The need to manage greenhouse gas emissions and achieve a high level of energy efficiency is a major challenge for many New Zealand industries, but in the accommodation sector, one hotel operator has achieved both by becoming the first hotel in New Zealand to attain carboNZero certification.
Sudima Auckland Airport achieved carbon neutral status last year by measuring its greenhouse gas emissions through the internationally accredited programme in accordance with the ISO standard for reporting greenhouse gas emissions and removals, and by taking the additional step to put in reduction plans and offset all remaining emissions.
The hotel has a Qualmark rating of 4.5 and consistently operates near full capacity.
It achieved its carboNZero status by scrupulously determining current actual carbon emissions, a six-month process that involved measuring all goods and products supplied to the hotel by more than 20 other companies; assessing use of natural gas and electricity and the quantities and disposal of waste; and tracking air and car travel by the hotel’s staff.
But the process began well before Sudima Auckland Airport opened in 2011. Hiring Kanika Jhunjhnuwala as the hotel group’s project executive was a significant early step. Her main job was and still is to focus on corporate social responsibility and the environmental component of the hotel.
“With the initial investment already made in the building it was a natural step to see what else we could do to reduce our impact on the environment,” she said. “Because it was planned for the hotel to be environmentally cutting-edge right from the start, this gave us a unique opportunity to design a futuristic building with our environmental impact in mind.
“From the beginning of the project the whole team has been dedicated to reducing our impact on the environment, from the technology used in constructing the building, to the day-to-day operations of the hotel. Going carboNZero ensured that our carbon footprint was neutralised, thereby giving us something concrete to relate to our guests. It also gave us a point of difference with our clients who are becoming more and more aware of the problems with global warming and the anthropogenic component of it. If there is any way in which we can reduce our impact we will try to do it,” she said.
Practical steps taken to accomplish carboNZero status include refrigerator-free guest rooms, LED lighting and ‘chilled beam’ air-conditioning.
“Refrigeratorless guest rooms do not mean no room service,” said Miss Jhunjhnuwala. “The hotel still offers a full range of in-room dining with fresh food made in-house from our restaurant, available 24 hours a day. Our all day menu covers a range of drinks and multi-cuisine food prepared by our excellent chefs. If the need arises, in-room refrigerators are available on request.
“Our chilled beam air-conditioning system is the first in the whole of the Southern Hemisphere. It heats and cools the room using convection currents created by hot and cold water. This means the chilled beam component in the room has no fans but still provides considerably more fresh air than is available in most other hotel rooms,” she said.
Guest rooms feature paperless compendiums which are intended to greatly reduce paper wastage.
“As soon as a guest walks into their room for the first time, the TV turns on displaying the compendium,” said Miss Jhunjhnuwala. “This way, guests are alerted to the fact that they have all the information they need at the tips of their fingers. The compendium is updated and maintained electronically which means we don’t have to print a new copy for each of our 153 guest rooms every time we make a change. It also means we can update it a lot more often as we adapt to guest needs and try to improve what we offer.” The compendiums are a part of the MovieLink product.
And right from its inception, the property was designed to collect rainwater, which is then filtered and recycled for non-potable use.
Kanika Jhunjhnuwala says the carboNZero certification is valuable proof of Sudima Auckland Airport’s superior green credentials.
“We know that more and more travellers – whether for business or pleasure – are factoring in sustainability when they decide which hotels to patronize. And we knew that while we have many green elements in our design, construction and décor, guests and potential visitors weren’t necessarily aware of our advanced position, so the certification is a crucial proof point and something people recognize,” she said.
Walking the talk
Sudima does not intend to rest on its laurels; aside from the task of reducing Sudima Auckland Airport’s emissions on an annual basis, the group intends to achieve certification for its other four properties, in Hamilton, Rotorua, Christchurch and Brisbane.
Said Miss Jhunjhnuwala: “It’s early days and this is a great enterprise for us. It’s our hope that as we progress in this area, other hotels will follow suit. It seems to us that the combination of New Zealand’s 100% pure tourism marketing campaign and high international visitor numbers means that our hotels should be walking the talk, and we are happy to be the first to demonstrate that carbon neutrality is possible in our industry.”
Enviro-Mark Solutions, a subsidiary of Landcare Research, owns and manages the carboNZero certification programme. Its CEO Dr Ann Smith said: “It’s exciting to see a sector leader challenging the industry to step up its game on the sustainability front. We’re already observing a response from the industry, with other hotel operators in the region contacting us to discuss certification.
“The travel industry is one where consumers have a more sophisticated awareness of related carbon emissions and the environmental costs, and we’re working with Auckland Airport and a number of travel agents to help make the whole sector more sustainable. It requires operators like Sudima to really push the boundaries and not just rely on superficial green measures. There is also an increasing degree of collaboration and knowledge-sharing among our members, which is hugely productive and great to see in the transition towards a low-carbon New Zealand.”
About Sudima Hotel Group
Sudima, owned by the family of LN Jhunjhnuwala of Hong Kong, operates six hotels in New Zealand and Australia, two of them managed for other owners. The group is committed to its environmental and social responsibilities, and supports sustainability initiatives in its hotels’ communities whenever possible. Sudima’s active management plan for the environment includes:
- Commitment to training and awareness of all team members in relation to Sudima Hotel’s environmental philosophy
- On-going development of environmentally-friendly procedures
- Consultation with all Sudima Hotel team members to foster ideas and awareness of the need to be a sustainable business
- Implementation of new policies at Sudima Hotels, as a result of consultation and research
- Engagement of suppliers to commit to sustainable practices and products
- Employment from within the local communities which Sudima Hotels operate within, as much as possible, and a commitment to developing this resource.
- Utilisation of local suppliers and contractors wherever possible
- Raising of environmental and social issues at a local level (where applicable)
- On-going awareness among hotel guests of our commitment to being sustainable
- Support of community initiatives aimed at sustainable use of the region’s resources.