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Landmark Mandarin Oriental embraces sustainability practices

  • Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group is on track to reduce its carbon emissions by a quarter by 2020 as part of its efforts to reduce its environmental impact
  • Hong Kong hotel’s measures include ban on use of plastic bottles, recycling programme for unused soaps and sustainable food sourcing procedures
PUBLISHED : Friday, 21 December, 2018, 12:51pm
UPDATED : Friday, 21 December, 2018, 5:04pm

When you leave your hotel room and make your way to reception to check out, do you wonder what housekeeping will do with the unopened packages of toiletries lying next to the sink?

Going green: restaurants and hotels avoid plastic, upcycle waste and plant roof gardens

World travellers are accustomed to the perks of five-star accommodation, with all the gourmet dining and luxury in-room amenities that it brings.

Yet the hospitality industry is also often associated with excess.

Any global company, as we are, must be responsible, and must be part of the sustainability efforts to improve our businesses and operations around the globe
Vincent Marot, group director of technical services, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group

To make sure that all the guests are well fed and their needs are met, hotels must ensure they have extra supplies to avoid having things go out of stock. They are also round-the-clock operations, which means they consume a considerable amount of energy.

All that comes in the face of continued healthy growth in international tourism during the first nine months of 2018, according to a report by the United Nations’ World Tourism Organisation.

International arrivals of overnight visitors rose 5 per cent over the same period, compared with the annual growth of 7 per cent recorded in 2017.

Set a goal and work to it

The issue of hotels’ impact on the environment has not gone unnoticed by those in the industry.

An increasing number of hotels are putting in measures to improve sustainability while maintaining the services they offer to their guests.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group (MOHG) is one of the players in the sector proactively addressing environmental issues.

On the corporate level, its 30 hotels and six residences in 21 countries and territories are guided by defined group-wide goals.

“Any global company, as we are, must be responsible, and must be part of the sustainability efforts to improve our businesses and operations around the globe,” Vincent Marot, group director of technical services of MOHG, said.

In 2012, it set out to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 25 per cent by 2020, with 2007 used as the baseline.

In its 2017 sustainability report, it announced a 22.3 per cent reduction had been achieved, well on track to reach the plan’s ultimate target.

[Our staff] will be the best ones to demonstrate to our guests and customers that we are committed to sustainability
Vincent Marot

“Every hotel has to perform energy audits every three years, which provide insights about their own operations and … the right strategies going forward,” he said.

“We have also implemented a group-wide standard about reporting and recording consumptions levels, so that we have hard data [on] what gets measured, gets managed, and actually gets done.”

Marot said technology was an important part of the exercise.

Most of the group’s properties are using efficient light-emitting diode lighting and the performance of networks and structures such as air-conditioning systems is consistently reviewed.

“And more recently – the last level of engagement that we do to create alignment – we have now introduced sustainability into the general manager’s balance scorecard,” Marot said.

“So, even that personal performance now is taking into account key objectives or initiatives in their own annual review. And that is a powerful tool.”

At the forefront of change

The 2020 deadline for a 25 per cent cut in its greenhouse gas emissions sounds like added stress, but Archie Keswick, general manager of Landmark Mandarin Oriental (LMO), does not seem worried by the challenge.

“I think the world is in dire straits from an environmental perspective, and I think we are at the forefront of it here in Hong Kong,” he said.

There has been a surge of announcements this year by big hospitality brands to banish plastic straws, but LMO introduced such a ban in 2015 – providing guests, instead, with an eco-friendly bamboo version.

That year it also began using eco-friendly, biodegradable detergents for laundry.

Most recently, the hotel has replaced all plastic bottles used to provide guests with drinking water with branded, reusable ones made of glass.

“In 2017, we started to look at the possibility of changing or eradicating plastic water bottles,” Keswick said.

“We looked into certain suppliers of in-house water filtration systems and we came up with a system called Nordaq Fresh.”

The Swedish company provides hospitality establishments with a patented system that promises to remove impurities and undesirable flavours from local tap water while retaining its natural salts and minerals.

It can carbonate the water after purification and it comes with its own capping and bottle-cleaning systems.

“We do not serve any plastic water bottles within the hotel and we believe we are the first and only hotel in Hong Kong to have done this,” Keswick said.

Yet carrying out the initiative involved more than simply installing the system; it meant overcoming logistical challenges.

“We needed to find a large enough area within the hotel which we could convert into a bottling plant,” he said.

“And this had to be a clinical-grade bottling plant [to] make sure that there is zero opportunity for any contamination.”

You are what you eat

Dining is a big part of a hotel experience and LMO, like its sister properties in the group, has put in place a sustainable sourcing policy.

“We’ve worked with the World Wildlife Fund [WWF} since 2005, when the hotel was launched,” Keswick said.

“We have signed up to never purchasing fish and seafood products on the red, endangered list.”

So, do not expect blue-fin tuna on its menu.

The hotel also does not accept fruits and vegetables wrapped in plastic and, to reduce its carbon footprint, it chooses to, for example, import seafood from Japan, rather than Europe or Australia.

“So, our produce is probably lesser known, but in no way less tasty,” he said.

Sustainability also takes creativity at times.

Abalone shells left over from cooking at Amber, the hotel’s two-Michelin-star restaurant, are donated to a sustainable jewellery brand called Niin, and they are then turned into accessories.

“They are then sold, with a percentage of the sales going to sustainable sources,” Keswick said.

Working with the community

Food waste is, not surprisingly, an issue faced by hotel operations.

To ensure perishables that are still in good conditions do not end up in the bin, LMO has identified a local partner to work with called Food Angels.

“Food Angels is a local Hong Kong charity that uses surplus edible produce from either supermarkets, restaurants, or different food outlets to produce food meals, which are then packaged in a sustainable way and supplied to underprivileged or elderly people in the city,” he said.

The hotel also follows group-wide directions to work with organisations such as Green Spa Network to introduce chemical-free luxury shower gel, shampoo and body lotion in biodegradable containers at The Spa and Fitness Centre, provide ethically and sustainably sourced Cochine Saigon wellness products, and teamed up with Clean the World – a social enterprise leading the global hygiene revolution – to introduce recycling programmes for soap, shampoo and other amenities.

Efforts from individual properties have collectively contributed to noticeable results, with the 2017 sustainability report pointing to 33.2 per cent of waste being diverted from landfills – a sharp rise from the 2012 figure of 17.3 per cent.

Marot stressed that results have been driven not only by policies but by staff, who have helped to put the hotel’s vision into action.

“We have implemented a global training programme for all colleagues across the group … that basically helps them understand not only the global issues about sustainability, but also relate to those same issues as they would affect their own communities there,” Marot said.

“Our colleagues have been the force of all activities at the hotel level.

“They will be the best ones to demonstrate to our guests and customers that we are committed to sustainability.”

The article is the second episode of a three-part series that looks at Environmental Social and Governance ahead of the BDO ESG Awards 2019.

To find out more go to bdoesgawards.com