AUTHORS: RCH Managing Director Jonathan Raggett & Michelle Devlin, General Manager of The Egerton

Integral to Red Carnation Hotels broad plan for a more sustainable future is their mission to eliminate single use plastic from each and every hotel in the collection. Here, RCH Managing Director, Jonathan Raggett and Michelle Devlin, General Manager of The Egerton House Hotel in Knightsbridge, share how the hotel collection is achieving their goal. Casting aside plastic straws and single-serve breakfast items is but the tip of the iceberg…

Our pledge against plastic

As a global leader in hospitality, we at The Red Carnation Hotel Collection believe it’s our responsibility to do everything in our power to support sustainability. Social responsibility not only champions the environment, but also makes good business sense. Guests are more likely to choose high-end hotels and restaurants with strong sustainability credentials. As part of The Travel Corporation, we are proud of the global initiative to do all we can to protect the planet.

Rolling out Red Carnation Hotels’ plan

Our properties are located across the world and there are various local sustainability initiatives in place at each location. However, we have ensured that each is on the same track regarding single use plastic. Our bartenders no longer mix drinks with plastic stirrers, takeaway beverages are never served in disposable plastic cups, and plastic piping bags are a thing of the past. We have removed from our hotels 15 single use plastic items, from bin liners and water bottles to pens and toothbrushes.

We are using innovative alternatives to guarantee our signature five-star service, such as biodegradable pasta drinking straws and reusable cocktail stirrers made from glass, metal, stainless steel and bamboo. Grab a cappuccino-to-go from any Red Carnation Hotel and it will be served in a compostable cup, with the lid made from fermented corn starch.

Gone are the days of single-use jam and butter pots. Red Carnation Hotels’ breakfast buffet has undergone a comprehensive plastic-free makeover. Our cereals and preserves are served in glass jars, while butter is presented artfully in ceramic dishes. A major undertaking, this work has been replicated in our staff areas—and it’s something that households and other hospitality providers can implement, too.

Plastic water bottles are no longer available in any Red Carnation property. Each hotel has implemented a sustainable water service; either serving filtered water instead of bottled water, or supplying sustainable glass bottles of still and sparkling. All UK properties in the Red Carnation collection partners with ethical water supplier Belu which gives 100 per cent of its net profits to its charity partner, WaterAid, in a bid to help the 884 million people currently living without clean drinking water. In 2018, Red Carnation’s support of Belu allowed WaterAid to transform over 2,000 lives through access to clean water.   

Handing out plastic water bottles to guests leaving for a day excursion or going jogging is expected at five-star establishments. But months ago we took the decision to provide glass bottles instead and guests returning from a run are invited to rehydrate with a freshly squeezed juice at the bar or in their room.

Tips on how to execute change

To successfully eradicate single use plastic, the entire process is being led from the top. We believe this is the only way to make a real change, and it cannot be a half-hearted approach. Therefore, staff need to be aware of the reasons for our actions. We take great care to educate our workforce about why we’re taking these steps, so they can then confidently respond to guests’ questions and assist us in achieving our goals.

We have ‘champions’ at each Red Carnation Hotel to audit our in-house practices and ensure we are ‘walking the talk’. These champions train their colleagues, helping us to ensure our sustainability pledge is heard and understood. Moreover, we give each Red Carnation employee two paid days off per year to support a charity or community project of their choosing. It’s a provision offered by very few hospitality companies, but we believe it creates a win-win scenario: our staff feel more energised when they return to work; and it’s another way for us to give back. In an industry that’s subject to a high turnover of staff, we’ve found it to be a programme that nurtures loyalty and provides great motivation within the team.

Guests are also interested to learn more about what we’re achieving in the sustainability space, and we work hard to share our story; to date their response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Each of Red Carnation Hotels beautifully appointed hotels is dedicated to eliminating single use plastic and supporting environmentally sound approaches to sustainable living.