Airbnb, a global online marketplace for lodging and tourism experiences, has made significant strides in its sustainability efforts. According to their 2022 Corporate Sustainability Update and Final Fact Sheet, in 2021, the company committed to operating as a net-zero company for its corporate operations by 2030. This includes reducing its corporate greenhouse gas emissions in line with science-based targets and using high-quality, nature-based solutions to address residual emissions. “Addressing climate change is one of the greatest challenges of our generation,” said Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky. “Committing to Net Zero is the latest action we’re taking to lower carbon emissions and we will continue to work with our community to promote sustainable travel.”
Achieving 100% Renewable Electricity
Per the above referenced sustainability updates and fact sheets, Airbnb announced in 2022 that it had reached its 100% renewable electricity procurement target. The company achieved this milestone by purchasing energy attribute certificates (such as renewable energy certificates, guarantees of origin, or similar instruments) sufficient to match 100% of its global electricity use for corporate operations. As a member of the RE100, a global corporate renewable energy initiative, Airbnb plans to continue sourcing renewable energy according to RE100 standards and explore opportunities to transition to more direct sources of renewable energy. The company plans to take additional steps to continue reducing these emissions, including improving office energy data collection, conducting a detailed building sustainability review for its San Francisco headquarters, and refining its office sustainability guidelines to identify further emissions reduction opportunities in its buildings and the materials used to create them.
Going beyond Scope 2 emissions reduction
Airbnb’s sustainability commitment doesn’t stop with its operational scope 2 emission reduction strategy. They’re also taking steps to reduce Scope 3 emissions, which are indirect emissions that occur in the value chain of the company. They do so in a few ways that truly demonstrate their sustainability leadership - focused on three areas - its suppliers, employee business travel and most importantly, its hosts.
The Supplier Sustainability Program helps its vendors implement or maintain their own emissions reduction plans. This aims to address the largest source of Airbnb's Scope 3 corporate emissions. By engaging suppliers in emissions reductions, Airbnb is working towards reducing the environmental impact of its value chain. The company supports suppliers who want to reduce their emissions by helping them create and maintain their own emissions reduction plans to address the largest source of Airbnb's Scope 3 corporate emissions. The program aims to drive down emissions by asking suppliers, beginning with some of the largest, to commit to measuring and reporting their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and implementing or maintaining emissions reduction plans. The program includes but is not limited to:
Providing guidance on measuring and reporting greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
Offering resources and tools to help suppliers develop emissions reduction plans.
Providing financial incentives or other benefits to suppliers who achieve emissions reductions.
Offering training or education to suppliers on emissions reduction strategies.
Providing access to experts or consultants who can help suppliers develop and implement emissions reduction plans.
Airbnb also focuses on cost management and reduced travel by its employees for both business travel and their commutes as another strategy. With this approach, the company’s Scope 3 (absolute) emissions declined by 34.3% from 2019 to 2021. This reduction was driven by a mix of overall cost management, pandemic-related reductions in spending, and reduced business travel and employee-related emissions due to the move to hybrid and remote work.
Lastly, Airbnb also runs programs to help its hosts reduce their carbon footprints by making their homes more sustainable. Hosts in the US can incorporate clean energy for their homes through a partnership with Arcadia to access community solar. When they sign onto the program, hosts receive a $150 utility bill credit from Arcadia (spread over six months) and Arcadia will match their listing’s energy use with renewable energy certificates (RECs).
“We are excited to work with Arcadia to make renewable energy more accessible for members of our host community,” Ameet Konkar, director of sustainability for Airbnb, said in a statement. “We all have a role to play in combating climate change, and partnerships with companies like Arcadia help give our hosts tools to reduce their carbon footprint and reduce energy bills, all while supporting more sustainable options for our guests.” Hosts can also participate in an additional program that helps them electrify their homes and make them more efficient by adding heat pumps. “We know Airbnb Hosts in the US are interested in learning how they can adopt more sustainable practices for their homes, and we are excited to equip them with the right information and tools to help them take advantage of energy incentives that can save them money and reduce their carbon footprint,” added Konkar.
The Impact of RECs with Additionality
If Airbnb were to include RECs with additionality in its strategy, it could potentially improve its progress in several ways:
Increasing the speed of grid transition to renewable energy: RECs with additionality can help accelerate the transition to renewable energy sources by supporting the development of new renewable energy projects.
Mitigating costs over time: By using RECs with additionality, Airbnb could potentially mitigate the costs associated with continued renewable energy procurement, as these certificates help support the growth of renewable energy supply and drive down prices over time.
Enhancing marketing claims for sustainability: RECs with additionality can provide a more impactful marketing claim for sustainability purposes, as they demonstrate a direct contribution to the growth of renewable energy projects.
Scaling emission reduction strategies: As Airbnb's business continues to grow and consume more electricity, RECs with additionality can provide the necessary scale to cover increased consumption and maintain the company's commitment to reducing emissions.
In conclusion, Airbnb has made significant progress in its sustainability efforts by achieving its 100% renewable electricity procurement target in 2022 and reducing its Scope 2 emissions. The company is committed to maintaining this target and exploring opportunities to transition to more direct sources of renewable energy. Including RECs with additionality in its strategy could further enhance Airbnb's progress and impact in the fight against climate change.