BEST PRACTICE: Certifying hotel sustainability

A look at the benefits of accreditation and the firms offering it

Many of our hotel experts have implemented waste-reduction initiatives and limit the use of chemicals in daily operations.
Many of our hotel experts have implemented waste-reduction initiatives and limit the use of chemicals in daily operations.

In an industry that is already fairly energy intensive, working in a mainly desert environment is hardly helping Middle East hotels in their efforts to voice their green credentials. There are those who say the talk of hotels being green and sustainable is simply more hot air being blown into the arid climate.

However, one way of proving there is substance to the claim of being green is by getting accreditation, but there are a number of companies out there that provide this service.

They differ in their focus; some are certificates conducted in-house, while others use third-party investigators. Others offer no certification, but provide a visible platform whereby guests can see the sustainability statistics of the property online.

Who cares?
But why do hotels want to spend time and money going through the process in the first place; does anyone staying at the hotel really care about the property’s sustainability practices?

If we are being honest, surely photographs, price and reviews sway our hotel booking decisions rather than its eco rating? But this may be an outdated way of thinking as director of engineering Dusit Thani Dubai, Johnny Ding says.

“People really do care about accreditation and they are becoming more environmentally aware and particular on who and where they spend their money,” he asserts.

“They are looking for industries and service providers who share a similar ideology and care for the environment.”

Operations manager, environment, health and sanitation, The Fairmont Dubai, Shelendra Singh, concurs, adding that “many of our guests are concerned about the environment, and do look for green programmes implemented at the property”.

“Our guests have told us that they want to learn about our destinations, such as learning about endangered species. These guests are aware of our environmental efforts and do indeed value them.”

And it’s not just about PR either as Jean-Francois Asimus, general manager, Dusit Residence Dubai Marina, explains.

“I think public relations plays a role in environmental programmes only as far as alerting travellers and guests to the sustainability efforts of the hotel, but it is not the reason for participating in environmentally-friendly initiatives and programmes,” he insists.

“Getting involved in green projects should never be a public relations exercise — that is the wrong motivation.”

Ding is adamant that being green is not about PR but “leading through best practice and encouraging others in the industry to become involved”.

“It’s about doing the right thing without the need for recognition or reward,” he says. But cynics may say that these initiatives would not be taking place without a strong financial pressure to do so.

For hospitality giant Marriott, while money is by no means the only reason to address sustainability, there was a very solid business reason to tackle the ‘green issue’.

Interestingly the company has not opted for certification, deciding to go down a different route as Denise Naguib, vice president sustainability & supplier diversity, Marriott International, reveals.

“We have plenty of hotels that have signed up for those schemes, but it is not something that we are mandating. We have a five-point strategic sustainability strategy that drives all of these decisions to develop and implement sustainability projects,” Naguib continues.

“Our global platform is Green Hotels Global and that is providing us a consistent basis across the world, not for certification, but data collection and environmental practice points that are consistent.”

The company’s 35 Middle East properties, bar Libya, have activated the tool that was deployed in May.

This entails providing information to calculate all the various metrics such as utility data for energy and carbon footprint, water footprint, waste data and answering 58 environmental practice questions.

The company opted for this particular method after more than 40 of Marriott’s largest corporate customers began requiring the information as part of their business travel RFP (Request for Proposal).

“That’s a pretty important audience for us to be able to respond to,” Naguib explains.

“So we wanted to make sure deploying globally – these 40 customers touch every single one of our hotels across the globe — that we are able to deliver consistently and effectively this information to our customers. That was the premise behind using this centralised, third-party tool as opposed to having something internal.”

There is also a growing concern over environmental issues from generations X and Y, and there is heightened interest throughout the region that cannot be ignored in the long term.

The Future
With the future in mind we asked what was next regarding green initiatives and campaigns.

Singh says it will be a case of “continually improving our existing rating”.
“The Green Key programme is self-assessed and as a company we are researching more stringent external accreditation scheme options, such as Green Globe,” he confirms.

Ding, whose property uses Green Globe certification, says the focus will be on the engineering and stewarding teams to lead the way in the hotel’s green efforts.

“We are continually reviewing our initiatives and policies to ensure we are achieving the best we can and are working very closely with a number of bodies to look at areas for development.”

For Asimus it is a case of going for a gold rating with EarthCheck, while Marriott International’s aim is to reduce energy consumption by 20% per occupied room by 2020. Meanwhile, Rezidor is targeting a 25% energy consumption reduction by 2016 in all Rezidor hotels across EMEA.

Certification and benchmarking offers a chance for companies to provide a base from which they can improve their green performance.

Furthermore, it is an opportunity to engage with guests, many of whom are becoming increasingly eco-aware.

The added benefit of course is the reduction in costs so environmentalists and money men are happy – resulting in a win-win situation.

Ultimately though, for any decision that requires a major capital expenditure, it is down to the owners of the hotels, rather than the operators.

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Case Study 1
THE HOTEL: Radisson Blu Residence Dubai Marina, UAE

Why Green Key?
- To support our commitment to responsible business and to be recognised as a sustainable business partner to our guests and employees.
- The hotel has always maintained an eco-friendly ethos, but the opportunity to be recognised by an independent specialist would support our positive environmental initiatives.

The main changes?
- Implementation of a robust recycling programme including paper, plastics, glass and aluminium, as well as the safe disposal of electrical items including batteries.
Installation of a water tank to collect the AC condensation water to irrigate the hotel grounds and vegetation.
- Changed the original incandescent lamps to CFL lamps.
- Implementation of regular RB and environmental training sessions for all of the hotel employees.
- Commitment to local community activities including the annual earth-hour celebration.  

On-going initiatives?
- Transfer of CFL lamps to LED throughout the hotel.
- Employee accommodation monthly energy saving challenge – part of Think Planet energy-saving scheme.
- Collection of can ring pulls for the Philippine community fund.
- VFD installation for FAHU & Extraction units.

The future?
- Implementation of solar power energy to support hot-water production.
- Roof-top garden.
- Water restrictors on all taps within guest rooms and public areas.
- Installation of push- button taps and toilet cistern displacement bags within the employee changing facilities. 

Total time?
Six months.


Case Study 2
THE HOTEL: Ramada Muscat Hotel

- We have guidelines from head office that we adhere to but we wanted to go an extra step. 
- We wanted to be measured up against our competitors and peers.
- We wanted to see where we stood and discover ways to improve performance.

The main changes?
- In Oman very few buildings were fitted with LED lights. We are currently at 75% LED and hope to be 100% soon.
- There are a substantial number of lights of all shapes and sizes in our hotel and not one of them was LED. To change them all was expensive and labour intensive. This links up with the Energy Management System (EMS). To see for ourselves and show to our owners what we are saving in the long run everything has to be measured and documented.

On-going initiatives?
- Linen and towel re-use programme.
- Energy-efficient lights and technology.
- Low-flow water devices and water recycling processes.
- Recycling what we can (as there are currently no facilities in Oman).
- Smoke-free public areas.
- Using paper only when we must and then to use recycled where possible.
- Purchasing local, organic food where possible as well as eco-friendly products with recorded MSDS documents.
- Community projects like beach clean ups, tree planting etc.

The future?
- We are still in the benchmarking phase of EarthCheck and hope to get certified at the end of the year.
- Looking for new ideas and concepts to help our hotel help the environment.
- Getting staff and community involved to turn the tide against indifference towards sustainability.

total time?
It’s almost been a year and we have still not cleared the backlog of what needs to be done, but this should be completed soon.

Case Study 3
THE HOTEL: Mövenpick Resort & Spa Dead Sea

Why Green Globe?
Green Globe is the premier global certification for sustainability. In 2011, the hotel was awarded with the world’s highest score in the Green Globe programme.

The changes
During 2010, we invested around JD 1 million into energy saving and environmental-related projects such as: solar energy; LPG heating; Advanced Building Management System (BMS); Frequency controllers for air-handling units; Water savers for shower heads and taps; and use of LED lighting.

Green initiatives
- The hotel has its own STP (Sewage treatment Plan), where all gardens, distributed over 100,000m² are being irrigated through gray water which is also used for the cleaning of all outdoor public areas.
- Special valves are used in shower heads and water taps, saving up to 30% of water.
- A daily energy monitoring system is in place and supported by a monthly comparative analysis by Farnek Avireal to show achievements against industry benchmarks.
- We have a waste recycling programme.
- All our room amenities are being produced in the neighbouring villages, in line with our sustainability programmes to support local labour and families living close by. This programme is managed by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN).
What’s next?
The hotel keeps on seeking opportunities to save the environment and practice its sustainability responsibility. We are now working on a CO2 reduction initiative, besides continuing on practicing all the initiatives listed above.

What was the cost of achieving the certification?
In the range of US $5000 per hotel.

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