Amy Bostock: What does sustainability mean to your company?
Chris Berry: At True North, we recognize the desire and need to practice responsible environmental stewardship — one that minimizes the impact on the environment and consciously fosters a culture of protecting and preserving the environment. We also actively work with our vendor partner base to provide the most environmentally friendly materials and manufacturing processes. These initiatives can include alternative packaging systems, product-delivery systems and products that minimize carbon footprint.
Julian Buffam: For New Castle, sustainability means constantly innovating operationally and in the development process to reduce the impact of our business on the natural ecosystem and sustain an ecological equilibrium where we develop and operate hotels.
Jennifer Trafford: Compass Group Canada, and by extension, Foodbuy, aligns with the United Nations definition of sustainability — the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Our work impacts people’s lives and we aim to make that impact as positive as possible — that’s our social purpose. Our associates want to work for a company with purpose and people are increasingly mindful of the connection between their own actions on their health, as well as the health of the planet.
Marina Elsener: To be green is to be environmentally responsible, ensuring we respect the planet and its resources, utilizing them as efficiently as possible to preserve the world for future generations to come — identifying and proactively seeking ways to minimize the environmental impacts associated with our business activities, while pursuing opportunities to positively contribute to the world around us. To be sustainable goes beyond just environmental responsibility, it’s about business responsibility, with respect to implementing responsible practices that impact all aspects of our business — economic development, social performance and environmental management.
Scott Messenger: At Veritiv, we have the expertise to collaborate with customers, suppliers and brand owners to deliver sustainable products and meet our customers sustainablity objectives.
AB: What are your company’s sustainability goals?
CB: Internally, we employ strategies that include recycling, minimizing the use of paper and using recycled packaging as available. Externally, we provide products that meet or exceed current environmental standards. Examples include personal- care amenity products that are packaged in environmentally friendly biodegradable
packaging. With the recent move by many brands to eliminate or reduce the number of single-use amenity products, True North has developed a line of large-capacity amenity- dispensing solutions that will minimize environmental impact and reduce the impact of waste.
JB: Operationally, we’re on target to remove single-use plastics and guest supplies (soaps, shampoo, et cetera) from the operation; increase local sourcing of goods used in the hotel — not just to support the communities where we operate, but also to reduce the impact on the planet in terms of transportation and packaging waste; reduce food waste by 50 per cent; and, on the development side, we’re incorporating solar panels into our design plans for the first time.
JT: We’re delivering on a sustainability strategy that targets key areas identified by our suppliers, clients and partners as priorities. These include health and well-being (better nutrition choices, mental health, total well-being), environmental game changers (food waste, single-use plastics, plant-forward meals) and better for the world (sourcing responsibly, enriching local communities and partnerships for big change). Foodbuy plays a critical role in achieving many of these sustainability objectives by engaging and collaborating with all members of the supply chain, with a growing focus on the full life cycle of resources.
ME: Accor has a longstanding commitment to sustainability and this is a significant
priority. Accor has taken a proactive approach and its corporate social responsibility (CSR) program, Planet 21, has been incorporated into all aspects of the group’s activities. We continuously strives for new opportunities to limit the negative impacts associated with its operations, whilst creating tangible benefits for its employees, guests, suppliers, partners and host communities. Accor’s history as a responsible company dates back to 1994, when the group first established its Environment Department. Since its establishment in 2011, Planet 21 has adopted numerous solutions to contribute to the development of local communities, reduce water and energy consumption and limit the environmental footprint of its hotels. Planet 21 is a continuously evolving program. This plan was Accor’s way of encouraging the hospitality business to do more to curb its impacts and inspiring a new model that brings about enduring changes.
SM: We’re committed to advancing and improving our offerings of environmentally sustainable products, both in our private brands and name-brand product lines, for our hospitality customers. We offer a range of products that meet widely acknowledged environmental standards that include third-party performance principles for sustainable procurement, scientific testing and/or auditing.
AB: What strategies does your company have in place to meet its sustainability goals, as well as those of its clients?
CB: Internally, beyond our recycling programs, we work closely with our vendor community to develop eco-friendly packaging that will help not only our customer achieve their environmental goals, but will also allow us to minimize our environmental footprint. These initiatives would include shipping corrugate and plastic packaging requirements. Moving to recycled options for packaging is a priority. From a product perspective, within the personal-care-amenity programs, we’ve reacted to the concerns [around] single-use amenity programs with the introduction of amenity-dispensing systems that minimize the impact on the environment. We’re actively working with our manufacturing partners to develop alternative-packaging offerings for our amenity programs that will eventually eliminate the use of plastics completely.
JB: Constant education and communication are number-1. As we seek out innovations to reduce our carbon footprint, we train our associates on the methodologies and impact. We also prioritized communicating with our guests so that they understand the positive impact of the changes we make and don’t think we’re trying to cheapen their experience. Education also includes sharing best practices across the portfolio. We’re rolling out an initiative in the laundry area using concentrated detergents and softeners. Instead of a 20-gallon tub, we can get the same number of loads from a one- or two-gallon bag of concentrated product that costs far less to ship and takes up far less room in the dumpster. Two years ago, we rolled out a housekeeping program that reduced the number of cleaning chemicals used in a guestroom from 14 to four. Finally, leading by example is important to us — all our executives waive housekeeping when they travel, we ride share (whether it’s meeting up at an airport and carpooling to a meeting or driving from our corporate office to visit a hotel) and take every opportunity to teleconference when possible.
JT: We’ve dedicated resources to lead our sustainability initiatives in Canada, working collaboratively with Foodbuy, to promote alignment with the Compass Group global community so that our focus is clear. There’s no one solution that will be relevant or applicable to all parties. We have regular and ongoing collaboration with all of our stakeholders to gather information on what is important to them and promote innovative solutions to impact positive change. We work closely with our supplier partners to share their sustainability initiatives, raise awareness and [keep] on top of the increasing sustainable options available. We’re also focused on minimizing our impact through route-to-market and pushing as much supply as possible to limited sources to minimize the number of trucks coming to the back door.
ME: To provide an authentically sustainable experience is not only an ambition for Accor, but one that’s now frequently demanded by guests. They’re more aware and more educated and are seeking companies that provide and live up to the same values as they themselves hold. This is not only a priority to us, but to our guests.
SM: To help our customers meet their sustainability goals, Veritiv also sources environmentally sustainable products that meet widely acknowledged environmental standards and certifications including the Green Seal, Green-e and ECOLOGO. We’ve developed the expertise to manage the three primary Chain of Custody (CoC) certification programs. These certifications strengthen supply-chain assurance and the connections between sustainable forests, traceability, thriving communities and responsible sourcing of wood-fibre products.
AB: What are the biggest challenges facing the hotel industry with regard to its sustainable agenda?
ME: Our industry is unique in that we operate at the crossroads of multiple sectors and, therefore, there are a range of far-reaching environmental, social and societal challenges for the hospitality industry to address. A few key areas of focus include reduction of food waste, removal of single-use plastic and reduction of water and energy use.
JB: On the development side, demonstrating a revenue upside is a challenge for many green initiatives. For example, spending double on eco-friendly floor tile probably doesn’t result in a net positive impact on cash flow. People can see that’s where the world is trending, but it’s hard to take on more debt. Hopefully we’re moving toward a point where it’s clear and provable that a sustainable hotel has a better guest reputation and overall performance than an equivalent hotel that was built unsustainably. Operationally, bio-degradable disposables are a priority, but financially challenging in that they’re five- or six-times more expensive than their non-degradable competitors. The question we must always bear in mind is, how do you maintain the guest experience while making a step in the right direction?
AB: What types of “green” requests are you receiving from clients?
CB: Reduction of single-use amenity products in favour of higher-volume dispensing systems; the elimination of single-use plastic products that would include stir sticks, plastic cups, combs, toothbrushes and plastic packaging of condiment kits; and reducing process times and saving energy within the linen category. As such, we’ve developed and are now providing products that meet our client’s environmental needs.
JB: Recycling is important to guests but, on the whole, individual guests don’t tend to ask for something specific. Instead, they comment positively (or negatively) on the initiatives they notice, like using water pitchers instead of single-serving plastic water bottles. Meeting planners, on the other hand, are very concerned with sustainable operational practices, as well as construction specifications. Some will only book in LEED-certified hotels and many request specific details in their RFPs, so it’s important to be able to document your efforts. Many groups ask how they can minimize their environmental impact, so we’ve educated them about waiving housekeeping services, limiting the use of plastics, utilizing digital keys, even serving more plant-based foods. Overall, global awareness is the main driver, rather than specific guest requests, and brands prioritize initiatives based on those global trends.
SM: Most major hotel brands have committed to eliminating single-use amenities, so we’re working with our suppliers on these transitions. With plastic packaging — whether it’s a cello-wrapped toothbrush or slippers wrapped in plastic — customers are asking for alternatives such as paper or bamboo. We’ve also had requests for compostable gloves and cling wrap, so our customers are broadening their sustainability efforts to categories previously not considered. Each hotel brand wants to be first out of the gate with sustainable solutions. The Veritiv team works to source and distribute sustainable products to meet our customer requests, as well as offer training tools on environmentally sustainable products
JT: Foodbuy is seeing an increasing number of requests from our diverse group of clients and members related to more-sustainable options and our hotel members are no exception. Some examples of requests include ‘clean’ ingredients, antibiotic-free proteins, cage-free eggs, sustainable seafood, plant-forward options, fairly traded and locally sourced produce, bakery and proteins. Disposables are certainly top of mind and the interest in replacing things like cutlery, cups, plates, straws and takeout containers with recyclable and compostable options is becoming increasingly important.
ME: Currently, the most “green” request from our guests is the demand to address single-use plastic. This is a topic we’ve been working on for some time, having previously committed to remove all plastic straws, stirrers and cotton buds by the end of 2019, and recently releasing a new commitment to remove all single-use plastic individual amenities and cups by end of 2020 and all other guest-related single-use plastic by end of 2022.
AB: What new green products are you offering to hotel clients?
CB: Condiment kits without plastic packaging, stir sticks made of wood, toothbrush and comb kits made of wooden products, Okeo-Tex-certified linen and terry programs (Oeko-Tex textiles and fabrics are certified free of harmful chemicals and safe for human use). Many new bedding and terry products are engineered with fibres that provide the softness a guest would request, but operationally require less energy to launder and dry, thereby having a positive impact on the environment.
We’ve also developed personal-care-amenity programs that are now available in higher-capacity dispensing systems that minimize the impact on the environment once disposed of. Our Pod Cleaning program is a Green Seal-Certified solution to traditional chemical systems that incorporate large amounts of plastic waste. We’re strong proponents of research and development within our many product categories and are working diligently with all of our suppliers to provide us with more eco-friendly products and packaging alternatives.
AB: How important is property design to your overall sustainability goals?
JB: We look at every available option when it comes to new builds and renovations and some techniques and technologies, such as energy-management thermostats, LED lightbulbs and window tinting, are fairly standard for us. ERV (energy-recovery ventilation) has been around for 20 to 25 years and we use that in most of our projects. It has an upfront cost, but it’s very efficient and it’s worth the spend. We use a laundry-recycling system throughout the portfolio that uses recycled gray water for the first two cycles and only uses fresh water for the final rinse. That saves approximately 62,000 gallons of water per year per property.
We will be incorporating demand-based ventilation for new projects. When a guestroom is unoccupied, we can reduce the amount of fresh air that’s exchanged, so we’re not heating or cooling thousands of cubic feet per minute when no one is there.
ME: Ensuring sustainable practices are implemented in property design is crucial for us to meet our overall sustainability goals as we strive to move our portfolio toward carbon-neutral buildings and implement sustainable practices across our operations, especially as we continue to grow at a rapid rate and continue to renovate many hotels each year. Addressing sustainability at the property-design stage of a project allows us to not only assess and minimize the impact of a project during its implementation — for example, focusing on sourcing locally or addressing the full life-cycle of any material used — but also enables us to take a proactive approach to directly influence the future impact of a hotel/building.
Amy Bostock: What does sustainability mean to your company?