February 1, 2023

More than just reusable cups

Billy Hughes at The Ascott Limited explains why sustainability needs to be more than just customer-facing measures and PR opportunities

Sustainability has moved further up the agenda in recent years as the hospitality sector seeks to stay current with GenZ and Millennial buying habits. The latest Hotel Tech Report found 81% of travellers plan to choose sustainable accommodation in 2022. While this presents the hospitality sector with a great opportunity, it has also opened the door to businesses giving empty promises when it comes to pledging to be more sustainable.

Green efforts don’t have to be flashy

It can be tempting to invest in client-facing environmentally friendly initiatives to demonstrate sustainability credentials and gain brownie points with target audiences. Talk of reusable cups; a company ban on single-use plastics and a pledge to going paperless (thanks to technological advancements, many hotels are almost paperless by nature already) isn’t enough to tackle the reality of climate change. While these ideas can be good, if used alongside other environmentally friendly initiatives, it is often ‘behind the scenes’ where the true impact can be made.

For example, one of our apart’hotels, Citadines Holborn-Covent Garden London, has recently won an award for its collaboration with Nationwide Air Conditioning Limited and Knowledge in Power to install a CO2-reducing heat pump. While news about a new boiler system may make your PR team work harder to get the eco-friendly message in front of your audience, the environmental impact this change will have compared to a one-off ‘ride your bike to work’ day speaks for itself.

The project, led by Ryan Jules, The Ascott Limited’s Regional Maintenance Manager UK, saw Co2 emissions reduce in the property by 75% – the equivalent to 95 tonnes. The property originally had gas-fired boilers, but Knowledge in Power designed a system using a method known as energy accumulation to meet the property’s typical usage. The heat pump generates the energy, and a thermal store holds the hot water until it is needed. The successful installation will be introduced in Citadines Barbican and Citadines Trafalgar Square in London in a phased approach over the next couple of years.

Conserve resources where possible

The obsession to promote, and therefore invest, in customer-facing sustainability initiatives can – at times – lead to companies overlooking simple behind-the-scenes changes that would make a true impact. We know less is more when it comes to single-use plastics and non-recyclable materials, but companies often overlook water usage.

Excessive water usage has a huge impact on our planet and puts strain on the fragile freshwater ecosystem. According to Colorado Water’s study, the daily average water usage per hotel room ranges from 100-400 gallons. Many hotels now encourage their guests to reuse towels or clearly indicate which ones they have used so that only dirty laundry is washed. While this is certainly a great place to start, and customers will be pleased water usage is being considered, reviewing the efficiency of the current washing systems to see if energy and water wastage could be reduced helps to tackle the problem at source and will have a much bigger impact on the environment over time.

Ascott has installed WeWash technology to existing laundry rooms throughout its UK and German Citadines portfolio. WeWash is a retrofit digitalised system which upgrades existing machines and focuses on a resource-conserving use. The installation makes machines more energy-efficient, reduces noise pollution, has shorter running programmes than typical washers and lessens water consumption.

Making the most of local

An easy and cost-effective way to reduce a hotel’s carbon footprint is by making the most of your local area. Many hotels have become well-practiced in promoting the locality of its food and beverage to provide customers with fresh, authentic dining experiences.  But think beyond food and beverage: can products, furniture, equipment be sourced locally too? While the customer may not be as interested in how close to home the cutlery, for example, was made and sourced, it is the sum of these decisions that will have a true impact on the environment over time.

Consider how you can encourage eco-friendly travel for your workforce too. For example, providing incentives for public transport use, housing staff who are working a late shift followed by an early shift, or encouraging lift sharing can be a great way to reduce a company’s overall carbon impact.

As the saying goes, there really is no plan(et) B, and operating sustainably should not be driven by monetary benefits and the chance to secure PR opportunities. This is no longer a trend introduced by Millennials and GenZ, it is essential for our futures. A new age of customer is being born; a generation actively pushing for more eco-friendly travel options, and they won’t fall for customer-facing gimmicks or half-hearted pledges that soon get forgotten.

Billy Hughes is Area General Manager UK at Ascott Limited, which has committed to achieving a 78% reduction in carbon emissions intensity by 2030.