For NH Hoteles, sustainability is a core value which is reflected in the continuing investment in innovative and sustainable measures, as well as the ongoing efforts to integrate environmental, social and economic dimensions of the daily activities of our 400 hotels worldwide. Earlier this year, NH Hoteles received two major awards from the industry: the GMIC and IMEX Green Supplier Award Gold Category and the 2013 Project Icarus Sustainability Gold Medal, which made NH Hoteles the first hotel group in the world with this status at global level. The continuous efforts and investment in innovation and sustainable measures also ensured that NH Hoteles was the first hotel chain in the world to receive the ISO 50001 certification, the international standard for energy management systems.
For the World Tourism Day: Tourism & Water, we interviewed Paul Veltman, Manager Maintenance & Environment at NH Hoteles for the Business Unit Benelux, France, United Kingdom and South Africa. He is responsible for the maintenance and technical part of our hotels and makes sure this is being done in the most eco-friendly and sustainable way. We asked him about his work for NH Hoteles, what NH has done over the years to achieve the sustainable objectives and global advances status and about the further sustainability plans for the future.
What actions are currently being taken by NH Hoteles in order to contribute to a more sustainable water future?
At NH Hoteles we contribute to a more sustainable future in three ways:
1. Saving on electricity, gas , water and waste
First of all we can reduce our CO2 emissions, waste production and water and energy usage by saving in consumption. We do this in our hotels, for example, by encouraging our guests to use their towels more than once, by asking them to put the towels they want to be washed on the floor and hang the towels they want to use again. This way we only wash what is necessary and save water. We also minimize the paper usage in our hotels and offices and separate our waste everywhere so this can be recycled. We inform our staff that it is necessary to put off the lighting and equipment when leaving a room, to reduce our energy usage. The energy consumption of our guests is minimialized by the room key, which is also a key to use electricity and makes sure guests only uses electricity when they are in their hotel room and no light remains lit when they are not in their room. NH Hoteles also gives their business guests the opportunity to have meetings in an environmentally friendly way. By booking an eco -meeting at NH Hoteles, the impact on the environment of a meeting is reduced by only using sustainable products and services, which gives companies the opportunity to erase their CO2 footprint. NH also offers the guest an optional possibility to financially compensate for the CO2 emissions before, during or after their meeting. NH Hoteles deposits this money into a fund which funds projects that reduce CO2 emissions, for example by the construction of hydropower or solar energy projects. We have also developed a tool in collaboration with Carbon Clear, the Carbon Footprint Calculator, with which you can calculate the CO2 emission of a certain stay or trip.
2. Integrate new saving, sustainable technologies into hotels
The use of efficient, durable and sustainable equipment and technologies ensures minimal water and energy use, CO2 emissions and waste production. Examples of how we do this in our hotels are through water-saving shower heads, faucets and toilets. These consume up to 40% less water, but still give the guest the comfort that is expected in a hotel. We have also installed sustainable, energy saving elevators in the hotels, use biodegradable materials for products like our bath line and we have a unique, innovative program for the isolation of our hotels. To do this in a sustainable way, we collect the corks we use in our hotels and restaurants and recycle them into durable isolation.
3. Existing items replaced by durable items
A third way we contribute to an efficient environmental resource management is by renovating our hotels to be more eco-friendly and replacing old items by sustainable ones. This way all of our renovated hotels are equipped with the most environmentally friendly equipment and materials. At the moment we are replacing the lighting in our hotels by LED-lighting, which can save up to 70% of energy in comparison with the traditional lightings.
“I am manager Engineering & Environment and control renovation and maintenance of our hotels, where I manage on how we can do this the most environmental friendly and sustainable way possible. I also coordinate central contracts for the hotels in the Business Unit, for example for the eco-friendly elevators. I answer questions of the technical services and am working daily on all kinds of projects. At this moment, for example, we are working on the planning of the renovation of a part of NH Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky. We’re designing the technical installation, in which everything is done as sustainable as possible and as budget the allows us. Prior to this, the hotel has been measured based on its energy consumption and has been given a score on an energy label, stating how sustainable and energy saving it is. After the renovation the hotel, it will be classified again and it is my job to make sure we’ll get the highest score as possible.”
Tell us a little bit about your career path. What drew you to your current position at NH?
“I used to work for installation companies like BAM technique and ITN, in a leading position providing service to the customer. After years of retrieving knowledge and skills and gaining lots of experience, I was ready for something new.” The function for which Paul had applied at NH Hoteles appealed to him mainly because of the part where he can provide service to his colleagues. “I really like the fact that I’m able to support my colleagues at NH with my knowledge and expertise in the technical field. Also, the contact with installers, a position I used to occupy myself, is a fun part of the total task.”
Efficient environmental resource management is a key issue for NH Hotels. What is the most challenging part of your job?
“I find it most challenging to achieve sustainability goals with limited budgets. To invest in the future, we must first invest in projects which will later be beneficial and will save lots of money on the long term. These expensive investments can for instance be earned back in three years and will give financial advantages from then on, but in financial difficult times like the crisis, such large investments are often postponed. Yet we have booked great results the past years and we have achieved and surpassed the corporate responsibility goals by far and eight years before the planned deadline. Because of this achievement, we have planned to keep on innovating and reducing our impact on the environment. At this moment, the financial position of NH is improving and more capital is becoming available to make bigger investments in our sustainable plans. This is very nice, because we can now continue with bigger steps to innovation and sustainability.”
And what is, to you, the most rewarding aspect of your job?
“From the moment I started working for NH Hoteles I really liked providing service to my colleagues in the hotels. That really is the most rewarding part for me. I can help people out with my knowledge and experience and make sure the hotels have nothing to worry about.”
What are the results NH Hoteles has achieved with their efficient environmental resource management and continuous efforts and investments in innovation and sustainable measures?
In 2008, NH Hoteles presented their Strategic Environmental Plan, where environmental objectives were set to reduce CO2 emissions, energy- and water consumption and waste production by 20%, as formulated in the European laws. The European Union set the deadline for this in 2020, but NH Hoteles wanted to already achieve them in 2012.
What are the new goals and plans for the coming years regarding to the reduce of water consumption and how are we going to see this in the hotels?
Because we did so well surpassing the goals for the Sustainability plan of 2008-2012, new goals were set for the upcoming years (2012-2015). In the new 20+15 Strategic Environmental Plan, the aim is to reach 15% extra savings on top of the 20% savings we already achieved. At this moment we are busy working on a plan to achieve those objectives. We’re in the process of constructing ‘green rooms’ in all our hotels, in which we install the latest sustainable technologies.
The theme for this year’s World Tourism Day focuses on Toursim and Water. How do you think the tourism sector can improve water consumption around the world?
“I think we can reduce the worldwide water consumption by making people aware. People need to see how expensive and valued clean water is and link this to water consumption to make people see why it is so important to use it wisely and not waste it. I believe that we need to invest in becoming conscious. You can install as many saving techniques and invest in expensive projects, but if we all adapt our water consumption and save a little, we can make great results.”