Secrets to Successful Sustainability Practices at a Luxury Hotel

Sue Williams, the winner of the prestigious 2021 "Catey" Sustainable Business Award given by UK's The Caterer magazine, is general manager of the 23-bedroom, five-star Whatley Manor hotel and spa in Malmesbury, Wiltshire, in England's picturesque Cotswolds.

On a mission since 2019, Sue has proven that hotels can provide a luxury guest experience without excessive consumption, by engaging and leading her team in the successful pursuit of best practices in all areas of environmental and social sustainability. From the guest room and public spaces to the back of house, the environment, and the community (find the full list here), sustainability now underpins every business decision for the hotel, with transparent measurement guiding every step along the way. "You cannot manage what you have not measured," Sue recently explained to The Caterer, which is why she has partnered with EarthCheck, the world’s leading scientific certification for travel and tourism businesses.

Well ahead of what has been proposed for the travel industry by the UN at COP26 this week in Glasgow, Sue has specific goals for Whatley Manor in every area from energy usage and food waste, to packaging and decarbonization internally and externally for all suppliers. Her sights are already set on net-zero emissions by 2028, with a 75% reduction target by 2026. All of these efforts are part of the hotel's brand and communicated to guests from booking throughout each stay.

Sue Williams, General Manager, Whatley Manor
Sue Williams, General Manager, Whatley Manor

We asked Sue to share her top three tips for other hotels looking to implement a successful sustainability strategy:

  1. Set a strategy and communicate it so that 100% of the team can own it with you. However, every business needs one person to own it & drive the agenda every day, and be responsible for the targets.

  2. Make it a primary value in your business and all other actions will come from it.

  3. Collaborate with your supply chain, as this is where the greatest amount of your carbon lies.

Whatley Manor
Whatley Manor

The hotel’s "Sustainability Team," is made up of employees from all levels and departments, meets every six weeks to share ideas, track progress and take on new research and projects; and because sustainability has been woven into all HR standards and practices, in three short years, Sue and her team have achieved EarthCheck's Bronze accreditation and now has her sights set on Silver for 2022.

From awards and cost reductions to unique guest experiences and marketing opportunities, saving the planet has created other significant benefits, including:

  • Awards: Besides the recent "Catey", Whatley Manor was one of the first UK restaurants to be awarded a Michelin green star for its efforts in sustainable food purchasing, cooking, and waste management, plus eight other awards.

  • Unique experiences: Whatley Manor partnered with local distillery Sapling Spirits to launch Whatley Manor Citrus Vodka. The vodka is infused with citrus peel (lemon and orange), using only fruit from the hotel’s kitchen, which would otherwise have gone to waste. The hotel also has added beehives and an orchard.

  • Cost reduction: Whatley has achieved Zero waste to landfills reducing costs by several thousand pounds. The hotel has reduced general waste bins from 14 to 4 and now is properly recycling waste, general waste is sent to plants to be converted to energy and dry mixed recycling gets returned to become a raw material again.

  • Leading by example: Whatley Manor has encouraged suppliers to decarbonize their operations – or find alternatives where necessary. All Whatley suppliers must sign a fair trade code of conduct.

  • Tapping into green marketing: by committing and achieving such high sustainability goals, the hotel is featured on eco-website ItMustBeNow which allows ethical travelers to find, track a property’s sustainability performance and progress, and book direct.

For more information on Whatley Manor's sustainability practices, click here.

graphic of Whatley Manor Sustainability program
Whatley Manor's sustainability journey