Best practice: Emaar Hospitality Group's sustainability initiative

Hotelier Middle East learns how Emaar Hospitality Group's new sustainability initiative - The Pearl Pledge - will benefit both the environment and the company

Each hotel has created its own action plan.
Each hotel has created its own action plan.

In January of this year,  Emaar Hospitality Group rolled out The Pearl Pledge, a sustainability campaign that promotes marine conservation and the sustainable use of water across the group’s properties, including hotels, serviced residences, restaurants, and leisure  attractions.

Planned sustainability best practices at the group’s hotels include sustainable water use, strengthening awareness on the need to conserve ocean and marine resources, decreasing the use of plastic bottles, minimising printing of papers, reducing food wastage, and successfully segregating waste into plastics, aluminium and metals, paper and cardboard, and organic material.

RATIONALE & OBJECTIVE

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Under the Pearl Pledge, Emaar Hospitality Group is aiming to decrease its consumption of energy and water by 30% and 25% respectively, both by 2021. Additionally, the group is also looking to cut down the amount of waste it generates, and has set an ambitious target of diverting 75% of waste away from landfill.

Emaar Hospitality Group CEO Olivier Harnisch told Hotelier Middle East: “The entire exercise began in July 2018, with a steering committee consisting of senior managers from the head office, general managers and chief engineers. This allowed us to recognise the purpose of why we are aiming to become sustainable. Thereafter, the formation of teams and adoption of actions plans was the next phase.

“Simultaneously, Sara Al Liusie, our sustainability lead and e25 partner, finalised the central operations and marketing guidelines across Emaar Hospitality Group. The structure ensured roles are not duplicated, and there is consistency across all initiatives under The Pearl Pledge campaign.”

SETTING UP THE PROGRAMME

To conserve energy, Emaar Hospitality is set to replace all incandescent bulbs with LEDs and is looking at incorporating the use of electric cars and solar energy. Individual properties will also carry out lighting audits at the end of each day to ensure that lights are off, and use motion activated lights to improve efficiency. At present, the audit is carried out manually during security rounds; however, the group will invest in smart technology to monitor energy and light usage in the future.

As part of its water conservation efforts, the group has installed water saving aerators to decrease the flow of water in faucets in guest bathrooms, while infrared activated and push taps have been installed in kitchens and toilets. Water audits are also in place to ensure there are no leakages.

Kitchen staff are being trained to use a pre-rinse spray gun to conserve water. And installing a sub-metering system across the group’s properties will alert the team in case resource use exceeds the set limit.

Group properties will also track water consumption with a data logger, which will help spot any usual trends of increasing water consumption which cannot be associated with normal operational activities.

“Emerging technology has the potential to transform water and energy management. We are integrating both – an intuitive approach and advanced technology at data collection and infrastructure level to achieve our sustainability goals. For example, we are updating our systems with more sophisticated technology which will automatically measure and track various data points to ensure we stay on track,” Harnisch said.

The new initiatives are being implemented by a “Green team”, headed up by a “champion” at each property. Each hotel has created its own action plan, which is unique to its operation. The action plan consists of four main areas: management, water, energy, and waste. SMART goals have been created in each of these areas to ensure the properties contribute to the overall group objective of decreasing consumption and conserving resources.

IMPLEMENTATION OF THE PROGRAMME

While training staff has been an important aspect of getting the group ready to roll out The Pearl Pledge, one of the main challenges the team faced was implementing the changes in a way that had the least impact on everyday operations, Harnisch stated.

He said: “For example, does one use paper straws or PLA straws? Which one is recyclable, and has the least environmental impact in its production? Do we even need a straw to begin with? How about children or people with disabilities who require a straw? We explored all possible circumstances and considered every detail through in-depth investigation and research.”

As part of the group’s food wastage reduction programme, Emaar Hospitality has adopted the Winnow solutions system, which allows restaurant and hotel kitchens to track how and what food is wasted in real time and through regular reporting. The system has allowed Emaar to save the equivalent of 216,057 meals, reduced food wastage by approximately 70%, and achieved annualised savings of AED 1.8 million as compared to baseline level, year-to-date, Harnisch said.

“The results we achieved required a group effort from the Winnow team and internally from the head chefs and the kitchen staff. The buy-in and support of Emaar Hospitality Group’s senior management as well the general managers of the different hotels ensured the system is well used, the staff well trained, and the focus maintained on reducing food waste to optimal levels,” he noted.

As the group begins to administer a new linen and towel policy, housekeeping and operations teams are also being trained to create awareness and promote sustainable water use.

“We have conducted research on various topics including the art of convincing your guest to opt into reusing their towels and communication mediums that are most effective – a tangible or digital message in delivering and adopting of suitable practices within our industry,” Harnisch explained.

With the new linen policy, one hotel room can save up to 60 litres of water in place of a single wash, which means the group is looking at making significant savings with around 1700 rooms across its properties.

Across its various hotels, the group also recycles its soaps in partnership with Diversey’s Soap for Hope programme.

Several of these initiatives have already been implemented at The Address Downtown, which underwent extensive refurbishment and reopened in June 2018. According to Emaar, the changes have seen in a drop in heat, lighting and power (HLP) consumption at the property.

Additionally, Emaar Hospitality used the launch of The Pearl Pledge to announce the group’s partnership with Dubai Sustainable Tourism to introduce the ‘Hospitality Industry Board Game’, developed in partnership with Emirates Nature-WWF, for all its employees. 

“We believe embracing sustainable practices requires a robust foundation to stand upon. Engagement and creating awareness plays a key role in introducing these green initiatives. We are likely to achieve our objectives by educating and changing the behaviour of our staff and guests,” Harnisch said.

The game will help employees measure their consumption baseline, understand which areas of the hotel are responsible for significant water and energy consumption, and how to save money while reducing the use of energy, water, and resources.

NEXT STAGES

Moving forward, Emaar Hospitality Group will adopt a responsible procurement programme that includes the use of eco-friendly papers and biodegradable disposables, while limiting the use of straws. By reducing the usage of plastic bottles, Harnisch believes they can annually save around 3.5 million bottles. 

All staff members will be trained to manage energy, water and waste consumption baselines. The training initiative will be led by Al Liusie and carried out at individual properties by the nominated green champions. 

“Our sustainability lead, Sara, conducts the initial foundation training that provides an introduction to educate our staff about sustainability, the impacts of consumption in hotels and the effect this has upon the ocean. This is important to educate our staff in truly understanding their actions in the hotels. This training is passed down to each green champion, who trains their own hotel staff on a quarterly basis,” Harnisch explained.

The group has partnered with environmental conservation organisation Emirates Nature-WWF to deliver a series of initiatives to help employees and guests understand how small changes can make a big difference.

Also as part of the roll out of The Pearl Pledge, the company is aiming to achieve Green Key certification for all its hotels by early 2019. Additionally, the group is also looking into more projects concerning renewable energy – such as Rove Hotels, which already uses solar PV cells to heat water – and electric vehicles, Harnisch reveals.

Ultimately, Emaar Hospitality is hoping the Pearl Pledge will change the hotel group’s approach towards sustainability, using it as a long-term strategy instead of a one-off campaign. “We have incorporated sustainable operations as part of our standard operating procedures, and therefore, it is integrated in our working blueprint rather than a ‘one-off sustainability initiative,” Harnisch stated. 

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