The initiative is part of a new partnership with Pur Projet, an expert in developing community forestation projects and is designed to take Accor's Planet 21 sustainability strategy, which it launched last year, to the next level.
Sophie Flak, Accor's executive vice president for sustainable development, told BigHospitality the hotel chain could re-invest the annual 7m Euro saving by guests re-using towels back into the business, but had decided to put half of it towards the project to further support its sustainability aim.
"Plant for the Planet is at the heart of our sustainability programme and we believe it can make a real impact," she said. "Worldwide we aim to launch 21 projects by the end of 2013 and we expect to finance 200,000 trees in three years in the UK alone.
"Plant for the Planet will cut our energy and water consumption thanks to laundry savings, support organic and low-impact farmers and involve our guests in pioneering a sustainable food system. This new initiative demonstrates our commitment to responsible growth which generates shared value for all."
The programme will be managed by the Woodland Trust in the UK with help from the Soil Association and Organic Research Centre and will see 200,000 trees planted on 50 farms in the UK by 2015.
When planted in the right place on farms, trees are said to have major benefits for farmers, such as enriching soils, improving water efficiency in crops and even providing shade and shelter for livestock.
"It's about making trees work for the farm to deliver a range of benefits," said Woodland Trust partnerships manager Helen Chesshire. "They can improve productivity, reduce spending on fertilisers and make farms more resilient to extreme weather. Trees thoughtfully integrated into farms can deliver real business benefit and enhance the environment."
As well as helping the environment, Flak said there was scope to work further with farmers through the project by buying produce directly from them that would appear on hotel restaurant menus, although she said it would depend on a range of factors.
The message will be communicated to guests through hangers which explain that their towel re-use will contribute towards planting trees.
Flak said: "We want guests to know that when they go to the effort of re-using towels or linen that it is making a difference. Of course we make savings when they do, our mantra is 'people, planet, profit' so if there was no profit we wouldn't do it, but this way we think we are doing something that makes a difference."
"Plant for the Planet establishes Accor as a global pioneer of ecosystem preservation with a vision of sustainable hospitality in which hotels actively help to preserve their regional environment," added Tristan Lecomte, founder of Pur Project. "If more companies did this we could really change the world."
Planet 21 - one year on
Following the launch of its sustainability strategy Planet 21 last year, Accor carried out an assessment of its effectiveness one year on.
In the UK, there are currently four hotels with BREEAM certification (worldwide environmental assessment method) - Ibis Budget Manchester Pollard Street, Ibis London Shepherd's Bush, Ibis London Blackfriars and Novotel London Blackfriars - while overall targets are high among the owned, leased and managed hotels the company controls directly.
Eleven hotels have the company's Gold rating, which 31 have Silver and 72 have Bronze. Seventy-three have not yet been certified.