Talking Point: Putting the green in your linen supply chain


Paul Swift from Berendsen explains why hotel suppliers need to consider and act on their own environmental footprints.

Although it’s been a focus of the industry for some time now, environmental responsibility continues to gain momentum thanks to wider acceptance that the industry has its part to play in preserving our planet. This acceptance is also filtering into the consciousness of hotel guests and in some cases, affecting their choice of accommodation.

Whilst some boutique establishments are labelling themselves as ‘eco-hotels’ and using it as a key differentiator, hotel chains all over the world are actively working to benchmark and reduce their environmental footprints.  However, whatever the hotel’s size, to make true progress towards its environmental goals hotel operators need to consider more than the direct impacts just from rooms, such as leaving a light switch on or the amount of water a bathroom uses. There are indirect environmental impacts that can occur from operating a hotel, which can impact its overall footprint.

Many leading hotels have recognised this and as such are measuring and tracking impacts across their entire supply chain. The InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is just one example and has set itself a series of targets to achieve by 2017, tracking and reporting on the environmental impacts of every one of its suppliers. This practice will become increasingly common and crucial, particularly for the selection and evaluation process of preferred suppliers. It can also be a powerful marketing tool, as a recent survey Berendsen conducted of adults that have stayed in a UK hotel in the past 12 months shows that just over half are more likely to stay at a hotel that uses environmentally responsible suppliers.

Having a consistent supply of fresh and clean linen is critical for hotels. Rarely is laundry ever done on site and outsourcing has long been the norm. Washing, drying and finishing huge quantities of hotel linen 24/7 inevitably requires energy and water and for some time now hotels have made efforts to reduce the amount of laundry that is processed, by offering guests the option to have their towels changed less often. Whilst the survey mentioned previously indicates that the majority of guests claim to have taken this option, three quarters of guests still expect their towels to be laundered on a daily basis, with almost half expecting their bed linen to be similarly changed.

A laundry service supplier’s operation forms a key part of a hotel’s environmental footprint, particularly as the largest are capable of laundering millions of items every working day. Washing accounts for approximately 35 per cent of the total process energy consumed in a laundry whilst drying and finishing account for the rest. Suppliers must therefore play their part in reducing this footprint, particularly as they are likely to come under increasing scrutiny. There are several actions that laundry suppliers can take to cut water and energy consumption and to reduce carbon emissions.

For example, innovative systems can be introduced to alter the chemicals used, to reduce rinse water volumes as well as improving disinfection properties. Recovery and treatment processes can also be implemented for wastewater to enable it to be safely reused. Wash processes can also be adapted at facilities to leave less moisture in the textiles, reducing the energy required to dry them.

With fresh linen required by every hotel room each day, transport is another area of focus for suppliers where carbon emissions can be reduced. Providing specialist training to drivers on speed restrictions helps to improve road safety. However, in combination with adjustments to collection and delivery vehicles to reduce air flow drag and increase volume capacity, the result is greater fuel efficiency, as well as greater volumes moved per mile driven.

The majority of hotels will also rent their linens, therefore the rental suppliers should analyse the environmental impacts of their own product manufacturer. A key question to ask is whether the textile product can be engineered differently to deliver energy and water reductions in laundering, without compromising on comfort and appearance.

The payback can be significant. As a result of implementing changes, Berendsen for example has made annual reductions to its carbon emissions, equivalent to the emissions of 5,000 households as well as an annual saving of over 1 billion litres of water, enough to fill more than 400 Olympic sized swimming pools.

By choosing an appropriate partner, hotels can be assured that, along with quality and quantity, every sheet, towel and tablecloth is laundered considerately, enabling them to reach their own green goals.

Questions to ask your laundry supplier:

  1. Has the company been recognised externally for its environmental achievements?
  2. Is water and energy consumption and carbon emissions measured and monitored on a continuous basis?
  3. Have targets been set to reduce water and energy use and carbon emissions?
  4. Has a benchmark been set to measure progress to these targets?
  5. Does the company have any credible external validation in place to assess environmental impacts, such as the Carbon Trust for example?
  6. Does the facility have a water reuse system in place?
  7. Does the company analyse its products for environmental improvements?
  8. What efforts is the company making to reduce carbon emissions from the transportation of laundry?

For more information see Berendsen's Corporate Responsibility efforts. Survey results from an online survey carried out by Market Measures on behalf of Berendsen with 1,005 responses among adults who had stayed in a UK hotel at least twice in the last 12 months, carried out May 2015. We also have more articles about green laundry here on Green Hotelier. For more information on what ITP does on water stewardship in the hotel industry go to

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