A Cloud-Native Approach to Sustainability: Choice Hotels International CIO Brian Kirkland Leads the Way
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A Cloud-Native Approach to Sustainability: Choice Hotels International CIO Brian Kirkland Leads the Way

The Western Connect Magazine - Choice Hotels International CIO Brian Kirkland
Choice Hotels International CIO Brian Kirkland spearheads a sustainability initiative driven by a cloud-native strategy, delivering digital innovations to franchisees and guests alike.

TWC – Choice Hotels International, a renowned $10 billion hospitality company with a rich history spanning 80 years and a presence in 46 countries, has proactively aligned its digital transformation with sustainability. By forging a strong partnership with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Choice Hotels has leveraged cloud technology to achieve cost savings, energy efficiencies, and a range of related services like analytics and AI, significantly enhancing its digital offerings.

“Sustainability is a key driver for us,” says Brian Kirkland, CIO of Choice Hotels International. “While the primary motivation for adopting cloud technology is often scalability and cost management, it also presents an opportunity to improve sustainability. We can effectively reduce carbon emissions by optimizing workloads and utilizing technology that consumes less computing power. By leveraging the real-time capabilities of the cloud and being strategic about it, we can drive down costs and positively impact the environment.”

As a co-founder of sustainableIT.org, an association of 25 senior executive CIOs across various industries who believe in the collective responsibility of technology and IT to drive environmental change, Kirkland is deeply committed to the long-term vision of sustainable business practices.

“As industry leaders, we recognize the importance of our actions,” Kirkland explains. “We have the power to impact the world and the environment significantly. Rather than waiting for someone else to take action, we formed sustainableIT.org last year and have been actively working on establishing partnerships, memberships, and the first-ever IT sustainability standards.”

In recently interviewed Kirkland, discussing Choice Hotels International’s cloud-centric approach, the benefits of digital transformation, and their commitment to sustainability. Here are some key excerpts from their conversation:

On the Cloud Journey: Choice Hotels is not just a hospitality and franchising company but also deeply rooted in technology. Our cloud journey began in 2003 with the implementation of the first cloud-based property management system. However, our significant investment in the cloud started in 2017 when we launched ChoiceEdge, our redesigned, cloud-native central reservation system. In 2019, we committed to AWS and embarked on a five-year migration to move our entire infrastructure to the cloud. We are on track to complete this migration next year, but moving to the cloud is just the first step. We can do much more to leverage the cloud’s capabilities and reap its benefits.

On the Big Picture: Swiss Re, a prominent insurance company, predicts that the failure to address climate change and prioritize sustainability will lead to an 18% decline in global GDP by 2050. This corresponds to a three-degree shift in global temperatures, aligning with the targets set in the Paris Agreement. If we act like technology and business leaders, we can avoid making many places uninhabitable. This realization prompted the formation of sustainableIT.org. It is time for us to act and drive these initiatives forward.

On ESG Cost Savings: We must begin by asking questions to initiate change. An increasing number of individuals are interested in sustainable IT and other ESG-related functions. Collaboration, finding internal and external advocates, and accessing research, best practices, frameworks, and standards are crucial steps. Ultimately, driving accountability and setting goals depend on the metrics we gather. The cloud is a valuable tool, but much work still needs to be done. According to recent data from Amazon, hotels have the most significant opportunity for energy savings among different building types. As a hotel company, we aim to capitalize on this opportunity.

On Demonstrable Progress: Amazon’s AWS carbon footprint tool enables us to measure the emissions generated by our workloads and assess our impact. Last year alone, we saved an impressive 480 million metric tons of carbon emissions, thanks to the cloud. According to Amazon and the National Resource Defense Council, cloud-based servers achieve three to four times higher utilization and an 88% improvement in efficiency compared to on-premise data centers. By leveraging this information and Amazon’s commitment to renewable energy, we can drive sustainability forward collectively.

In conclusion, Choice Hotels International’s CIO, Brian Kirkland, leads the charge toward sustainability through a cloud-native approach. The company’s commitment to digital transformation and environmental responsibility sets an example for the industry. By harnessing the power of the cloud, Choice Hotels International is reducing costs, improving efficiency, and positively impacting the environment. It is an inspiring story of how technology leaders can play a vital role in shaping a sustainable future.

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