Earth Day action: Sustainability in hospitality and real estate

IHM speaks to hospitality and real estate professionals to learn more about the sustainability initiatives implemented in their businesses, and what the industry should do to lead the way. 

• What is the most important sustainability measure within your business and why?

Giles Beswick, chief purpose officer, Vita Group:

“The journey to net zero calls for a joined-up approach to developing and operating real estate assets sustainably. From designing thermally-efficient buildings in line with the state of the art and to exceed the government’s minimum energy efficiency standards, to accurately monitoring consumed energy, water and wasteful emissions, which informs daily operating strategies including making it easy for residents to adopt positive behaviours. All this then feeds back into the design and operation of future buildings in a virtuous circle driving towards the target of operational net zero.”

Craig Bryant, strategy and business development director, Fresh:

“Within the business, we have some key corporate objectives under our Future Foundations platform, which is divided into three areas: planet, places and people. For example, sustainability targets under Future Planet include net zero scope one and two carbon emissions by 2030, and for our supply chain to be ISO14001 accredited by 2025. Sustainability targets under Future Places include the identification, reporting and action taken to rectify pollution and litter within a five metre radius of all property boundaries.

“As a managing agent of multiple clients, we also recognise our responsibilities to support their efforts in reaching sustainability goals. We have a large number of corporate clients who all have different targets and goals. Fresh acts as a central hub of knowledge which we can share with all clients. We are seeing what technology works and which sustainability frameworks have the greatest impact from an operational level which is key to ensuring we are contributing to a sustainable future.

“We are procuring renewable energy across the portfolio, whereby 100 per cent of our electricity is renewable. We also monitor utility data (electricity, gas and water) and are exploring initiatives and technology to drive down consumption (e.g. heating controls).”

Adrian Gardiner, chairman, Mantis Collection:

“The most important sustainability measure within our business is responsible tourism. We believe that tourism has the power to positively impact local communities and support conservation efforts. Therefore, we ensure that all our hotels, eco-lodges and waterway vessels operate in a manner that promotes responsible tourism practices.

“Our approach to responsible tourism is multi-faceted. We strive to minimise our environmental footprint by implementing energy-efficient technologies, reducing waste, conserving water, promoting social responsibility and supporting conservation initiatives. We also work closely with local communities to ensure that our presence positively impacts their livelihoods. We partner with local suppliers, hire local staff, and support local businesses to promote economic growth in the areas where we operate.

“Moreover, we are dedicated to educating our guests about sustainable tourism practices and the importance of conservation. We believe that by raising awareness, we can encourage our guests to become more responsible travellers.”

Olivia Immesi, managing director at Native Places:

“One of our largest initiatives has been appointing an ESG consultancy to complete a comprehensive assessment of our companies ESG performance and support us to identify opportunities for improvement and investment to lead us to net zero but also future proof the business.

“We have implemented several initiatives; one of the largest investments is in renewable energy sources to power our properties. We have also implemented energy-efficient technologies, such as LED lighting, smart thermostats, and low-flow water fixtures to reduce our energy and water consumption.

“We are also focused on reducing waste and promoting circularity in our operations. We have implemented recycling programs, eliminated single-use plastics, and source local and organic food to reduce our environmental impact. Collective action is critical to achieve a sustainable future within Native.”

Hank Morris, hotelier, The Manchester:

“With the opening of The Manchester, our onsite F&B offerings will feature a seasonal menu changing every three months that celebrates and honours the true harvest of the region to best source local produce and minimise waste. In our guest room bathrooms, we’ve partnered with Le Labo to provide upscale bath amenities in pump bottles rather than mini-bottles to avoid single-use plastic.

“We have also made the decision to install a high-efficiency variant refrigerant flow mechanical system (quite a bit pricier than a traditional HVAC system) in order to significantly reduce the hotel’s electric use and environmental impact.”

Bryan Oknyansky, head of sustainability, Studio Moren:

“Upskilling the office in carbon literacy. The single most important step of the journey to net zero is facilitating the familiarisation of staff across the practice around key terminology and the social, economic and political impacts that the transition to net zero aims to mitigate through positive and informed action.”

Andreea Petrisor, chief growth officer, GuestReady:

“Promoting socially responsible and sustainable hosting by offering guidance to hosts to help them understand their responsibilities as property owners.

“GuestReady increasingly sees guests selecting properties based on their sustainability credentials. In the future, this will become a key selling point, and we will continue to help investors to develop more sustainable properties and market them clearly as such to capture the sustainability-motivated guest.

“Stakeholders such as investors, customers, and advocacy groups, governments and other regulatory bodies, may also put pressure on booking sites and, in turn, property owners to prioritise sustainability and take steps to reduce the environmental impact of short-term rentals.”

Jeremy Sampson, CEO, The Travel Foundation:

“The Travel Foundation’s focus is on tourism’s impact on climate risk and equity. All industries have some impact in these areas, but for tourism this is especially so. Through a climate lens, we can see that tourism must not only adapt to a decarbonising world, but also deal with the increasingly severe impacts of climate change on destinations, particularly in coastal communities where tourism is often concentrated. Through an equity lens, we see that tourism creates a commodity from shared or public assets (the destination), but then does not always cover its costs, or share the benefits.

“We should all be thinking about these two big issues of our time – climate and equity. Of course no single business or organisation can hope to resolve them alone, but together, we can make a meaningful contribution. So it’s vital that, as an industry, we align our objectives against collective targets. Initiatives such as the Glasgow Declaration and the Future of Tourism coalition aim to do just that.”

Phil Stapleton, founder and MD, Situ:

“We are continuing to focus on reducing our scope one and two carbon emissions at our Exeter offices, aiming for net zero by 2025. Solar panels are currently being installed which will enable us to generate the bulk of the energy that we need to run our existing operation, but also our soon to be announced considerably larger office footprint which has sustainability at the heart of its design and development.

“We are also working on a plan to engage with partners across our global supply chain on their sustainability and carbon reduction journeys.”

Celine Vadam, founder and CEO, WE(i) Think:

“As a wellness concept consultant, I spend a lot of time educating and raising awareness on sustainability. This is such a wide topic and every aspect of it has a huge impact: CO2 emission, water consumption, air quality, wellness, social rights, habitat preservation, and so much more. For me and for my clients, communication is the most important measure.

“Raising employees’ awareness of sustainability, informing and encouraging them to take action, can have an enormous impact on pushing sustainability measures – it will ripple across the business and even the wider industry. It is the only way to ensure that sustainability initiatives are being upheld. Training and changing mentalities around what good service looks like, such as not changing bath towels, will be paramount for engaging with guests at a different level.”

• What is the single most important thing the industry should be doing to lead on sustainability and why?

Giles Beswick, chief purpose officer, Vita Group:

“Developing strong partnerships – the sector cannot deliver on its bold ambitions if everybody is doing their own thing. We need to work together with our architects, contractors, key suppliers and ultimately the end-users with aligned objectives which accelerate the progress of all of the things we can do individually. Effective partnerships also call for open and transparent collaboration on identifying and collating data that flows through the operation of real estate assets to insightfully inform the right actions in the right order.”

Craig Bryant, strategy and business development director, Fresh:

“Data collection has taken centre stage however action off the back of this data is needed. For example, utility consumption data in isolation provides a building’s environmental impact, but without introducing ways to actively reduce consumption this data becomes non-meaningful. We think there should be more encouragement to publish data and performance on sustainability. The industry should demonstrate that it is keen to, and is committing to, driving tangible change.

“Work in partnership with residents to promote more sustainable behaviours and choices. We need to drive home (in an appropriate and effective manner and without preaching) that everyone has a responsibility to meet net zero.

“Recent spikes in the energy market should be a great lesson to invest in future technologies that will bear the brunt of market volatility. As prices fall there may be the feeling that less money is needed to be invested into decreasing expenditure (energy prices). However, we believe momentum should be kept up to avoid further volatility.”

Adrian Gardiner, chairman, Mantis Collection:

“Prioritising conservation and biodiversity – as these are the essential elements of sustainable tourism. These two elements help to protect natural ecosystems, preserve wildlife habitats, and support environmental sustainability.

“The hotel and wider travel industry can play a crucial role in supporting conservation efforts by investing in biodiversity protection and restoration programmes, promoting responsible tourism practices, and engaging with local communities to support conservation efforts. By prioritising conservation and biodiversity, the industry can contribute to a more sustainable future and inspire travellers to do the same.”

Hank Morris, hotelier, The Manchester: 

“Working with collaborators who support and value sustainable initiatives. To ensure low impact and conservation of resources, partnering with collaborators across the board between local communities, developers, operations, food and beverage, vendors and suppliers, is crucial to maintain sustainability goals.”

Olivia Immesi, managing director at Native Places:

“Investing in a comprehensive assessment of their business practices and really identify the areas that they can improve while reducing their impact on the environment and supporting their community. Not just green washing.”

Bryan Oknyansky, head of sustainability, Studio Moren:

“The most important thing the real estate industry should do is to asses the baseline carbon footprint and social value of its existing properties to both enable them to strategise asset improvements over the next two decades, and front-load their future development briefs with performance criteria ensuring they’re only building better buildings designed for multi-generational resilience to evolving climate change.”

Andreea Petrisor, chief growth officer, GuestReady:

“Technology has become a driver of efficiency in the short-term rental space. Industry players who want to lead, or simply keep up with the rapid evolution of sustainable hosting will need to fully embrace it in every form; from remote monitoring to smart metres and AI.

“Booking platforms and guest management platforms may begin to integrate carbon footprint calculators into their services to estimate the amount of carbon dioxide emissions generated by a guest’s stay, similar to how airlines calculate this for flights. This calculation will be based on factors such as the length of the stay, the size of the accommodation, and distance travelled and way of transportation to get there.

“Remote monitoring technology can provide real-time data on energy usage and identify areas where energy waste can be reduced. By using smart devices, hosts can monitor the energy consumption of their property and identify sources of energy waste in the property, such as appliances that are left on when they’re not in use or lights that are left on in unoccupied rooms.

“GuestReady continuously focuses on technology to optimise operations, use of resources, data monitoring, and integrations with smart technologies, to name a few. Through data, we can understand the impact that each guest stay has on sustainability drivers like energy use, waste management, and carbon footprint, which will, in turn, raise awareness in the future to the thousands of property owners around the world that are collaborating with us.”

Jeremy Sampson, CEO, The Travel Foundation: 

“Tourism is a great catalyser of action as it cuts across a whole range of different economic and social activities and also provides an incentive for environmental protection. Be sure to understand what specific challenges your community is facing where you are based, by connecting with your DMO or local government, and work out what role you can play to unlock new solutions.

“STR providers have a unique opportunity to support their guests to make best possible choices – both by making sustainability the “default” through the facilities they provide, and also by influencing what their guests see, do and spend money on during their stay.”

Phil Stapleton, founder and MD, Situ:

“Continue to discuss best practice and ideas, but it is also essential that everybody across the industry gets on and takes action to identify how they can reduce their carbon emissions and manage resources. Small steps and changes are a great way to start and can all add up to bigger change. Less talk, more action!

“It’s also important that we all get on with being assessed to validate our sustainability plans and journeys. I doubt that any of us are sustainability experts – but there are companies that are, such as EcoVadis and Greengage. They can really help and support the sector to become more sustainable.”

Celine Vadam, founder and CEO, WE(i) Think:

“I think that what we are lacking at this point is alignment between the stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of an asset. Currently, each stakeholder aims to fulfil their own goals based on individual timelines. For example, a developer might choose a cheaper type of flooring (knowing it will not be their responsibility to upgrade at a later date) versus choosing a more expensive one that will last much longer. The challenge is to find a way to reflect these choices in valuations and imbed that in the long-term vision for the property.”

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