The Cavendish wining Gold in Sustainability in the VisitLondon Awards (below) was the culmination of five years of work by the team across the hotel to reduce our environmental impact and achieve our objective of being a leader in the UK for sustainable hotelkeeping.
Frequently I am asked how we achieve so much recognition for our Green activities, it is like asking how someone lost weight, there is no quick fix it is a combination of the will to do things differently, education to understand how to do things differently and what matters, full commitment to the goals and the action required to stay on course when the going gets tough and the team pride in knowing that our commitment to doing is the right thing is worth the effort in the end.
However I will outline below a summary of the steps we took to fundamentally transform the operation of our business to be a leader in Green Tourism in the UK.
Five years ago we made the commitment as a Management team to understand and quantify our impact on the environment and identify the action steps we could take to reduce it. We commissioned an audit from the Carbon Trust the recommendations were primarily on reductions in electricity gas and water usage, we implemented the recommendations over a year and the initial cost savings combined with some minor capital investment the hotel became top of benchmark in energy consumption.
We committed to join the Considerate Hoteliers Association (CHA) and this became the key source of education to broaden our understanding of what Sustainability means in practice and educate the team in the steps they could take. The CHA breaks it down into 4 areas energy and water reduction, waste reduction by effective recycling or better still challenging suppliers to reduce packaging in the first place, e.g our vegetable supplier was asked to introduce plastic crates to replace cardboard at our instigation and a commitment to Sustainable Food, including the purchasing of Fair Trade products.
In 2007 we were honoured with the Considerate Hotelier of The Year Award. Sustain hosts Workshops and Seminars which a number of our key managers attend they have seven principles which include:
- Use local seasonally available foods to minimize energy used in food production, transport and storage.
- Specify food from farming systems that minimize harm to the environment.
- Source food produced to high environmental and animal welfare standards. All our pork comes from Wicks Manor Farm in Essex, meat is sourced only from the UK, all our eggs are free range, all our tea coffee sugar is fair trade, we only serve MSC certified fish.
- Avoid bottled water. We installed a Pure filtered bottled water system that saved is £14k in the first year on bottled water.
- Our Restaurant Petrichor is on target to become the first hotel restaurant in the UK to achieve Gold accreditation from the Sustainable Restaurant Association launched last year.
We have been very challenging to our suppliers and changed virtually all our food suppliers to suppliers with a genuine commitment to sustainability, "that does not mean a statement of intent on the website we visit the farm to ensure we see for ourselves the farming practices".
On recycling we have changed companies three times until we sourced one that could deliver on our commitment to zero waste to landfill including food recycling. My experience is that you can find suppliers out there that understand and are committed but they are not usually the ones with the big advertising budgets the more hotelier's question suppliers and make a genuine commitment to reducing environmental impact the more opportunity these companies will have. It was a struggle 5 years ago to find a major coffee supplier that offered Fair Trade this is now a norm this has come about from consumer pressure we can make suppliers change to compete if we care enough to ask the right questions on behalf of our guests who ultimately consume the products in the hotel.
In 2008 we committed to achieving Gold Accreditation from Green Tourism for London this scheme has over 100 criteria split into 10 categories. The plan we developed gave us a deeper understanding of how to reduce our environmental impact based on these principles, set accountability to the departmental managers and we monitored implementation via our monthly management meeting. The majority of hotels use Green Teams to promote environmental actions we however do not take this approach, ALL managers are on the Green team with actions agreed quarterly and the impact reviewed by the Hotel Manager, Chris Penn, this ensures accountability and that actions are aligned to the overall business plan.
The impact on our business has been immense we operate a very commercial hotel business in a tough competitive climate. Our corporate and leisure customers appreciate our efforts and can see the difference. We have made cumulative operational savings of over £150k in five years with minimal capital investment just by reducing waste and our overall Food Quality Guest Satisfaction Ratings in Petrichor are over 90% as the effort our Head Chef Nitin Padwal makes to find and visit high quality sustainable food producers ensure our guests are enjoying the freshest seasonal produce on the market.
I started this blog by stating that you achieve Gold is not easy but you can however start with taking small steps. Ghandi said "be the change you want to see in the world". My team have responded to the challenge, in the early days we had to push to keep the progress moving forward but as the team grows to understand the benefits to the business, they support each other and their awareness and pride in the difference their actions make, gives them a greater sense of purpose to use their leadership to make a difference to the community and the combined impact of lots of small changes is huge. The majority of the initiatives in recent years have come directly from the department leaders as they empower themselves to use the principles in all aspects of running their department.
If you are serious about making your hotel business or any other business you operate more sustainable the following websites are all you need to make a start and educate yourself and our team on the steps you could take and build into your business plan next year.
The Carbon Trust
The Considerate Hotelier's Association
Green Business UK