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BDO: Growing more sustainable

Sarah Duncan, HOSPA’s sustainability advisor and author, The Ethical Business Book, shares her key learnings from BDO's latest sustainability report.

The importance of hotel’s having a robust Sustainability or ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) strategy cropped up a number of times during our recent event with our long-term partners BDO.

Their Hotel Britain 2022 report entitled Growing More Sustainable highlights why this is such a hot topic for the sector.

Here are some key take outs:


  • A LinkedIn survey found that staff are seeking workplaces where they can intertwine their beliefs with those of the company, and work together on a common vision of purpose and success. The survey found that 65% of people who responded would rather put up with lower pay than work for an organisation which offers a poor working environment.

  • Corporate travel agents, guided by their clients, increasingly employ stringent ESG targets, progressively enhancing the standards they set out in their RFPs. Global hotel brands are expected to operate under these terms if they are to successfully win these lucrative corporate contracts.

  • No longer is the focus of the UK hotel sector on ESG one dimensional in capturing simple operational carbon emissions data and striving for a high EPC (theoretical) energy rating. Over the years, related steps towards introducing energy efficiency measures and sustainability best practice have no doubt lead to effective and environmentally cost-conscious management and environmental impact minimisation. These steps have included the switch to LED lighting, onsite renewable generation, low carbon heat sources, heat recovery and key activated power to guest rooms. Other operational responsible environmental interventions have included low water use showers, a reduced laundry service and a move towards the removal of single use plastic.

  • The embodied carbon of a typical new build accounts for about 40% of the overall emissions. A 30% carbon reduction can be achieved through strategies such as the use of natural materials for cladding or insulation, higher recycled content for specified metal components and plasterboard, or changing the type of aggregate in the concrete (such as regraded aggregates from demolition sites).

  • We are all now a part of a purpose- driven world, and we must all play a role. The greater the collaboration, the more detailed the ESG measurement, and the bigger the growth in green finance to support: a net zero sectoral shift, the electrification of transport, the rise of smart-tech, the inclusion of the community, the enhancement of biodiversity, and the adoption of the circular economy model.


  • Some of our projects involve substantial investment and long-term gains - such as our commitment to eliminate all guest-related single- use plastics by 2022. However, we have found our smaller, colleague-led projects with immediate benefits to be really effective for keeping teams engaged in sustainability. For example, at Fairmont St Andrews we have committed to conserving the Fife coast, and the team organise and run regular beach clear-up days throughout the year.”


  • We found that the best place to start was to gather an Environmental Taskforce. Head this up with your General Manager, and invite your Engineer, Head Chef and all senior members of the business. Only then will you have the required gravitas to get the project underway. With your leaders fully on board, you need to work hard to fully embed the sustainability culture into your business.

  • Get some software that keeps track of research and ongoing projects, we use Trello for this. Critically, you need to measure your Carbon Footprint at the start of your journey to get a benchmark. You can then create your strategy to reduce this number, and evidence your progress.


  • The paints used in our interiors are environmentally-friendly, and all furniture is either recycled or upcycled. Occupancy detection systems in the bedrooms mean that when the guest is out, minimal energy is used.


  • Inside, Scarlet is adorned with locally sourced furniture, recyclable carpets, and locally created artwork. A biomass boiler provides all heating and hot water, and waste water from showers and baths is recycled to flush loos.

  • We also offer guests the opportunity to support charities such as Surfers Against Sewage with a £5 donation per booking.”


  • Our initiatives include the expansion of hyperlocal restaurants, such as The Wellhouse at Lainston House. We have woodfired ovens at the heart of the offering and take produce from the newly expanded kitchen garden. We also partner with Hampshire Fare to use the very best of Hampshire produce. At Pennyhill Park, we partner with Surrey Hills to source some outstanding Surrey produce. South Lodge has taken our hyperlocal drinks philosophy to the next level, planting 5.4 hectares of vines in partnership with Ridgeview to eventually produce our own English sparkling wine. Both Lainston House and The Manor have both expanded their orchards to produce and bottle our own apple juice.

  • We are also working with the Land App to have a replanting and land management plan that helps us sequester more carbon.”


  • For existing hotels who can’t build from scratch, what’s the easiest and most effective way to become more sustainable? Buying renewable energy over fossil fuels to tackle carbon should be the priority. Even historic buildings, which are really energy inefficient, might have a lot of land which they can use to generate renewable energy onsite. Where it’s unavoidable to cut carbon, partnering with organisations like Climate Partner and off-setting is a great way to optimise the environment. Secondly, shifting the internal culture of your organisation to be sustainability-focussed makes a huge difference. This might be in the form of a dedicated sustainability team, or rewarding individual members of staff for submitting initiatives.

  • The word sustainability is interesting, because to sustain is actually to continue in the same way. But given the damage humans have already done to the planet, to sustain the planet in its current state, and to continue with our present behaviour is a pretty low benchmark. We need to build a better world, not just sustain the current one.”


  • Embodied carbon reduced where possible, with the remainder offset.

  • Operational carbon reduced as much as possible, with the remainder offset.

  • Ground source heat pumps convert 100% of energy needed for heating, cooling, and the hot water.

  • 100% renewable energy bought, supplied by a green tariff.

  • 100% electric - no fossil fuels and no gas.

  • Solar panels on the roof meet 5% of the building’s energy needs.

  • Green roof promotes biodiversity and acts as a heat insulator.

  • Blue roof sits under the green roof and catches rainwater, slowly releasing into a drainage system to reduce the chances of local flooding.

  • Sustainable low energy food menus.

  • 75,000 bees on the roof to improve biodiversity, increase pollination, and support the local economy through honey sales.

  • Zero waste to landfill policy: waste reduction; recycling; anaerobic digestion to make renewable energy and fertiliser; general waste is burnt and made into energy.

  • Low heat hot water system using in conjunction with chlorine dioxide to mitigate legionella and a water quality surveillance scheme.

  • Occupancy enabled lighting and heating in rooms.

  • Own-brand 3-in-1 recycling bins in rooms - the first hotel to offer guests food waste bins.

  • All furnishings manufactured locally where possible and made from recycled materials. For example, 100% of loose bespoke furniture is manufactured 10 miles from site using FSC certified timber, and wallpapers are designed locally and made in factories running on renewable energy.

  • Air is used in shower heads to create the same power using less water.


  • As an industry, I believe the most important thing is to really understand the whole life cycle of what we’re doing, in order to make impactful changes rather than taking initiatives that superficially look good but in practice achieve little.


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