Suppliers Roundtable: Sustainable sense

Sustainability experts reveal solutions which make sense for the Middle East’s hospitality sector

Jakob Johanssen.
Jakob Johanssen.
Sandrine Le Biavant.
Sandrine Le Biavant.
Peter Avram.
Peter Avram.

Sustainability experts reveal solutions which make sense for the Middle East’s hospitality sector.Meet the experts:Peter Avram, Avani Middle East director;Ronald Diab, Energy Efficiency Group (EEG) managing director;Jakob Johanssen, Quooker managing partner;Sandrine Le Biavant, Farnek consultancy director.

What are the latest developments in the sustainability sector?

Peter Avram: At Avani, we believe among the strongest developments in the sustainability sector are shifting consumer preferences and growing movement of social entrepreneurs and innovators who are disrupting traditional business models and bringing sustainability to the forefront of business decision making. For mid-market hotels, the challenge will be to adapt and change to new hospitality and food and beverage concepts that drive a positive behavioural change and are not purely adoption of wider corporate sustainable initiatives.

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Ronald Diab: Sustainability development is moving mainstream generally and globally. Utilities consumption (energy & water) reductions, material recycling, waste water treatment, are examples of what is being pushed through larger organisations. The UNWTO (UN World Tourism Organization) has been heavily engaged in promoting sustainable development in the hospitality business, and I can only see beneficial results for all hotels, including mid-market ones.

Jakob Johanssen: Within my field the major change has been discussions on how we can change from bottled water to filtered tap water. Three years ago, it was difficult for us to convince our clients to use filtered tap water. Today everyone knows it is good water quality, very sustainable and environmentally friendly. Saying no to plastic bottled water means reducing carbon footprint and acting towards a more sustainable world.

Sandrine Le Biavant: Food waste is an issue that is having a major impact on the environment. It is critical that hotels master the management of food waste, which represents up to 60% of their overall waste and contributes to global warming through methane emissions. Over 30% of food wastage in the UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia is leftover or discarded food in restaurants, which peaks during Ramadan. According to the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment, it was estimated that there is almost AED15 billion (US$4 billion) in annual food waste in the UAE, compared with over $2.5 billion globally.

What is your bestselling offering for the hospitality industry?

Avram: Our most famous products are the Avani Bio-Cassava bags, a sustainable alternative to plastic bags, which are 100% natural, biodegradable, compostable and recyclable, certified non-toxic, dissolve in water and proven to be harmless when consumed by animals. Avani’s launch in the UAE provide the hospitality industry with access to these revolutionary products for the first time. Avani Bio-Cassava bags come in multiple sizes from small retail bags through to large waste disposable bags and can be branded with any company logo. Oxo-biodegradable bags are available in the UAE but are increasingly being banned in other countries as they are not 100% biodegradable and continue to be harmful to the environment.

Diab: Our detailed hospitality Energy Auditing is our best-selling service. It is a foundation work that has helped hotel properties with a clear road map on overall optimisation schemes. While energy auditing results vary from one company to another, we believe that EEG always leaves a mark at every hotel we have audited  because of our ‘boutique’ approach, going the extra mile and thinking out of the box.

Johanssen: Our bestsellers are our Nordic taps which is ideal for front and back side in lounge areas, cafés & restaurantes These taps supply instant boiling water, chilled & sparkling water which is sustainable both in energy consumption and water consumption, easy and safe to use. The Fusion tap has the same advantages but also offers hot and cold water and is recommended for serviced apartments.

Le Biavant: Sales of our Hotel Optimizer software are really gaining momentum. This internet-based tool records the energy and water used and the waste and CO2 that a hotel generates and then benchmarks that performance with similar types of hotels. Our monthly reports then highlight savings (taking into consideration varying occupancy levels and F&B covers) that the hotel can generate by implementing activities in the key areas which are identified.

What new offerings has your company launched recently?

Avram: We launched our company Avani in the UAE this October, providing 100% sustainable disposable packaging solutions and compostable plastic alternatives for the hospitality and retail industries. As well as Avani Bags, our range includes: Bio-Paper Cups and Bio Paper Bowls which are certified biodegradable and compostable by international standards; The Bio-Pla Cup and Straws that perform like traditional plastic but are 100% certified biodegradable and compostable; Bio-Paper Straws that utilise plant-based inner wax coating and are 100% biodegradable; Bio-Bagasse Box, made of sugar cane and provides an amazing biodegradable solution for takeaway and come in a range of sizes; and our Bio-Cutlery which is made from birchwood from FSC certified forests.

Diab: We have just launched HEP, an online portal which will help hospitality groups align their utilities and sustainability management across all their properties. It will lead to a reduction in energy costs, in addition to improving their sustainability footprint. HEP was developed as a result of our 22 years working with over 250 hotel properties in 23 countries.

Johanssen: The Nordic mixer tap which is connected to our chiller and provides filtered chilled and sparkling water is our latest offering. Quooker also provides sustainable glass bottles in different sizes, with or without branding, to serve water in cafés, restaurants etc.

Le Biavant: Farnek has been accredited by the Dubai Regulatory & Supervisory Bureau, as an Energy Services Company (ESCO). That means we are qualified to identify, design, deliver and even finance energy reducing projects. By investing in equipment and materials that will generate energy efficiencies, we can also guarantee the energy savings and the return on investment.

How does your company help hotel clients to achieve sustainability goals?

Avram: The main challenge for mid-market hoteliers is price point and the cost implications often associated with switching to more sustainable solutions. With advancements in technology, however, sustainable alternatives are no longer as prohibitive for mid-market hoteliers to adopt and at Avani we aim to drive awareness and education of the benefits of our new range of products. Some are slightly more expensive but most are as competitive on price as less sustainable options.

Diab: One of the main challenges is access to the necessary funds to implement improvement schemes. At EEG we can assist by taking a direct role in financing for sure, or else we have also worked extensively across many countries in assisting clients apply for existing agencies funding (AFD, UNDP etc).

Johanssen: Our systems help with savings on energy and drinking water. We help eliminate the use of plastic bottled water.

Le Biavant: Our Hotel Optimizer software can potentially save hotels million as well as make operations more environmentally-friendly. Green Globe certification is a great platform to ensure all levels of requirement are tackled in all departments. It is a seal of approval, that your hotel has matched designated international standards of sustainability. Another major issue for hotels is proper management of the waste it generates. We have developed very affordable packages that include a complete audit of hotel operations supported by tailor-made suggestions on how to reduce, reuse and recycle waste in specific areas while benefitting from rebates or reduced collection fees.

What other news would your company like to share?

Avram: We believe Avani provides a new and exciting solution for hotels, restaurants and of course the end consumer customer in the UAE.

Diab: EEG  considers the hospitality market to be its core sector and has been heavily involved in developing specific approaches to assist hotels in their sustainability journeys. HEP has been developed to answer specific needs and we are continuously expanding its features to go beyond general reporting. We have services helping existing properties with energy auditing and efficiency. In hotel development, our Design Peer Review service ensures that a project is designed up front with high efficiency and integration levels. Finally, we have services assisting hotel properties to drive energy/sustainability committees.

Johanssen: We help hotel management with savings on water and energy, as well as time and space. With our systems installed, hotel staff do not have to store and dispose plastic water bottles.

Le Biavant: We continue to promote the concept of ‘carbon neutral stays’ at hotels, which is associated with the Dubai Green Room at the Dubai Sustainable Tourism Awards. It is a programme where hotels provide ways for guests to contribute (pay) towards climate protection, offsetting the carbon footprint generated by their stay. This is achieved by supporting local communities in the developing world, who instead of consuming fossil fuels, are being encouraged to adopt renewable energies.

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