Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel Spa and Garden
Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel Spa and Garden

By Nicole Di Tomasso

Well before sustainability became a widespread concern, Germain Hotels had already started implementing green practices, such as local sourcing (1988), geo-thermal energy and low-flow showerheads and toilets (2007). Over the last two years, the Quebec-based company behind Le Germain, Alt and Escad Hotels embarked on a thorough examination of its stance on sustainable-development issues, encompassing all its business units, including construction, administration, operations and catering. To facilitate this process, Germain Hotels enlisted the expertise of Coesio, a Canadian consulting firm specializing in sustainable development. 

In 2022, the company conducted a comprehensive survey of more than 300 stakeholders, including investors, guests, suppliers and employees, to gain insight into their priority areas.  

“You can’t talk about the impact you have unless you have measurements,” says Marie Pier Germain, VP, Sales and Marketing, Germain Hotels. “I’m glad we took the time to measure and assign ourselves concrete objectives.”

Drawing from these insights, Germain Hotels — this year’s recipient of KML’s Green Leadership Award for Environmental Stewardship — formulated a five-year strategic plan as well as an action plan for 2023-2024. At the start of 2023, the Board of Directors and the Executive Committee signed a Sustainable Development Commitment Charter, confirming the company’s intention to do more to reduce its impact on the environment and increase its impact on the community. In May 2023, Justine Nadeau was appointed the company’s first Sustainable Development project manager to oversee the action plan.

The action plan focuses on three key areas, including local sourcing, sustainable projects and community spirit.

Local Sourcing

In this area, 2023 highlights include updating its procurement policy to add eco-responsible criteria; gaining recognition from the Aliments du Québec au menu program for all its restaurants in Quebec (menus composed of at least 60 per cent Quebec-sourced products year round); collecting abundant harvests with more than 30 varieties of fruits and vegetables from its gardens at Alt Hotel St. John’s and Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa; and partnering with Too Good To Go to combat food waste at Le Germain Hotel Ottawa. The pilot project involves creating “surprise bags” containing unsold produce, which local residents can purchase at a reduced price. This year, the company aims to extend this practice to other restaurants and produce more than 1,000 bags of compost, saving more than 800 kg of food waste from incineration or landfill. 

Additionally, Le Germain Hotels adopted a new housekeeping uniform designed by Montreal-based Tristan. Old uniforms are recycled or donated to charities. Germain Hotels also partnered with Kotmo, a Canadian B Corp certified company for its sustainable and re-usable promotional items, which includes a water bottle, manufactured in Quebec. This year, the company aims to train 100 per cent of its general managers on responsible-sourcing issues.

Sustainable Projects

Last year, Germain Hotels opened Alt Hotel Calgary University District, bringing its portfolio of hotels to 19. The property was constructed with energy-efficient design features, including a green roof, reflective membrane, enhanced insulation (dual-layered envelop), glass materials, water-management systems and responsible sorting of construction waste. Its LEED Certification is currently in progress. 

More broadly, the company has carried out an initial measurement of residual materials (RM) management at all its properties and a characterization of two of its sites. This performance analysis by property enabled the company to prioritize its actions for the coming years. The company recorded 443.6 tonnes of RM generated annually and aims to bring this total amount down 15 per cent in 2024-2025, with an overall diversion rate of 26 per cent, by implementing projects in each property. 

Furthermore, Germain says it aims to reduce the use of single-use plastic water bottles by 70 per cent, eliminating more than 250,000 during the year. To meet this goal, the company has added several water stations throughout its hotels (lobbies, gyms, et cetera); installed Naturizzata water-filtration systems in restaurants and meeting rooms; and added a jug in hotel rooms and an OVO carbon-filtered water station in Le Germain hotels. One type of bottled water, a re-usable bottle made partly from locally recycled aluminum, will continue to be sold in minibars and at Altcetera counters. 

Lastly, the company has introduced washable and re-usable slippers at Le Germain Hotel Montreal and Le Germain Charlevoix Hotel & Spa, in collaboration with Kotmo, to replace over-packaged, single-use slippers, with the goal of eliminating 25,000 disposable slippers annually. The slippers will now be deployed in all Le Germain properties across Canada.

“One of the challenges is making sure that the decisions we make as a company also have a positive impact on the guest experience,” says Germain. 

Community Spirit

Most of Germain Hotels’ senior-management team is involved with several organizations. The value of donations in 2023 reached more than $300,000 in support of 600 local causes. For example, at the opening celebration of Alt Hotel Calgary University District, rather than offering guests a welcome gift, the company donated 25 overnight stays on their behalf to the Alberta Children’s Hospital to welcome families in need. This year, the company aims to add volunteer involvement to the philanthropic efforts in its hotels. 

For the well-being of its teams, Germain Hotels obtained the Concilivi Seal and created a Family-Work Balance committee to draft a guide. It’s also raising awareness among employees and managers of DE&I concepts and unconscious biases through 100 hours of training in different formats. Additionally, the company created two new positions dedicated to training, IT trainer and training advisor. In a similar vein, Germain has welcomed 54 interns from 22 different schools this year, a third of whom have been hired full-time. 

Additionally, Germain says the company runs “quarterly sustainability challenges in its hotels to help equip teams with the right knowledge and make actions easy and enjoyable. The challenges run on a three-month basis then we compare and name the winners. It’s a way to get everyone involved.”

In the Works

Currently, Germain Hotels has a number of new projects under development, including offering a new menstrual product by Iris + Arlo for employees and guests; collaborating with university scholars who are studying various sustainability issues and suggesting solutions; introducing toothbrushes made from re-claimed Canadian maple wood and toothpaste in tablet form; and exploring potential partnerships with start-ups. 

Next year, Germain says the company will narrow in on reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. 

“Sustainable development at German Hotels isn’t the responsibility of a single individual; it’s a shared responsibility embraced by all,” says Germain. 


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