Green sleep – Accor hotel group and sustainability

5 May 2015

We chat to Paul Columbus, General Manager at Novotel Auckland Airport, who explains the details of parent company Accor’s Planet 21 sustainability strategy.

New Zealand was the first country within the global Accor hotel network to celebrate the launch of the hotel giant’s Planet 21 sustainability strategy.  Evolving out the 1992 Earth Summit’s Agenda 21, a voluntary plan of action for sustainable development, Planet 21 aims to address ‘seven pillars’ of sustainability across the more than 3600 hotels, apartments and resorts in nearly 100 countries, and stimulatebehaviour change in its more than 180,000 employees globally.

The pillars consist of:

  1. Health– 96 per cent of hotels globally promote healthy dishes and 95 per cent use eco-labelled products
  2. Nature – 86 per cent of hotels recycle their waste and 41 per cent participate in reforestation projects
  3. Carbon – 7 per cent of hotels use renewable energy
  4. Innovation – 35 per cent have at least three eco-designed room components
  5. Local– 89 per cent of hotels ban endangered seafood species from menus, 81 per cent purchase and promote locally sourced products
  6. Employment – the hotels support employee growth and improving worklife and
  7. Dialogue – 36 per cent of all non-budget hotels are ISO 14001 certified.

Within the Novotel New Zealand brand, sustainability is a key part of operations, say Paul Columbus, General Manager at the Novotel Auckland Airport. Not only must they adhere to the Planet 21 strategy, but there are lots of extra quirks that are in place: from a rooftop beehive providing honey for hotel guests at the Novotel Queenstown, to the Novotel Christchurch’s large herb plot supplementing the restaurant’s kitchen, to rainwater harvesting at the Novotel Wellington.

Sustainability is a key component of the Novotel Auckland Airport hotel, which opened in 2011. A finalist in the NZI National Sustainable Business Network Awards in 2012, Novotel Auckland Airport has been recognised for its relationship with Tainui, the majority shareholder, and for the building’s design as a landmark with an unmistakably New Zealand identity.  This is displayed through the many textures, patterns and motifs evoking traditional Māori designs and New Zealand’s unique landscape.

The hotel embeds sustainability into its operating procedures; it was created using green building materials including 100 per cent New Zealand wool for carpets and Forest Stewardship Council wood; it uses water restrictor shower heads and is about to launch Fairtrade bathroom amenities; it boasts a beautiful, living wall featuring native New Zealand plants; it trains employees on issues like sex trafficking and has nearly achieved 90 per cent waste recycle management (including the recycling of its food waste).

It also supports local charities and community groups such as the Trees for Survival Trust,which plants native trees grown by school children on farmlands, provides opportunities to local suppliers and has worked with the Ministry of Social Development to create jobs for unskilled people living in the area.

The hotel has been awarded the highest environmental accolade Accor has to offer, Platinum Planet 21 status (see Platine (Platinum in French) on the diagram below), achieved by only four other New Zealand hotels and 86 globally.

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“We set ourselves targets, and globally we have expectations that we will be saving each year. There are always commitments that we are being benchmarked on, and that’s done globally with all the hotels,” says Paul.

Paul says that sustainability within the industry is still growing, although the demand in New Zealand is not as salient as it is elsewhere. “I don’t think it’s growing fast enough. I think there’s a long way to go, but clients today are certainly asking about our environmental or sustainability policies.”

Why did the Accor group join the SBN? “We joined to work with like-minded businesses, to share best practice and meet people. We think it will be a good chance to learn, whether from large or small businesses.”