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a&o Hostels reveals success of efforts to become Europe’s first CO2-emission hostel chain

World’s largest hostel chain lays out a road map for hospitality operators to embrace sustainability for the future of the travel industry.

BERLIN, GERMANY – With focus on its ambitious goal of becoming the first net zero CO2-emission hostel chain in Europe by 2025, a&o Hostels, the world’s largest hostel chain, has released

The a&o Sustainability Report 2022 to document its efforts and progress on sustainability issues while serving as an inspiration – even a road map – for other hospitality operators to follow suit. Written with sincerity and sharply designed, the report offers comprehensive analysis of key sustainability issues and the company’s approach to them over the past year.

“Sustainability is important to me personally. Not because it is fashionable, but because it is equally important for economic success, the preservation of our livelihoods and future generations,” writes Oliver Winter, CEO of a&o Hostels, in his forward to the report, stressing the company’s commitment to driving social and environmental change toward responsible tourism. “With this report, a&o makes its commitment to sustainability challenges transparent for the first time. Let us open a dialogue and work together so ‘everyone can travel – today, tomorrow and in the future’.”

The report shines light on a&o Hostels’ commitments, achievements, and challenges on sustainability as it applies to its corporate environmental, social and governance (ESG) practices. Each is illuminated via quick-and-easy reference of progress made toward full adoption by designated target dates as of year-end 2022. Among key reveals:

Environmental Sustainability

Operational environmental protection is a central element of a&o Hostels approach to sustainability, which the company manages both operationally and strategically with a focus on climate protection and resource conservation. For its goal of becoming the first European hostel group to achieve net zero CO2-emissions, for example, the company is on target for 2025, with the report documenting 20,766 tons of CO2-emission offset with EECs (European Energy Certificate System) through 2022. Other climate protection-related details show a&o Hostels to be:

  • 97% of the way to using only green electricity in each of its hostels by the target date of 2023, with 38 or 39 a&o Hostels as of year-end 2022 using 100% green energy or EECs. (The company will open its 40th property in Florence, Italy, in 2024.)
  • 20% of the way toward its goal of extending the installation of photovoltaic systems on hostels whenever possible by 2026
  • 75% of the way toward its goal of shifting its corporate vehicle fleet to 90% hybrid or full electric vehicles by 2025

a&o Hostels is also working toward the preservation of resources, with progress on everything from employing eco pest control by licensed contractors that use only non-hazardous cleaning materials (75% progress; target date 2024), to shortening the transportation of food by 10% annually by prioritizing procurement of local food sources (50%; target date 2027), and more. The company also plans to discontinue offering tropical fruits and seafood at dining outlets, the better to lower emissions that would result from long-distance transportation.

Social Commitment

The social dimension of a&o Hostel’s sustainability efforts has a longer way to go than the environmental dimension, but that doesn’t minimize its significance to the company. With policies applicable to its employees and universal human rights beyond, progress by year-end 2022 on
a&o Hostels’ social agenda includes:

  • 30% toward the integration of human rights decision-making criteria in procurement processes and purchasing by a target date of 2023
  • 10% toward both the development of a human rights policy statement and the conduct of a human rights risk assessment by 2023
  • 10% toward the assessment of human rights at all a&o Hostels locations by 2023
Corporate Governance

a&o Hostels’ sustainability efforts also encompass corporate governance with the aim of creating lasting economic added value for the company, its employees and partners while addressing ecological and social impacts along the value chain. Addressing sustainability in a structured and focused manner, in 2022 the company established a strategic sustainability management process with a thorough materiality assessment that included defining strategic sustainability priorities and measures, as well as issuing the report. Result? The systematic anchoring of sustainability issues in the company’s operations.

Beyond defining strategic sustainability pillars, identifying core sustainability focus areas, and formulating and getting approval from stakeholders on a corporate responsible sourcing policy, progress on corporate governance on sustainability for a&o.

Hostels includes:

  • 50% of integration of sustainability into the company’s compensation scheme by 2024
  • Strengthening diversity of company management, including women and employee representation by 2024
  • Formulation, approval and communication to employees of a corporate “integrity code”

a&o Hostels is encouraging hospitality leaders to embrace the cause of sustainability, for the good it does the planet as well as for the passion that so many contemporary travelers have for it.

“Travelers are both the heart and soul and bread and butter of our industry, and their enthusiasm for sustainable practices will only grow,” notes CEO Winter. “The sooner hospitality leaders lead on sustainability, the better it will be for the future of travel.”