Hotel Group launches plan to partner with eco-farms

ACCOR HOTELS announced its Plant for the Planet programme will fund 200,000 trees in the UK in a pioneering project designed to promote sustainable food production and nurture links between hotels, guests and farms.


Europe’s largest hotel group marked the first anniversary of its PLANET 21 sustainability strategy by revealing plans to finance up to 50 projects across the UK by the end of 2015, planting trees on farms in smart ways that cut costs, raise yields and improve the environment. The programme also aims to engage Accor’s employees and guests on sustainability.


Plant for the Planet is financed by money saved when guests choose to reuse towels rather than send them to be washed. Since 2008, thanks to their responsible behavior, Accor has planted over 3 million trees worldwide – around 1500 each day. In the UK 72% of the group’s hotels take part in the programme and in five years they have funded more than 247,000 trees in Romania.


However, from 2013 Plant for the Planet will focus on schemes planting trees in smart ways which maximise their impact in the same countries as the hotels that fund them. The programme – thought to be unique in the hospitality industry and the biggest of its kind in the UK – will allow hotels to build close links with their communities, develop strong partnerships with local farms and preserve the environment.


Sophie Flak, Accor’s Executive Vice president for Sustainable Development and the Accor Académie, said: “Plant for the Planet is at the heart of our sustainability programme and we believe it can make a real impact. Worldwide we aim to launch 21 projects by the end of 2013 and we expect to finance 200,000 trees in three years in the UK alone.


“Plant for the Planet will cut our energy and water consumption thanks to laundry savings, support organic and low-impact farmers, and involve our guests in pioneering a sustainable food system. This new initiative demonstrates our commitment to responsible growth which generates shared value for all.”


Accor has forged a new global partnership with Pur Projet, an expert in developing community forestation projects, to take Plant for the Planet to a more ambitious level, maximising the quality and impact of its tree planting, integrating the programme more fully into Accor’s businesses, and enabling its hotels to play a more active role within their communities.


The Woodland Trust is managing the programme in the UK, with help from the Soil Association and Organic Research Centre, and expects to launch schemes on 10 farms this year. It is thought to be the UK’s biggest programme to pioneer commercial models of using trees in farming across a range of farming systems and environments.


Woodland Trust partnerships manager Helen Chesshire said: “We are delighted that Accor is supporting a step change in thinking to help develop commercial models of agroforestry in a wide range of farms, producing a variety of crops and animals, in very different conditions. These projects aim to demonstrate the benefits of organic, local and sustainable farming, and provide practical models which we hope will be widely copied.


“It’s about making trees work for the farm to deliver a range of benefits. They can improve productivity, reduce spending on fertilisers and make farms more resilient to extreme weather. Trees thoughtfully integrated into farms can deliver real business benefit, and enhance the environment, and thanks to Accor we’ll be able to offer tree-planting to even more farmers.”


The Woodland Trust will provide trees free to farmers accompanied by expert advice tailored to each farm’s needs and circumstances.


Thoughtful tree planting can help improve the conditions for growing crops and raising animals, delivering a range of environmental benefits which can also improve productivity on farms.


When planted in the right places, trees can help farmers stabilise and enrich soils, improve water efficiency in crops, increase resilience against drought, and reduce flood risk. They provide shade and shelter for livestock, and encourage pollinating insects, and also offer an additional source of income from fruit, nuts and timber. They also benefit the wider ecosystem by improving biodiversity, providing wildlife habitats and locking away carbon.


Tristan Lecomte, founder and CEO of Pur Projet, said: “Plant for the Planet establishes Accor as a global pioneer of ecosystem preservation, with a vision of sustainable hospitality in which hotels actively help to preserve their regional environment. Our aim is to have at least one reforestation project in the majority of Accor host countries by 2015 and my goal is to help integrate those into the group’s core values and activities.”