Q&A: David Wright sustainability officer Mansley Serviced Apartments

by: Felicity Cousins | December 7, 2023

Mansley Serviced Apartments’ first property was 44 Curzon Street, Mayfair which has been operating as serviced apartments since the 1960s. No 1 The Mansions in Earl’s Court was bought a decade later. Over the years the business has expanded to seven properties, and locations include London, Edinburgh, Inverness, and Cheltenham. David Wright is portfolio development manager and sustainability officer at Mansley Serviced Apartments. He took on the role of sustainability officer (alongside his role as portfolio development manager) in October last year, setting a deadline of March 2023 to collect and submit sustainability data to Green Tourism. Sustainable Hotel News caught up with Wright to talk about the process involved, how much he has achieved in his role in one year and what his plans are for the future when it comes to sustainable reporting. 

How difficult was it to find the information you needed to submit to Green Tourism?

DW: Finding out who in the company knew different parts of the business was difficult. We’ve got seven buildings so we did one submission for each building and each one was 72 questions. So I was writing 500 different answers on the Green Tourism portal. I did find a spreadsheet, which was used to report meter readings so some information was there but there was not much attention to detail. Our buildings are all old buildings so I was trying to find out if certain parts were insulated and sometimes we didn’t have the floor plans so I had to trawl through all these documents. I also contacted our People And Culture department (HR) to look at the social aspects. Mansley has a robust support around what they do with staff – they definitely go beyond what they need to and I learnt even more about what I had access to as well!

Does Green Tourism help with this data collection process at all?

DW: No. It is really down to you to find it out. Everything they asked for is there somewhere, it’s just not recorded or shared. When you buy a property you get this information, but for example, we bought 44 Curzon Street Mayfair in the 1960s and so trying to find where those records are is difficult. We have properties in Inverness, Edinburgh and Cheltenham so at the beginning I was sending questions every five minutes to them, so it was tricky to get those answers. But eventually we got there and we submitted to Green Tourism on our deadline day with all the pictures, and evidence and documents to back up the claims.

And what was the result?

DW: Off the back of that submission we were given a Green Tourism Silver rating and we were just a few percentage points from getting a Gold, which is a big achievement for a first assessment.

What were you knocked down on?

DW: Old buildings are not very accessible so we lost a bit on that front and maybe I wasn’t able to demonstrate clearly enough the levels of insulation.

When do you resubmit for the process to start again?

DW: I’ve just starting to think about redoing it now. Green Tourism gives you feedback and you can see where your weak points are, and then you put in initiatives to enhance those weak points, and then you get more feedback. I see it as continual gradual improvement to get to where you want to be. 

The accreditation is not all based around carbon reduction. I thought maybe we can do more for hidden disabilities and neuro-diverse people so we are putting together an emergency pack for people with, or travelling with, someone with Autism. I have spoken to an expert and researched items (such as ear defenders and fidget toys) and it would cost about £30 for each site so that’s not going to be an issue.

It sounds like you are really getting into the role?

DW: Yes, and once we had all the data in place I said why don’t we do a carbon footprint report…  Green Tourism worked with me to do that. I think having someone else to check it adds extra layers of authenticity although they can only report on the data I am giving them. Not too many people in our sector have produced a carbon footprint report and on the back of that Greengage got in touch with me and they said they’d like us to join – so we have to go through another accreditation.

Why did you feel you needed another accreditation?

DW: I didn’t feel I needed to do another one but Greengage was a bit more savvy with their marketing! They have awards in January and we are shortlisted on that. 

I read in your report 42 per cent of emissions was from electricity. What are you doing about reducing that?

DW: There are two big projects I have planned for the company: One is waste and the other one is energy. Inverness and Cheltenham are fully electric – our highland apartments are not fully owned and we manage the majority of them so it’s harder to do things in that way. Our Mayfair and Edinburgh properties are gas-electric. Our plan is to have all of them with our 100 per cent renewable energy plan one day. 

How will you manage the energy reduction?

DW: We have old buildings and we haven’t got any fancy building management systems yet but I have spoken to a couple of companies which could put widgets behind sockets, (which speak to a receiver and feed into a dashboard) so you can control it from the reception desk. You can turn lights on and off and heat up and down. It’s measured on blue tooth devices in the room so when a guest goes out, if they take their phone, then it says there are no occupants in this apartment but the heating is on so you can reduce it. It will be an investment to put that in place at all the sites but that’s a real way to see how we can heavily reduce that percentage.

Waste management is another one. It is noted on the carbon report that we didn’t really have any usable data. We use Change Waste Recycling in Edinburgh so our general waste is measured. There are assumed metrics in place on recycling and they do secret bin bag checks where they check 15 kilos of general waste and they might say 50 per cent of that could have been in recycling. I’m not saying we can make zero to landfill, but I think we can make massive reductions in our general waste.

What about scope 3?

DW: I have a good handle on our business travel scope 3, which I’m pleased about as we didn’t have that before. For the first report I had to look at credit card spend – there were elements of the process which took forever…  So I have developed spreadsheets and a sustainability hub for the company so everyone has access to it all. They have to do it and they know it’s there and I send out reminders. If someone doesn’t fill it in and I don’t know about it then it will get missed but it’s far more accurate than before.

What’s the best thing about your job?

DW: It trickles into your personal life and I’m being much more diligent at home and then my kids are seeing it and asking why. And I just like tidying up and reducing waste and saving energy is like a big spring clean!