How to use net zero commitments to attract investors and developers

MANCHESTER, England — Robert Godwin, managing director, Lamington Group, urged hoteliers to fully embrace rigorous carbon reduction programmes within their businesses in an impassioned call to action at the Annual Hotel Conference.

Introducing Godwin’s presentation, Alexi Khajavi, president, Hospitality & Travel, Questex, said: “Not content with just being a good hospitality company with some great sustainability goals, Lamington Group is challenging the concept that being sustainable has to mean making sacrifices to guest satisfaction and financial performance.”

In fact, Lamington Group is explicitly using its commitment to “whole life net zero” to attract investors, developers and partners. This means that carbon emissions for all new properties developed by Lamington will amount to zero “from the first brick to the end of the building’s life.”

Under the room2 brand, the real estate investment and development company has three hotels operating in Hammersmith, Southampton and Chiswick. Known as ‘hometels,’ they combine the best elements from Airbnb, serviced apartments and boutique hotels in an offering designed to appeal to modern corporate and leisure guests seeking long, medium and short stays.

New room2 hometels are in the pipeline in York, Glasgow and Manchester representing £100 million of investment. room2 Belfast is due to open in spring 2023 and the group has a vision to expand across the UK and reach 5,000 keys by 2030.

Godwin acknowledged that the enormity of climate change (and its abstract nature – you can’t see carbon, like you can see litter on the street) can make people feel disconnected and unsure of how and where to start taking action.

But its growing impact, such as the peak temperatures in the UK this summer, means more people will be directly affected by it, he said

His own wake-up call came on a family holiday in South Africa where he saw that human intervention at a nature reserve had increased the elephant population but the elephants were now dying out again because of water scarcity.

“Why should you care? We all have our own ‘whys’ and finding these will be crucial to propel your motivation into discipline,” he said.

“[Action on climate change] matters to business and an increasing number of your stakeholders care and their awareness and education is rising. They will demand more and more. Your customers care. According to 61% of travellers said the pandemic made them want to travel more sustainably. Your team cares. Most millennials will only work for purpose-driven firms. Your lenders and investors care. There are lower interest rates for sustainable buildings.”

For one the most energy-intensive asset classes, sustainability benchmarks in the hotel industry, such as phasing out single-use plastics and re-using towels, have been set far too low for too long, Godwin said.

“The world doesn’t need any more lip service and baby steps. It needs massive action. And it starts with taking responsibility. Net zero is the most important benchmark in order to confront climate change head on,” he said.

He advised hoteliers to follow an accredited carbon reduction programme or draw on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals: “Don’t commit to too much and spread too thin. Use your voice. You have influence. You are making choices, using suppliers. Decision makers will hear you and pressure will mount and you will speed up change.”