Implementing an environmental program that makes a difference



Janine Marshall, general manager of London’s One Aldwych, and Benedetta Cassinelli, co-founder and CEO of The Considerate Group, speak with Robin Trimingham, host of The Innovative Hotelier, about greenwashing and the difference between simply claiming that your property has an environmental program in place and really controlling and reducing your carbon footprint. Stressing that it is impossible to effectively reduce your CO2 emissions without first correctly collecting and analyzing carbon data, the discussion focuses on the variety of initiatives that hoteliers can put in place to control and reduce carbon emissions and what it is going to take to implement a robust sustainability strategy to enable an environmentally friendly carbon-neutral operation in the years to come.


Highlights from Today’s Episode

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Episode Transcript

Benedetta Cassinelli: Sustainability is here to stay. It’s not just a trend. If you want to remain competitive, you really need to embrace sustainability. Right now, we will have a lot of legislation and regulations that you will need to fulfill. And unless you don’t have your data ready, you’re gonna be paying quite a big price for it. But also the many opportunities that sustainability offers to your establishment at the moment. So I would say that right now, sustainability is a great business opportunity for anyone out there.

Robin Trimingham: Welcome to the Innovative Hotelier podcast by HOTELS magazine, with weekly, thought-provoking discussions with the world’s leading hotel and hospitality innovators. Welcome to the Innovative Hotelier, brought to you by HOTELS magazine. I’m your host, Robin Trimingham. As the chatter around ESG initiatives in the hotel industry increases, we hear more and more about the interesting programs that resort and retreat properties are launching to promote the environment and improve sustainability. What we’ve not heard about, for the most part, are the game-changing ways that urban properties can also retrofit their existing locations to truly offer carbon-neutral, sustainable hotel stays. But at least for forward-thinking boutique properties, that’s all about to change. My guests today, Janine Marshall, the general manager of One Aldwych in Covent Garden, and Benedetta Cassinelli, co-founder and CEO of the Considerate Group, are here today to discuss, design and implement eating, an environmental program that actually makes a difference. Join me now for my conversation with Janine and Benedetta. F.o.h. Is a global food service and hospitality company that manufactures smart commercial-grade solutions. Headquartered in Miami, the company designs and manufactures all their restaurant and hotel products. They have showrooms and distribution centers located throughout the globe, and their products are always in stock and ready to ship from any of their distribution centers worldwide. Welcome, Janine and Benedetta. It’s such a pleasure to meet both of you.

Benedetta Cassinelli: Hello. Nice to be here. I’m really, really thrilled to be part of this conversation.

Robin Trimingham: I’m really looking forward to chatting with both of you. I think we’re going to share a little bit of information that will help quite a few hoteliers today. So, to start us off, Benedetta, can you briefly explain what the considerate group is and what led you to co-found this organization?

Benedetta Cassinelli: Seriously considering corporate using, data-driven sustainability consultancy focused on the hospitality and service sectors. And we have offices in London, New York and Munich. We have more than 11 years of proven track records working with more than 500 hotels globally. We are considered a trusted, long-term partner of many hospitality companies, and we are really proud of having a 95% client retention rate.

Robin Trimingham: Well, that’s really good. I was very interested when I came across your company because I hadn’t honestly heard of you before. So I did quite a bit of reading, and I saw on your website that the hotel and tourism sector presently contributes about 8% of the global CO2 emissions. And I know also there are other studies that say that hotel and hospitality, CO2 emissions are actually on the rise at the moment. So some people might view all of this as a little bit of a losing battle. What would you say is a better way to think about the situation?

Benedetta Cassinelli: Well, you see, I’m an entrepreneur and they tend to see the glass half full most of the times. I would say that we have done a great amount of work in terms of CO2 emission reduction as an industry. When we started only a couple of years ago in minority in the market, had understanding and let alone control of their carbon data. And now more and more hotels are becoming familiar with their data. Thanks really to the push of regulators and legislations, we have to admit that the EU is really leading in this way. So I think we need to to take into account the huge efforts that each individual hotel is putting into its operation as we speak, and results take time. Implementing sustainability doesn’t happen overnight, so we will see these improvements slowly in the years. In addition, I would say that we have seen a huge amount of investment being done in new technologies, especially in the built environment. Those technologies are really instrumental in allowing us to better manage our hotels on day to day. And let’s not forget as well that we have invested. $1.7 trillion in clean energy transition, which will again affect positively the emissions of our industries. So I wouldn’t say that it is a lost battle. I’ll say that we are in the middle of it, but we no option but to win it.

Robin Trimingham: You make an excellent point when you talk about the first part of the situation really being an education effort, helping hoteliers understand not just the problem, but how to start to address this. Janine, I know that one Aldwych has always been very passionate about sustainability right from the start. Can you let us know how you first became aware of the considerate group and why working with them has made such a difference?

Janine Marshall: Yes, of course. I’m not quite sure if Benedetta will appreciate the first part, but if she’ll bear with me and allow me, there’s a good end. I have been with the hotel for a very long time, and for any incoming finance director, I was presented with a membership for considerate hoteliers and my first question was, gosh, what do we get from paying this membership? And I was very quickly corrected and explained that this is very much who we are at one Aldwych. And I was taken through a journey of explanation of what we do at the hotel, why we’re different and why we believe in it. Now, I must say, definitely Benedetta. We’re one of their biggest and being partners, they are really one of the leading within the UK in the hospitality sector. They provide us with really intelligent software or it’s called an environmental management software conserve, and it allows us to capture data, which is the first thing I would encourage people to start doing. And it does need, as Benedetta said, it takes some time for that data to build in order for you to get an accurate picture of where your business is. But most critically, they are passionate about this topic. And when you are an independently owned business like we are, it is a specialist skills that we can lean into and they take our data and support us and make valuable contributions. Give us insights and ideas of how we can change and make things better. That we’ve had a very long-standing partnership and long may it continue.

Robin Trimingham: I think you’re making an excellent point, because if you don’t have accurate data regarding your carbon consumption and all of those other things, how in the world can you make changes if you don’t know exactly where you are? Janine can you tell us a couple of the more unusual things that one Aldwych is doing to promote sustainability? Because I was absolutely fascinated when I looked at your website.

Janine Marshall: Oh, yes, of course. Some of it, I must admit, was inherited, which is the brilliant foundation our plumbing system, can I call it that is perhaps more appropriate. Yes. I’ll save 70% of water. And the hotel was built like that intentionally back when it opened 25 years ago. This year we have got a chlorine-free swimming pool and always has had. And we’ve always, as long as I’ve been here. And no bleach or toxic chemicals being used within our property. So my job really has been to build on that as much as possible and to continue that and some examples of that going back to when we did a full hotel renovation, all of our plant, all mechanical and electrical, was replaced with what was the latest and most efficient at the time, and of course, all of our bedrooms. And in fact, the entire building has the most high end LED and all lighting available, as well as individually controlled bedroom to avoid waste and so on. Then we also built a water bottling plant, which I know a lot of hotels do. I think it’s magic because not only does it save the footprint of transporting the bottles to the hotel, you’re not going through all of the waste. If you imagine a hotel every day, hundreds and hundreds of bottles that gets thrown away and crushed, all of our bottles that we use within the building gets crushed and sent away, we have cardboard compressing and that then gets separated. We small things like the beehive on the roof. We did. We use the honey in the restaurant and we use it in the cocktails. We make honeycomb for our guests. We try to encourage and empower the team to come up with small things. And I suppose you would have picked up on the pattern from the really big things to the investment and what we procure. But equally, the three hives on the roofs and the smaller nods that we could do to really show outwardly that we have a commitment here.

Robin Trimingham: What I love about your story is how much you guys have been on the leading edge of all of this mean changing the way that you conserve water. 25 years ago, that would have been very ahead of the curve. Maybe I’ll ask both of you or either one of you. How much would you say? Currently, sustainability initiatives are affecting guest decisions when it comes to booking a hotel stay? Is there any data on this at all?

Janine Marshall: Would you like. Can I jump in? Benedetta.

Benedetta Cassinelli: Go ahead.

Janine Marshall: That is an excellent question. And I believe, well, hopefully Benedetta is going to have something measurable. From my perspective, I can most certainly share with you what we call the cold face and what my guests tell me. And interesting, I was asked and my team guests do not, I believe, make the decision of the hotel based on the sustainability policy. That is the hard truth of it. On the corporate accounts where people, big companies contract with us, that has become much better. They are mandated and we have to return certain policies to prove that. So on the corporate side, yes, absolutely. On the general leisure consumer, not, however, Rob, and when people arrive and we tell them about our water saving system and some of the things that we do within the hotel, they are really, truly delighted and excited to hear about it and far more interested in it now than what they were perhaps before. And I always tease with the team. 15 years ago when I started and we talked about our special bathroom system, it was always an apology to the guest, oh, we’re so terribly sorry, a little bit noisy. Whereas if I’m very honest with you, we celebrate it now and so does the guest. Celebrate it with us. They are really excited to hear that we save that amount of water. So the perception is definitely changed and improved. But the one the West Coast, I would say interestingly, when they book for transport to come to the hotel and we always offer first the hybrid option, first, but that’s received very well.

Robin Trimingham: Interesting. I find it quite fascinating that you differentiate between the individual traveler and the corporate accounts. I mean, that actually makes some kind of sense. Benedetta, would you add anything to this?

Benedetta Cassinelli: Yes.

Benedetta Cassinelli: I totally agree with Janine. The ease. Let’s say TripAdvisor, Google for example, it shows that there is an increased interest in sustainability from travelers. But still, especially if we talk about independent traveler individual bookings, the main drivers are still location and price because there is more transparency and trust in hotels with the eco credentials, more people will add the eco option to the matrix of booking. So price, location and let’s see if this is a sustainable option. But you see more and more when booking online with OTAs. So there is certainly a shift that is happening and is certainly as well driven by the younger traveler, much more closer to climate change than the older generation. So I believe that in the next couple of years to two years, we will see this shift being even more in the bookings.

Robin Trimingham: Established in 2002 is a woman owned global food service and hospitality company that manufactures smart, savvy commercial grade products including plate wear, drinkware, flatware, hotel amenities and more. Driven by innovation, F.o.h. Is dedicated to delivering that wow experience that restaurants and hotels crave. All while maintaining a competitive price. All products are fully customizable, and many are also created using sustainable, eco friendly materials such as straws and plates made from biodegradable paper and wood, and PVC free drinkware. F.o.h. Has two established brands. Front of the House, focused on tabletop and buffet solutions, and room 360, which offers hotel products. Check out their collections today at f.o.h. I guess as we get closer and closer to the deadline of the Paris Agreement regarding ESG initiatives, that all of this is likely to become more and more important as well. Benedetta. We’ve heard so many stories of hotel chains, at least in the West, claiming they have a sustainability program because they got rid of the plastic shampoo bottles and a couple of other little things. How much of all of this is just really a supply chain issue, and how much of it is really something else? Yes.

Benedetta Cassinelli: Yes, It seems like the main topic when we read about sustainability in the hospitality sector and sadly, getting rid of single use plastic shampoo bottles or getting rid of plastic straws is just tackling the tip of the iceberg. And by no means is a sign of having a robust sustainability strategy. Now these are just mainly actions that are started now by sustainably operated hotels. Gaster, they think is normal, is now. Though if we say that a hotel is getting rid of every single use plastic product in its operation is a really different approach and that is certainly very challenging to achieve. If you think about the complete operation and the elimination of plastic altogether, I would say that also, althought the supply chain considerations are really integral part of a hotel sustainability strategy, given the complexity of the subject, most hotels decide to to start by tackling scope one and scope two of the ambitions. So we will see a lot of work done on the supply chain in our industry, most probably in the next 3 to 5 years. The majority of them are not ready to tackle it properly yet.

Robin Trimingham: Yeah, I guess is the tough reality of the situation. So a lot of older buildings sometimes take the attitude that there’s only so much they can do. They weren’t built to be energy efficient or eco-friendly or whatever. Janine, do you agree with that attitude? No.

Janine Marshall: You can always do more. Of course you can. I think that hoteliers, general managers are difficult spot there. I say stakeholders and a lot of them are still very much driven by profit. And there needs to be a change. All round. Really? But suppose I’m going to go too deep now. I think you need to do everything that you can within your business and lead by example, and share that with your team, so that they can see that something is being done within the organization, even though if there are limitations within the remit that you have to work in, really what would be helpful in this, possibly the controversial bits is I always wonder, and I don’t know, Benedetta will probably already have an answer for this, but we get penalties for data protection, for PCI, for non-compliant in health and safety, and there are all sorts of repercussions in that regard. And I think we need to set some rules or parameters that hoteliers and other buildings can be measured against and be penalized if we don’t conform. And I believe or hope that this is something that’s going to happen over a period of time where that will get better. But we can always be creative in what we do and do more until such time comes where we can all collectively make a difference, I suppose Robin.

Robin Trimingham: Yeah, I think you’re right. As deadlines approach, I’m sure if we’re all not getting to where we need to be, legislation will follow. That’s just how the world tends to operate. Janine, let’s try and put this in a way that can help some of the other general managers who are going to listen to this podcast. They might buy into everything we’re saying, but they still have to convince others regarding the expenditure. Talk to us about the ROI that one Aldrich is experiencing as a result of having made all these environmental changes and sustainable initiatives.

Janine Marshall: That, for us, truthfully, remains impossible to measure. Can I give you a fixed number? No. And I say with conviction that it is important to the people that we recruit and who we attract. Is it important for the people that work with us, and does it matter to them? Yes. Does it delight and surprise our guests once we’ve captured them of the things that we do? I would say yes, but sincerely, can I equate a certain amount of room nights or an audience captured because of what we do? I would say no, I couldn’t today, perhaps in future.

Robin Trimingham: Yeah, it is definitely a tough position to be in. I think you really have to have strength of conviction that this is just the right thing to do, and that doing it will pay off as we all go forward together. Benedetta, I understand that your organization, and I think Janine alluded to this earlier, has actually designed an environmental energy management system that you’re not just an environmental activist group, if you will. Tell us about how your management system works and why it makes such a difference for the hoteliers who are utilizing it.

Benedetta Cassinelli: Absolutely. Janine already did a brilliant presentation of conserve, but let me give you a little bit more details about it. Very early on when we started considering a group, we realized that without good-quality environmental data, we could only advise our clients properly. So I keep repeating my clients you cannot manage what you don’t know, so you really need a good quality data. Therefore, for about eight years ago, we have developed our trademark data monitoring platform specifically for the hospitality sector. And what is unique about conserve is that we monitor so all the metrics pertinent to the industry. So not only energy, gas and water, but also waste, laundry, travel, transportation, and we correlate it to the room nights and food covers. And we are able to extrapolate the carbon emissions and the cost of the operations. So we do all this by talking the language of the hotels. And then, as Janine mentioned as well, we realized very early on that engineers and maintenance managers have no time to analyze data. They are not data analysts. They are busy running the operations. So we support our clients with bespoke reporting, providing that level and then would like to to add as well that conserve recently has become power by Typekit, which is the leading real estate technology company in Europe. So we are soon about to launch the new version of conserve, which will not take into consideration all the environmental data, but far more it will be a more ESG platform. So something very exciting coming into the industry.

Robin Trimingham: That’s a very exciting advancement. Perhaps we’ll have to have you back in the New Year to chat just about that. Janine, what advice can you offer to hoteliers who are listening, who are struggling just to really make any measurable progress with their ESG initiatives?

Janine Marshall: Oh, gosh. I’m gonna piggyback off Benedetta’s data. I think the starting point to move forward has to be how to capture your data and then building up that over a period of time so you can make informed decisions. And that’s really, really important because without that I’m sorry, Benedetta, I’m repeating what you said. It’s very difficult. So it’s what are you going to use to measure and ensuring that the teams are on board and understand what you’re doing and why you’re doing it and getting everyone’s buying and then building that data bank over time and involve everyone that wants to be involved in the organization. I don’t believe in mandating and saying, right, we’re going to have a sustainable or environmental meeting, and all the managers or certain people have to be there, actually invite people that want to be there that can feed back and lead it with the rest of the team and small step change. It is very difficult in the busy operational environment when you have guests and team members and truth be told, it is impossible to always put it on the top of your list. But if it always features as a priority for yourself and your team and everywhere, I constantly feel guilty about it because I know it’s time to check in and follow up, and it’s just to keep it full capture data and keep on measuring.

Robin Trimingham: I think you make an excellent point when you talk about having to include stakeholders who are interested. This is clearly a problem where, as they say, it takes a village and you can’t really mandate that you’re going to do this or that if you don’t really understand the intricacies of how those mandates are impacting the individual departments within a hotel operation, because it’s such a diverse environment, if you will. Ladies, we have a couple of minutes left here. So I’m going to ask you the question. I ask almost all of my guests, and I’ll give you both a chance to answer. What’s your key message for everyone who hears this broadcast? And maybe Benedetta will ask you to go first.

Benedetta Cassinelli: Well, I would say that sustainability is here to stay. It’s not just a trend as still few people believe. And more and more we see that if you want to remain competitive, you really need to embrace sustainability right now in order to understand the risks that you will be faced over the next five years. Janine mentioned it, and we will have a lot of legislation and regulations that you will need to fulfill. And unless you don’t have your data ready, you’re gonna be paying quite a big price for it. But also the many opportunities that sustainability offer to your establishment at the moment. So I would say that right now, sustainability is a great business opportunity for anyone out there willing to take this journey.

Robin Trimingham: Thank you. Janine, what would you add to this?

Janine Marshall: Start small and go big, I would say, right, a very simple policy. There’s a lot of noise around this. There’s a lot in the media and it can be all overwhelming if you’re a single unit. And even if you’re an independent hotelier and a big brand with a lot going on around you, start with a one-page basic policy of what you feel could make a difference within your organization, and share that with passion and conviction, and move and go along with that. As small as as big as it is, it’s not going to go away. It is our collective responsibilities and we all make a difference together.

Robin Trimingham: I think that’s a great place to leave it. Benedetta and Janine want to thank you so much for your time today. You’ve been watching The Innovative Hotelier. Join us again soon for more up-to-the-minute insights and information specifically for the hotel and hospitality industry. You’ve been listening to the Innovative Hotelier podcast by Hotels magazine. Join us again soon for more conversations with hospitality industry thought leaders.

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