Accor is a signatory of the Global Tourism Plastics Initiative (GTPI), the sectoral interface of the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment. The GTPI requires signatories to implement ambitious measures to eliminate unnecessary and problematic plastic items and packaging and introduce reuse models. The signatories of the Initiative have to annually report on their progress, including on the weight of plastics in their operations.
Why was it important for Accor to join the movement and what’s your progress so far?
Accor has been committed to eradicating single-use plastics in the guest experience since the beginning of 2020. The threat of environmental pollution caused by single-use plastics to nature and in particular the oceans prompted us to go beyond local legislation and make a strong commitment to eliminate single-use plastics from the guest experience in our hotels, across 110 countries. In 2022, we reaffirmed our goal to remove single-use plastics and extended the ambition to include our back-of-house operations.
Accor was one of first hotel operators which joined the GTPI in 2020, recognising the initiative’s strong alignment with our values and desire to set a new standard for sustainability in the hotel business. To create meaningful change, we need to act collaboratively. To this end, the GTPI is crucial for uniting the tourism sector behind a common vision to instigate behavioural change and identify solutions. We strongly encourage other tourism players to look at the progress the initiative has made and join us.
Regarding progress, by the end of 2022, 84% of Accor’s hotels across the world had eliminated single-use plastic items from the guest experience (totalling a number of 46 items, except for water bottles and some other exceptions). For the personal hygiene category (shampoo, shower gel, conditioner, etc.), at least 300 tons of plastic have been avoided every year thanks to the replacement of small single-use plastic bottles with larger format dispensers. It is estimated that 980 tons of CO2 equivalent have also consequently been avoided.
In certain regions such as Europe and North America, where the elimination of water bottles is feasible, 96% of our hotels have eliminated single-use plastic bottles in rooms, and 95% in other parts of the hotels (meeting rooms, etc.) This represents 50% of our portfolio. In other regions, the roll-out of solutions can be more complex, notably in countries without reliable sources of drinking water, and the elimination of plastic bottles is in progress. It is a key priority for the Group for 2023.
In 2020, Accor announced that it would go “further than the competition” in terms of implementation of a circular economy of plastics and committed to eliminate “all guest-related single-use plastic items in all hotels by end 2022.” This is a significant step forward in the global push to reduce pollution and create a more circular economy for plastics. As you know, the implementation of circular responses has several components: elimination of unnecessary and problematic plastic items and packaging, the introduction of reusable alternatives; when plastics can’t be fully phased out, and work on increase of recyclability and recycled content of plastics.
What challenges of implementation of elimination of single-use plastics have you been facing? How do you address those challenges? Would you say that Accor complies with the six key points of the circular economy for plastics mentioned above?
The elimination of unnecessary and problematic plastic items is our top priority, but we also recognise identifying alternatives is important.
Our approach is centred around taking a considered and mindful approach towards consumption habits. Therefore our first priority is to remove products that are not essential to our guests' experience. We believe “less is more”, it’s an important mindset shift. Nonessential items are now provided on request rather than by default, to reduce excess waste. The challenge extends beyond simply finding alternatives to plastic but instead shifts mindsets away from the convenience and disposability of single-use items and toward the principles of Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle (3Rs). This involves rethinking the default offering of single-use amenities and their associated waste while finding ways to implement sustainable solutions.
Work has been launched with our procurement, sustainability, and brands departments in order to identify the items that could be proposed on request by brands, and to work with suppliers to source high-quality, sustainable alternatives to plastic.
The second priority is to introduce reusable alternatives. For instance, dispensers are used at breakfast buffets rather than plastic packaging for products such as honey, jams, juices, butter, etc. For items that are still single-use, we have worked hard to transition from plastic to more sustainable materials, for instance, wood fibre (recycled and/or with labels as FSC or PEFC). We also challenge suppliers to integrate recycled plastic in areas such as shampoo dispensers.
Again, on your website, it says “Every year, on Earth Day, our Group celebrates our environmental commitments around the world. This year, Brune Poirson and the sustainability department’s focus is on empowering our teams and their continued engagement (…). They have the capacity to turn our vision of positive hospitality into reality every day through concrete actions and by ensuring progress.”
What initiatives and actions are you implementing in the Accor group to empower and motivate your teams to implement your ambitious commitments to reduce plastic pollution?
The commitment of our teams at all levels (from support and operating teams to the Executive Committee) has enabled our achievements so far. The monitoring of the elimination of plastics is an important subject for the Executive Committee. The targets are integrated into the bonuses of our Chairman and CEO, the members of the Executive Committee, and the top 150 corporate officers, as well as for operating functions. We have set ambitious KPIs in 2022, and we will push them further in 2023.
A target of 80% of hotels without single-use plastic is also integrated into the annual variable compensation of many employees (integrated for 2023). This objective is defined at 80% to mobilise colleagues in pursuit of an achievable goal. The target was set with very rigorous compliance criteria (just one single-use plastic item of the more than 60 not eliminated leads to the non-compliance of the hotel) but also accounts for those external factors beyond control (hotels in conflict zones, delivery disruptions, closure of hotels linked to the health crisis or renovations, etc.).
Finally, we have also created a Plastic Steering Committee to analyse and monitor action plans at a strategic level, Support & Operational Committees to meet the needs of the regional Hubs and to support the implementation of alternatives, and — at the level of each Hub — bodies involve their own Management Committee to ensure efficient roll-out in hotels.
Accor is a signatory of the Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty (a coalition of businesses advocating for an ambitious treaty and is led by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation).
Why is it important for Accor to be part of this coalition? What are your expectations for the future treaty?
We want to support driving the removal of single-use plastics. We believe in a binding global treaty. Negotiations would not go on for months to allow for rapid adoption of the treaty. We urge stated to act responsibly and fast. We believe regulation is key to accelerating concrete actions in the private sector and society at large. Therefore we make sure that Accor’s commitments are totally aligned with The Business Coalition for a Global Plastics Treaty objective.