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MAF launched five-year sustainability strategy

Yesterday Majid Al Futtaim Properties (MAF) launched its new five-year sustainability strategy, which aims to strengthen the company’s position as a global leader in the field.

The new strategy was announced during Majid Al Futtaim Properties’ third annual Sustainability Summit in Sheraton Hotel Mall of the Emirates, Dubai.

George Kostas, CEO, Majid Al Futtaim Properties, said: “Today MAF is ranked as the leading property company in the Middle East, and according to the 2013 Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark (GRESB) survey, we rank second in the Asia-Pacific region and in the top 133 property businesses worldwide.”

Presenting Majid Al Futtaim Properties’ new sustainability strategy, Ibrahim Al Zu’bi, Head of Sustainability, said: “It is our vision to enhance people’s lives through sustainable real estate. This commitment is reflected in our approach to issues ranging from labour conditions and health and safety in our developments to supporting local economic development. This is an evolving commitment and we are proud that our commitment thus far has included achievements such as a 17% reduction in water consumption in our malls and a 15% reduction in our hotels.

“In addition, last year we delivered AED 13.3 million in community investment through hosting events in our malls, donating staff time, providing free space to groups and cash contributions.”

Speaking at the event, Nils Kok, Executive Director, GRESB, discussed how the number of companies and funds disclosing information on sustainability performance in 2013 to GRESB increased by nearly a quarter compared to the previous year.

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Sustainability in hospitality

Worldwide, the energy and environmental impact of the hospitality sector is huge as it relies heavily on built assets, is a major consumer of energy and water and generates considerable volumes of waste. The sector is thus greatly vulnerable to sustainability issues. BGreen and Emirates Green Building Council (EGBC) chaired a round table discussion on sustainability trends in the hospitality sector in the Middle East, the sixth in our collaborative series Sustainable Solutions

The round table participants were Philippe Torrin, Vice President – Technical Services Hospitality, Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) Group; Ashroff Shakoor, Director of Engineering, Grand Hyatt Dubai; Srilal Palihakkara, Director of Engineering, Mövenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta Gate Dubai & Technical Coordinator – Middle East, India and Sri Lanka with Dubai Tourism’s Said Ishaq Abugharbieh as observer. The discussion was moderated by Anoop K Menon, Contributing Editor, BGreen.

BGREEN: How would each one of you relate sustainability to the hospitality sector?
I feel that even today sustainability is neither well understood nor well presented. You have a lot of public relations and marketing with the need to look good superseding everything else. So you have expensive propositions presented as sustainable actions. When it comes to sustainability in the hospitality sector, I feel that we need to concentrate on low hanging fruits, make a credible success out of them and see where we can go from there.
Ashroff: Around 15 years ago, we started collecting condensed water from the AC coils at the Hyatt Regency. Today, we collect over 10,000 gallons of water, and on a hot humid day, it goes up to 15,000 gallons. At that time, the objective as quite simple – reduce the bills. Sustainability, on its own, became an important driver for us seven years ago when we invested nearly AED 3.5 million to put up a solar water heater system on the Grand Hyatt. In fact, I have come across older hotels implementing simple energy-efficiency measures, carrying out energy audits, operational reviews compared to new properties. I went to a recently opened five star hotel in Dubai and was shocked to not find even a single LED lamp. Sustainability in the region’s hotel sector is really a mixed bag.
Srilal: In my opinion, sustainability has a wider perspective beyond technical gains. At Movenpick, we started our sustainability journey in 2009 with energy monitoring programme in 12 hotels. Today, 98% of our properties in the Middle East are implementing this programme. In fact, all our Middle East hotels have Green Globe Certification (GGC), which is a worldwide sustainability system. GGC has over 337 action points all the way from energy and water conservation to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). For example, we buy fair trade coffee which guarantees that the product is produced in a sustainable manner and doesn’t involve child labour – this is a sustainable way of doing business.

BGREEN: Why isn’t sustainability a widespread trend in the region’s hotel sector despite its obvious importance? What are the challenges in its way?
Philippe: We are living in a society driven by revenue. Before taking up high cost steps like food waste composting and the like, we should start with actions that have a huge impact on costs with minimum investment. These are no-brainers that are often side-lined for public relations gimmicks despite proven results. In fact, we should go in for more subjective actions only after harvesting the low hanging fruits. The need of the hour is sharing best practices, and developing a proper, independent tool to measure the results and prove that a particular action gives a particular set of results. This would be useful to engineers who want to convince their management. Today, there is little or no dissemination of sustainability actions taken and results achieved. Moreover, Return on Investments (ROI) promised by vendors are based on inflated or incorrect values that don’t consider ground reality.
Ashroff: There is a lot of value if you go to someone who has experience in implementing sustainability initiatives. As a 30-year old group operating different properties, we have that experience. We started installing LED lamps three to four years ago and achieved ROI in five months despite the fact that we didn’t consider heat dissipation from the halogen lamps. Buoyed by that success, we started implementing LED lighting in other properties.
Philippe: What we need now is a platform to share such success stories.
Ashroff: In fact, there should be networking events where hotel engineers can gather and share their knowledge and experiences.

BGREEN: How important is water and waste from a sustainability standpoint?
At the Hyatt Regency, we took Treated Sewage effluent (TSE) supplied for irrigation, treated it in a reverse osmosis (RO) plant installed at a cost of AED 1.3 million and used this water in our cooling towers. I had calculated 12 months as the payoff period but it took only nine months. We replicated that success in the Park Hyatt and two months ago, we installed a similar system in the Grand Hyatt as well. Water conservation can play an important role in your sustainability plan.
Srilal: The energy monitoring programme that we launched in 2009 motivated our hotels to save on water and other utilities. We have saved 78,000 cubic metres of water in the 12 hotels which equates to 31 Olympic sized swimming pools or 52 million 1.5 litre-bottles. We achieved these savings through small actions like installation of water savers, water bottles in the toilet tanks and also guest education. We only spent money on water savers which paid off in six to nine months. While we started with 12 hotels, other hotels too have been implementing these measures. When you talk about waste in this part of the world, it is enormous. There are five countries in the Middle East that figure among the top 10 in the world when it comes to waste generation. Apart from food waste, hotels also generate general waste. We have been segregating waste and recycling it for the past one and a half years but I started measuring it only recently. In just 15 days, we diverted six percent of our waste which was going to landfill to recycling. Our target is eight percent by the end of the year.
Philippe: Even with water, we need an independent tool to measure the savings. We need to go with Genuine Performance. At MAF, we are audited by an internationally recognised third party, which verifies that the numbers in our annual reports and the method of calculation is correct. In three years, we saved 24% in electricity and 18% in water and diverted 30% of waste from landfill through recycling. In fact, we are receiving money for the recycled waste while earlier, we had to pay money for waste to be taken away.

BGREEN: Clearly, lack of awareness about sustainability isn’t a significant challenge…
I agree that things are changing but slowly. Earlier, people were turned back by the costs, but with prices coming down, they are keen to invest. Today, you can buy branded LED bulbs for AED40 which used to be AED60. I feel things are moving in the right direction.
Philippe: In my opinion, this change was induced by the economic crisis. Before the crisis, business was so good that hotels were not hard-pressed to cut costs. Post-crisis, the focus on bottom line pushed them to cut their energy and water costs. We made investments worth over millions in heat pumps, LED bulbs and recycling in our properties with positive results. We were doing it for the first time so there were risks. We had to prepare a proper case study and sent that to our business analyst, make IRR and NPV of 10 years which also included increase in maintenance costs to prove that the investment is worthwhile. But how many are really willing to do all that or even bear the risk? At the same time, most of the suppliers here are not really capable of helping you on the implementation side. The bigger five star hotels will have good chief engineers but the same may not be the case for smaller hotels. If you do not have good local resources, things can get very complicated. In fact, procurement and support for implementation is very important. I feel there is opportunity for specialised companies in these areas.
Srilal: Product evaluation is also an issue. For example, while there are many LED products in the market, sometimes they will not last the years stated in the guarantee. There are a lot of technicalities involved in selecting products.
Ashroff: You must study the technologies and calculate the ROI. Shorter the duration of ROI, the better. Also, our engineering team carries out most of the implementations. Why invest so much money and then rely on outside contractors to do things? Even otherwise, if you are clear about what you want and how to get it, you can get the contractor or supplier to do it for you.

BGREEN: How do you get your customers to buy into sustainability?
Corporates who are passionate about sustainability prefer to do business with suppliers who share that ethos, and this applies to their choice of hotels too. In this case, sustainability becomes an important driver of business. Business apart, sustainability is also a moral obligation to save the world for the future. I believe that it is easier to take sustainable measures today because there is so much of waste. Most of the actions we have implemented so far required little by way of investment. But now we are ready to go to the next stage of investing money and getting returns.

BGREEN: How do you ensure that the workforce don’t lose sight of the sustainability agenda?
We have linked bonus to performance to make the workforce accountable. We have given our engineers tools to measure performance. We are also pushing this accountability further down to other departments as well.
Ashroff: We have appointed a company to prepare reports on consumption figures which we get at the end of every month. These reports tells us how we have performed compared to the previous months. In 2006, we were given a target to achieve reductions of 25% in electricity and 20% in water consumption by 2015. With this system and past records and looking at the other properties, we are doing very well. I agree that it is important to give people targets and tools to measure the progress.

EGBC representative: Hospitality is one of the sectors that we are focussing on as part of our sector-based sustainability programme. I would like to know how EGBC can be platform for collaboration between the government and hotel sector.
Philippe: EGBC should develop a proper tool and establish a common platform to share success stories, data or results so that the entire sector benefits. Competition between hotels is determined by service and not by how green they are. However, a ‘greener’ Dubai will certainly attract more people and everybody benefits.
Ashroff: Dubai’s Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) has carried out many awareness drives. In fact, DTCM should encourage all hotels to carry out energy audits as these audits will tell the management where the ‘leaking buckets’ are. There are so many simple measures that hotels can take provided the management knows about it. EGBC can play a co-ordinating role here.
Srilal: I would like to share a few statistics from the World Travel & Tourism Council. The tourism industry is the second highest employer in the Middle East. We have 3,000 operational hotels with 300,000 rooms in the UAE. If every hotel launches an environmental training programme for their staff, 1.7 million people could be trained in a single year in the UAE alone. This could boost the sustainability awareness within the country. In fact, in Movenpick, staff training is an integral part of our sustainability agenda.

BGREEN: What would be your wish list for making sustainability an integral part of decision-making in the hospitality industry?
Philippe: I feel that authorities should make it mandatory for all hotels to incorporate solar energy in their operations and recycle grey water. They could also lay down a minimum percentage of lighting to be LEDs. Property owners who invest in sustainability should be recognised. Most of the time, the spotlight is on the hotel operators.
Srilal: My wish list would include regulations that encourages sustainability and a platform for sharing of knowledge, experiences and success stories. Investors should be forced to factor sustainability into their projects during the design stage itself. For example, you can incorporate condensate recovery and re-use at the design stage rather than as a retrofit.
Ashroff: A platform where hotel engineers can meet and exchange their experiences and knowledge can create greater awareness. We should also get the consultants to listen more to the end-users.

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Kempinski Hotel MOE receives LEED Certification

Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates has been recognised for its renewable energy policy.  It received the silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification in the Existing Buildings Operations & Maintenance category, after changing in operations to become more sustainable. After Dubai Government published its green commitment for the city, Kempinski joined forces with Majid Al Futtaim (MAF) to work towards green developments in 2011. Achieving LEED certification is in line the Kempinski Renewable Energies (KREEN) policies, which was founded in 2012 to optimise the hotel’s energy efficiency.

Konstantin Zeuke, General Manager of Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates said: “As per the Global Business Traveller Survey 2013, 47% of business travellers said they prefer to patronise ‘green’ hotels when staying out of town for work, which is a great advantage for us. We are extremely proud of this achievement and of the commitment and dedication of our employees in acquiring this certification.”

The LEED certification will help bring a substantial reduction in the impact the hotel has on the environment as well as reduced energy costs. In 2012, Kempinski which has almost 393 rooms saw a 9% reduction in energy and water usage as a result of the changes the hotel applied in line with LEED requirements.

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