Edinburgh-based Apex Hotels has a stringent corporate social responsibility (CSR) policy that extends throughout its business, and its track record on sustainability issues has gained it a string of awards and plaudits.
All staff receive environmental awareness training as part of their inductions, backed by ongoing training, and each of its five hotels, located in London, Dundee and Edinburgh, has an environmental impact programme. The company also has a dedicated "green team" containing "green champions" representing each property and headed up by environment director Jo Harbisher.
A key part of Harbisher's role is identifying new areas for improvement and then converting environmental efforts into cost-reduction and revenue-generating opportunities. She monitors water, gas and electricity consumption daily and helps research new ideas and products. By doing cost and savings projections and estimating payback periods she finds what is worth doing, with the biggest wins getting top priority.
A key focus is the hotel buildings themselves, and the company employs a dedicated architect in charge of sustainable hotel design to ensure its buildings are as eco-friendly as possible. Its hotels are located in city centres rather than on greenfield sites and have limited car parking availability to deter car use by guests. The company employs thermographic imaging to ensure its buildings are airtight and to identify thermal spots, and uses high-specification glazing to reduce heat loss. Inside, the focus is on energy-efficient boilers, lifts and ventilation systems.
The company continues to identify big savings and make investments. By replacing all its 30W, 50W and 70W bulbs with LED lighting it expects to save a staggering £312,000 over five years. And it expects to recoup the £85,000 spent on a combined heat and power system for the International in Edinburgh in just three years, with projected savings of £28,000 a year.
Other upcoming focuses include checking the lagging on its pipework to reduce heat loss looking at its plant rooms to find ways to improve efficiency there and rolling out the paperless office trialled in its central reservations department to its event and account teams. "There's always loads more to be done," laughs Harbisher. "It seems to grow arms and legs."
The company also actively informs customers of its environmental programmes, and Apex is reaping the benefits in new business.
"The sales team push our CSR mandate, environment work and the awards we've won very heavily," admits Harbisher. "We've significantly grown our conference business, and we can trace that back to the awards we've won for our environment work."
Above: The restaurant and a bedroom at the Apex City hotel in London
What Apex does
- Dual-flush toilets reduce water consumption, with flow restrictors fitted to showers and taps.
- Towels are reused and replaced on guest request.
- Ozone is used instead of chlorine to disinfect swimming pool water.
- Energy-efficient windows improve thermal performance, reducing the need for heating and air conditioning.
- Keycard systems in rooms control lighting, heating and air coolers.
- Each hotel has a building management system to control temperatures throughout.
- Energy-saving lighting, dimmers and motion detectors are used extensively.
- Through its partner Climate Care, Apex has set up an online carbon-offsetting tool that enables guests to offset the carbon produced by their visit.
- Apex gives away furniture and fittings after refurbishments, and its obsolete IT equipment is recycled by Shred Fast.
- It favours products derived from recycled materials or renewable resources.
- Each hotel has a dedicated recycling unit, with a recycling programme covering paper, plastic, cardboard, glass, CDs, polythene wrappers and polystyrene.
- A licensed contractor recycles all used cooking oil.
- Newspapers are provided only on request to avoid wastage.
- Apex compacts its waste so fewer collections are required.
- Supplier agreements require them to limit packaging and mix Apex's deliveries with those of other clients to increase efficiency.
- Whenever appropriate, Apex purchases recycled goods and new equipment that has minimal, or is free of, ozone-depleting substances.
- It buys eco-friendly chemicals in bulk to reduce waste and works with suppliers to encourage the use of environmentally friendly soaps and detergents for laundering bed linen and towels.
- It uses Fairtrade tea and ethically sourced coffee, local produce and some organic produce.