How did the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel group reduce energy by a quarter in three years?

The May Fair Hotel in central London.

Radisson Blu Edwardian Hotels is a luxury line of 14 hotels in central London, Manchester, Heathrow and Guildford, welcoming over a million guests per year.

We spoke to Paul Mansi, the company’s chief operating officer, to find out how the group reduced its energy usage by almost a quarter in just three years, how it engages its staff to act more sustainably and how guest behaviour has changed over time.

Reducing energy and carbon

“Placing an emphasis on sustainability makes good business sense for us,” says Paul. “We were one of the first hotel groups to start doing this in 2008 and remain committed to maximising profits through doing the right thing, reinforcing our customers’ trust in the brand at the same time.”

Back in 2008, the company set itself the goal of reducing energy by 20% within three years. However by the end of 2011 the company had already exceeded this target, with energy usage down by 24%. So how was this achieved?

“Investing in energy efficient technologies has helped a lot,” Paul explains. “We installed LED lighting and secondary or new glazing around the hotels and although these were significant investments, we’re definitely seeing the benefits. We’ve also been using IT enhancements to become more paperless including the use of digital screens for registration instead of paper forms.

“And we’re currently installing various boiler compensation control units which we expect will bring us savings of about 30% in the summer and approximately 15%- 20% in the winter.”

The group has been installing secondary or new glazing around its hotels to help reduce energy usage.

The group also recently participated in a ‘Trees for Cities’ initiative, aiming to transform bleak urban landscapes into attractive healthy and green spaces through tree planting and greening projects.

“Our Manchester hotel has introduced green roofing as a way of improving its overall carbon footprint and urban biodiversity and attracting local wildlife. And to address the issue of disappearing bees and their colonies, our Bloomsbury Street hotel in London is going to be installing two beehives, which will also enable us to produce organic honey for in-house usage.”

Customer engagement

Paul has been working for the Edwardian Group London for 30 years and over that time has seen a significant shift in customer attitudes towards sustainability.

“Ten years ago when we decided to start using dispensable soap and shampoo holders rather than putting small individual bottles in our bathrooms it did not go down well with some of our customers!” he says. “We had some negative feedback about the change on our guest comment cards. But over the years we’ve found that our customers have come to expect us to run our business sustainably and these days we actually receive positive comments about this.

“Today our guest questionnaires contain specific questions about corporate responsibility and sustainability and we find that people are much more engaged, with guests commending our efforts in this area and suggesting other ways we could improve.”

Engaging employees

Vital to achieving the company’s targets are the 1,500 personnel, who work within the group. As well as holding a corporate responsible business meeting every month with key representatives from each of the hotels, the company invites all of its employees to suggest an ‘eco idea of the month’. The best idea each month wins £50, and the company looks at implementing all of the viable ideas submitted.

Paul has seen a significant shift in guests' attitudes towards sustainability during his career.

“We also make sure that everyone knows they’re accountable for our energy usage, with every department having an electricity consumption KPI,” Paul adds. “And we have a bit of friendly competition between the hotels to see which are doing best in terms of energy efficiency. We compile a league table of results every month, which is quite popular with the local energy champions at each hotel - no one wants to be last!"

Achievements and challenges

The company’s efforts are clearly paying off. All hotels in the group attained GOLD awards from the UK-based Green Tourism Business Scheme last year, and the group has also received a 2 star ‘Champion’ status from the Sustainable Restaurant Association.

“We’re pleased with our progress so far and are constantly looking at ways to continue improving”, says Paul. “But challenges remain. Although we’re keen to invest in technologies to help us reduce our impact, as we have been doing already, any decisions we make always need to make good economic sense for the business. Unfortunately at the moment some technologies and sustainable products are still too expensive for us to justify.”