Tomorrow needs today: Martin’s Hotels embraces circular economy

Tomorrow needs today: Martin’s Hotels embraces circular economy

This job is in line with my personal values,” says Gaëlle Mourlon Beernaert, sustainability project coordinator for Belgian hotel chain Martin’s Hotels. She has good reason for her job satisfaction: on 8 May, Martin’s Hotels won a prestigious EMAS (EU Eco-management and audit scheme) award, for applying EMAS and the circular economy model to its purchasing, waste and renovation projects.

‘Repair, reuse, recycle’ are the basic principles of the circular economy; a regenerative system in which resource and energy consumption are minimised. It contrasts with the currently dominant linear economy ‘take, make, dispose’ model of production, and is a relatively new component of European policy, with the European Commission adopting an ambitious Circular Economy package in December 2015.

A sustainability tool of the circular economy, EMAS is unusual in that is can be applied in all types of businesses and is applicable worldwide. Because accommodation has multiple environmental impacts, it can particularly benefit from the EMAS approach of improving all aspects of environmental management.

Established 20 years ago, the EU Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) is an instrument allowing organisations to evaluate, report, and decrease their environmental impacts. The EMAS Accommodation Infosheet for 2017 features 228 EMAS-registered hotels, campgrounds and short stay accommodations in nine European countries. Green travel website includes a feature to filter hotels based on their EMAS registration and locate them on an interactive map. And for organisations in the tourism industry looking to increase their sustainability and make use of the latest practices, the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre is currently developing a toolbox on best environmental practices in tourism. The toolbox will further support EMAS-registered accommodations with concrete tools and tips and will be presented during the conference.

For Martin’s Hotels, which operates 13 hotels in nine Belgian cities, EMAS represents a robust environmental management system which can continue to be applied as the chain expands – the first Martin’s Hotel in France in Valenciennes will open in October 2017, and in 2018 Martin’s Louvain-la-Neuve will open, a 108-room hotel along with 104 business-flats, lounge bar, restaurant, wellness/spa centre and meeting rooms.

Influencing the supply chain

Tomorrow needs today: Martin’s Hotels embraces circular economyWith more than 80 regular suppliers, the greening of the supply chain has a major influence on Martin’s Hotels environmental performance. As part of the EMAS requirements, a sustainable purchasing policy, a supplier code of conduct, and waste targets have been in place since the company first started with EMAS in 2010.

Purchasing policy gives priority to local, natural, recycled/recyclable and seasonal products, encourages suppliers to adhere to the Code of Conduct, and aims at minimising the flow of incoming waste, and recycling as much as possible of the waste inherent to the hotel business.  

Mourlon Beernaert says: “Our purchasing policy led us to selected recyclable ‘cradle to cradle’ carpet tiles for our renovation projects at Martin’s Brussels, Martin’s Bruges and for all future carpet renovations.” Using these tiles, only the damaged pieces are replaced instead of the entire carpet. The supplier, Desso, takes sustainable development seriously – all products are designed to be recyclable to allow the reuse of materials in new, superior quality products.

A life cycle approach applies to all purchasing decisions: buyers continually analyse the total cost of ownership (TCO) and favour leasing/rental contracts, as well as donations to charities.

For example, all fitness equipment, company cars, computer equipment, coffee machines in rooms, seminars, restaurants and bars are under a lease agreement, or ‘on loan for use’ contract. This lowers the total cost of ownership by enabling, at the end of leasing, either re-use or buy-back/resale, recycling or donation.

Suppliers’ environmental records are taken into account in the tendering process; with the result that Martin’s Hotels uses 100 % green electricity, all sanitary products are eco-labeled, and all print paper is FSC-certified. All linen (sheets, towels, tablecloths and napkins) is rented, and serviced by an eco-labelled laundry.

Food for thought

Tomorrow needs today: Martin’s Hotels embraces circular economyPurchasing policy favours locally sourced food and water, i.e. bought within a radius of no more than 300 kilometres. Mourlon Beernaert says: “The partnership with the main food supplier has allowed us to do an enormous amount of substantive work on local purchases; more than 5,000 products purchased from it have been reviewed. The result is that alternatives have been identified, based on what is available locally, in greater bulk, or both.”

The group’s main food purchasing supplier has also taken action by hiring two buyers, who attend the morning markets to increase local purchasing. At Martin’s Bruges, purchasers are working with “Boerengod”, a cooperative of farmers offering local produce.

Waste not, want not

The waste produced by the hotel business is mainly household waste (paper-cardboard, glass, PMC, organic, all-purpose). Martin’s Hotels’ waste stream is audited by an external supplier, and 67% of maintenance products are rechargeable, eco-labelled or in concentrated doses, reducing the overall volume of waste. There is limited packaging of hospitality products, and rechargeable pumps are used for soap and shower gel.

To limit paper use, an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system manage purchases orders, delivery slips and invoices 100% electronically. Double-sided printing in all offices is standard, and most periodicals are downloaded electronically and no longer provided in paper form.

Staff engagement

Tomorrow needs today: Martin’s Hotels embraces circular economyYou’ll get better service at an eco-hotel, too Mourlon Beernaert cites staff motivation as an added value of going green. “Using EMAS also provides encouragement to our employees, who are very involved,” she says.

This is in line with a European Commission study which found that EMAS-registered organisations experienced improved employee empowerment and motivation due to the greater involvement and higher awareness of staff.  

Staff training is provided on a regular basis. Environmental issues are addressed during staff recruitment, monthly quick checks and annual internal audits. Staff are encouraged to contribute to an idea box with environmental questions or suggestions.

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“Our staff are the driving force behind the Martin’s Hotels Group’s activities, and they contribute to reducing our environmental impact on a day-to-day basis,” says Mourlon Beernaert.

Managers, hotel employees and group management are contributing their own initiatives, including the donation of end-of-life furniture and unused bedding, donation of linen (500 towels) at the end of life to the association “doucheflux” that provides Brussels’ homeless population with access to a shower, the donation of old pillows from Martin’s Brussels EU to the Red Cross and the CPAS, the recovery of used soaps to make new ones (then offered to staff members), and using old furniture to create shelves.   

Tomorrow needs today: Martin’s Hotels embraces circular economyGuests are also encouraged to reduce their environmental impact, through the Eco-Bon programme, and zero carbon footprint seminars, an events carbon offsetting programme provided by CO2logic.

The Eco-Bon programme proposes guest actions such as asking for a slight refreshment of the room instead of a complete cleaning, non-daily replacement of towels, and responsible travel choices. Guests are rewarded with Eco-Bons which can be exchanged for gift vouchers.


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