Climate Action Insights: Climate action during lockdown times

April 9, 2021

A double challenge for gastronomy and tourism: climate action as an innovation driver in pandemic times

Hotels, restaurants and tourism businesses are among the sectors hit worst by the Corona pandemic. But even if there is an involuntary standstill, more and more businesses understand that there is a much bigger challenge with climate change. In the long term, their business basis depends above all on maintaining an intact environment, a healthy climate and thus our living conditions as a whole. 

Some companies from the catering and tourism industry are therefore not only continuing to engage with climate action measures but even strengthening them. They can be seen as best-practice examples of an industry that has been in crisis mode for more than a year now and yet still sees the power of innovation in taking on climate action. In this Climate Action Insights report, companies and initiatives from different sectors and countries show what this can look like in concrete terms: the Schwarzwald Panorama Hotel in Germany´s Black Forest region, the British restaurant chain LEONs and the Vitalpin KlimaInvestment initiative from Austria.

Climate action as a core understanding: the Schwarzwald Panorama Hotel 

At the Schwarzwald Panorama Hotel in the German Black Forest, sustainable action has always been deeply anchored in the value chain. This ranges from their building and furnishing materials or ingredients used for their food, cosmetics and the handling of resources and waste. The hotel also offers climate-neutral accommodation, conferences and events, as well as restaurant operations. Guests can also use the embedded CO2 calculator to individually offset their emissions caused by travel.

It pays off that the hotel never rests on its laurels, but is always looking for ways to improve: While the number of overnight stays increased by 20 per cent in the period from 2014 to 2019, CO2 emissions fell by 23 per cent.

Despite the difficult situation caused by Corona, the hotel is sticking to its climate action commitment and in summer 2020 also made the entire operation climate-neutral retroactively for 2019: Together with us, the emission data was collected and reduction and compensation measures were drawn from the carbon footprint. According to this, more than 900 t of CO2 or 22.55 kg of CO2 per overnight stay were produced. 

Even though hotel operations are currently at a standstill, not everything is on hold: the hotel is currently doing a new carbon footprint with us for the past year, will also use this to identify further levers for additional CO2 reductions and will offset the unavoidable residual emissions through certified carbon offset projects.

Stephan Bode, owner of the Schwarzwald Panorama: "We are not letting the current situation slow us down because climate action is not just a short-term initiative for us, but a fundamental attitude. We, therefore, want to continue to offer our guests a completely climate-neutral stay in the future and run a hotel whose impact on the environment and the climate is as low as possible."

Sustainable by system: LEON Restaurants

Also naturally fast-food brand LEON is continuing its commitment to climate action despite severely limited operating options. They are the first in the UK to provide climate-neutral burgers and fries on their to-go menus. An initiative launched in January 2021 - despite setbacks from lockdown. 

LEON had been working to reduce emissions as much as possible even before the pandemic. The company runs entirely on green electricity in its kitchens, excludes meats such as beef from the menu and uses pea protein for some burgers. It also sources most of its ingredients regionally, avoiding unnecessary transport-related emissions. 

Together with us, LEON calculated, reduced and offset the carbon footprint of its burgers and fries at the end of 2020. The process takes into account emissions from the entire supply chain, including all ingredients, packaging and waste, as well as emissions from preparation in the restaurant kitchens of the more than 60 branches. Since January 2021, these climate-neutral products have been on the restaurant menu, which also displays the respective carbon values of the individual meals.

Admittedly, this initially meant an investment in time, resources and also costs, which is all the more remarkable in times of low operating turnover. Despite these current challenges, however, LEON intends to maintain its goals for environmental and climate action. By 2030, the company wants to reach net zero, i.e. the balance between the amount of emissions produced and those removed from the atmosphere.

More about our collaboration with LEON can be seen in this video: https://youtu.be/TF4aRb2UyGc 

Tourism, nature and economy: Vitalpin focuses on cooperation

The Vitalpin initiative founded in 2018 in Austria, is committed to ensuring that the economy, tourism and the protection of the Alps are even more closely intertwined. To this end, Vitalpin has already launched the project "Vitalpin - Your partner in climate action" together with us in 2019. It includes various offers with which we actively support businesses in the tourism, catering and sports sectors in taking on climate action: from the development of standardized calculation models for carbon footprinting to climate-neutrality and climate action workshops for further emission reductions. 

At the beginning of March this year, we expanded our cooperation and launched the joint Vitalpin KlimaInvestment programme. It collects financial resources from companies and uses them to award funding prizes to projects in the field of environmental and climate action and for sustainable business in the Alpine region. The goal is to avoid or further reduce greenhouse gases.

Projects worthy of a prize can come from topics such as sustainable mobility, energy efficiency, investment in and use of renewable energies, carbon sequestration measures, measures to promote biodiversity and circular economy initiatives.

Although most tourism businesses are currently still in lockdown or can only operate under limited conditions, numerous submissions from a wide range of sectors have already been received since the start of the programme. These include proposals in the field of climate-friendly mobility, circular economy or meat-free food in gastronomy. They all want to set up concepts today for environmentally sustainable tourism tomorrow. 

Corona as an accelerator for more climate awareness

The general trend towards more environmental awareness and sustainability can also be observed in the tourism and gastronomy sector. The ongoing pandemic will accelerate this rather than slow it down. Increased hygiene standards, climate and environmental protection, sustainable consumption and conscious nutrition will play a far greater role in future travel and tourism activities than in the past. As clearly as climate action and sustainability are demanded by guests and consumers, they can be understood by hotels and hospitality businesses as clear differentiators and used as drivers of innovation.