June 13, 2024

Setting standards

In the fragmented world of serviced apartments, how do travel buyers find the most sustainable partners? Catherine Chetwynd investigates

Not only is sustainability becoming a driving force for suppliers of serviced apartments and in buyers’ requirements, the sector is also looking at how all elements of the industry can pull together to provide a recognisable measure of sustainability.

This is a wide-ranging brief. “It involves everything from the construction of a building through every aspect of operation, supply chain and planning, to recruitment, provision of benefits and even pension facilities,” says CEO of ASAP James Foice. However, it is not cut and dried.

LEED certification may prove ethical construction but where operators are leasing a space they have no control over the building, energy supply or emissions, and serviced apartment agents are one step farther removed from that.

Worse still, there is no one measure of sustainability and although agents and operators are beginning to subscribe to valid protocols, they largely do not marry up, making it the devil’s job for buyers to work out who is doing what and compare it.

Forensic questioning is required, starting with whether the organisation has a sustainability programme, what its aims and achievements are, and whether it is measurable against a public standard such as the UN Global Compact, covering everything from renewable energy to ethical recruitment. Does it monitor the performance of clients and suppliers, and equally important, what is in the pipeline for renewing contracts and finding new suppliers?

The lack of uniformity is being tackled by ASAP, CHPA, ERC and EuRA, which are combining forces with other key players in the industry to promote discussion and move towards a universal way of measuring sustainability. Green Tourism is part of this, as is operator Flying Butler. Director at essa marketing, Richard Majewski, supports this approach: “There needs to be understanding and collaboration in the sector between clients, agents and operators,” he says.

Director of CAP Worldwide Jo Layton adds: “At the moment, everyone is doing their own thing and that doesn’t help anybody. Sustainability has to be collaborative, not ‘mine is better than yours’. It’s not a marketing opportunity. This needs to be led by an external body that understands the industry.”

If there were any doubt as to the disparity of approach, organisations are working with the following bodies: GRESB (real estate certification), Considerate Group, Greengage ECOsmart, Green Key, Responsible Ethical Sustainable Travel (REST) Scheme, United Nations Global Compact, Green Tourism and Science Based Target initiative (SBTi). And this list is not exhaustive.

“Sustainability has to be collaborative, not ‘mine is better than yours’. It’s not a marketing opportunity”

Situ has signed up to the United Nations Global Compact and reports annually on how it is performing against the UN’s 10 principles – 7, 8 and 9 focus on sustainability – and it has achieved ISO14001 certification in environmental management. It encourages its supply chain to be assessed for Greengage ECOsmart accreditation and plans to deploy technology to allow clients to filter properties by green credentials.

Staying Cool is gold rated by Green Tourism, and a number of Frasers Hospitality UK properties have achieved bronze and silver. Fraser Suites in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Queens Gate and at Park International Hotel are use 100% renewable energy and teams will soon wear uniforms made from 100% recycled plastic. Frasers is aiming for UN Global Compact goals and plans to reduce energy consumption by 15% by 2025.

Flying Butler is switching to EVs for maintenance staff, as is Roomspace, which is installing solar panels on its warehouse. Synergy has set a net zero target date of 2030 backed by SBTI. CAP Worldwide will be net zero by 2023.

Until there is a universal approach, buyers will rely on the ability to filter suppliers’ services online, and any agent or operator committed to the cause will provide this. House of Fisher has a dedicated web page on sustainability and Reside 3Sixty’s vetting process looks weekly at suppliers’ CSR and DE&I initiatives.

Mysa’s new platform Myo sets sustainability standards that all operators and properties need to meet in order to become available for corporates to book and buyers have complete access to all the information associated with each operator.

In a sustainability partner initiative, SilverDoor is collecting information from partners worldwide to allow it to guide operators to improve their offering and to make properties searchable by sustainability rating. It is also collaborating with other agencies to establish standard measures for the industry. Cheval Collection is working with Considerate Group to create and maintain a sustainability strategy and it plans to carry out regular performance checks on suppliers.

“Sustainability is a huge, complex subject with widespread ramifications and tackling it can only effectively be done collaboratively to ensure uniformity and cohesion”

Ascott brand Citadines is now trialling technology that controls air conditioning according to whether a room is occupied and is installing more environmentally-friendly water heating systems. Ascott aims to reduce water consumption by 50% through aerated water and other methods. CapitaLand Investment, which owns Ascott, has a 2030 Sustainability Master Plan with three goals: to build a resilient and resource-efficient real estate portfolio, to enable thriving and future-adaptive communities, and to accelerate sustainability innovation and collaboration.

Edyn holds up Turing Locke in Cambridge as an example of sustainability ideals in action. It’s in the new neighbourhood of Eddington, built by the University of Cambridge as an exemplar of sustainable living. The building is certified BREEAM Excellent and includes on-site renew-able energy sources feeding excess energy into the local grid, responsibly-sourced furniture, lighting, and timber, a communal under-ground recycling system, sustainable modes of transport for guests (bikes) and a large, landscaped courtyard to boost local biodiversity.

Compared to hotels, serviced apartments by their very nature offer several sustainability-related advantages, not least that longer stays require less housekeeping and laundry and serviced apartment guests control their energy and water consumption and recycling. Where groups stay in an apartment, energy savings are notable.

“With major companies now encouraging fewer journeys and longer stays, and with guest wellbeing being paramount, serviced apartments are the natural choice for traveller accommodation,” says Head of Sales UK for Premier Suites Treda Shotton.

Sustainability is a huge, complex subject with widespread ramifications and tackling it can only effectively be done collaboratively to ensure uniformity and cohesion. The sector is now pulling together to take that step.