Q&A: Léa Jacquot-Benson assistant sustainability manager Considerate Group

by: Felicity Cousins | March 1, 2024

Léa Jacquot-Benson assistant sustainability manager Considerate Group talks to Sustainable Hotel News about strategy, implementation and how important transparency and data is when hotels talk about sustainability. We also look at having the resources to take on sustainability roles, green hushing, and how sometimes the biggest challenge to hotels are the promises that have already been made.

Why do hotels need consultants such as Considerate Group?

L J-B: We bring that external expert knowledge to hotels. They might have someone in-house who is either dedicated to this topic, or who is very passionate, but they may not have the resources to cover the depth of the topic or the time frame that it requires to report on it, or actually act on the objectives set in the strategy.

We help them achieve their sustainability goals and sometimes we just give them the weight that is needed to bring it to a more senior level – to management levels – to give a little bit of credibility to this topic and help them drive the point home.

So how long would it take to change and then implement a hotel sustainability strategy?

L J-B: It depends. Most of the time when we support a hotel or a hotel group with strategy implementation it is usually because we have created the strategy with them. So it can take years if there is an annual action plan, or less time if it’s specific support for the first few months.

Lots of hotels have plans and strategies and release impact reports and talk of certifications they have gained, which is all really positive but how can that be communicated in a way that is really clear to the people that are searching for sustainable hotels?

L J-B: Good question. I think transparency is extremely important so reporting plays a big part in this because you can’t report on something you’re not doing unless there is a critical lack of data. So even though you know the average traveller won’t necessarily look into the impact report of the hotel they are staying with, having that accessible is a really big step.

I think being genuine in the sustainability journey is not about having done it all and being the best – we are all on a journey and learning every day about this topic. What I really like is seeing specific case studies or client testimonials because it feels like I can relate to that and I want to stay in place like that.

But something I do also see a lot of is green hushing – which is the opposite of green washing. Some hotels are already doing a lot and they either don’t know or don’t realise it – maybe because it is very employee-driven and it’s more of a genuine interest in the topic, or they are doing it but because of their audience they are a little bit careful around the marketing and they don’t want to promote it too much because the green backlash could be huge.

Can you explain more?

L J-B: It’s finding that balance and finding the right message. The answer kind of lies with the hotel because they know their audience better than anyone else. A luxury hotel in Venice won’t have the same messaging as a family hotel in Disneyland in Paris because they don’t want to hear the same thing. They are all doing their sustainability initiatives and it’s not only just about the environment of course, it’s about cultural heritage and local experiences and the social side and inclusivity – that is all part of sustainability.

Are sustainable hotel certifications helpful?

L J-B: Certifications are a big part of the communication around sustainability and I think it really helps to fight green washing, so certifications have a lot of weight now in this sustainable hospitality landscape. Some are more operational or technical, but having these kind of third party accreditations from someone that is neutral and trained to check that hotels are actually doing these things has a weight.

There are many and I think the landscape can be very wide and confusing to some people who are starting to look at it so it’s about finding the right one for the hotel, but at Considerate Group we are very often involved in these discussions. We wouldn’t necessarily promote one in particular, but we would support hospitality organisations finding the right fit for them.

What are hotels asking for and what is the biggest challenge for them?

L J-B: In our team we have experts on a lot of different topics within sustainability but the big thing right now is that most hotel groups have made ambitious commitments to sustainability a few years ago, and now they are starting to realise the implications and that they need to work towards those targets, and what the consequences will be, or already are, in succeeding or failing to reach them.

A big part of it is the technical aspect. We have a lot of buildings-focused projects, so having energy assessments and building certifications such as BREEAM and LEED is a very hot topic right now. And green certifications in general as we have mentioned. Big groups, Accor and Marriott for example, they have made a commitment to having hotels certified at some point, but it comes back to what we were saying in terms of internal resources – it can be hard to find someone who can actually sit down and complete these forms and collect all the evidence.

Yes they may have to contact different people around the world to get the information and it sounds difficult…?

L J-B: Absolutely, and as we are B Corp certified ourselves I’ve seen the process – it’s very long and very in-depth! That’s good because that’s what makes it so robust, but it is also a lot of time.

So would you say a big challenge is resources or is it being overwhelmed with what to do first?

L J-B: A bit of both. Having the resources would be the biggest pain point – the time and the budget. It takes a lot of money sometimes to achieve the goals that have been set – or maybe not yet set. And also the hospitality industry is experiencing a huge staff shortage and an issue with turnover as well. Having spoken to a lot of clients about this it’s what sometimes prevents the hotel as an organisation to reach their goals. They have the right infrastructure and process on paper but if you have to train people over and over again it is really hard.

Regarding reporting – with CSRD coming in and big corporates needing to be transparent about their emissions and scope 3 can you talk a little bit about technology which might help hotels report and collect data? 

L J-B: We always say you can’t reduce what you don’t measure – it’s big thing. So for us it’s incredibly important to share that message that data collection and data monitoring is key. We do have our own platform, specific to hotels, and we can provide hotels with reports monthly, quarterly, annually and it’s linked in with their metres so it’s a smooth process once it is set up.

Do they have to input that data though?

L J-B: In the best case scenario everything is automated and we have a team of data analysts who provide more detailed analysis and recommendations as well so they are very closely in touch with engineering teams in hotels. It is also quite satisfying to see how you’ve improved on your energy or water consumption and because its hospitality-specific we can take into account the data from occupancy, rather than just looking at it like a regular building.

What if you are asset light? That’s difficult to manage when you don’t own all the properties and you have different people collecting different data. Do you have to deal much with that scenario?

L J-B: We work with all stakeholders from portfolio level to asset managers, C-Suite to heads of ESG, to a more property level green team, HR, engineers. We do work with asset light groups in which case we try to strengthen the relationship with the owner as they can obviously make the big decisions. We offer support and give credibility to the topic, so having that data is absolutely key. The investors are usually very interested in that – it’s very clear to them how that can be reduced and so we often support with the negotiation process and alignment.

Whatever the project is we always work with multiple stakeholders. Even if we have the buy-in from the owner we always link multiple times with the brand to understand what their plans are, for example reducing single-use plastic, the owner might be very keen on doing that, but if the brand standards still involve having small amenities…  hospitality is always like this – the supply chain involves so many people. But if the owner wants something then people on the ground are always very keen to achieve it as well.

It sounds like you have busy times ahead…?

L J-B: Yes! I’ve been at Considerate Group for about two years now and I’ve already seen a lot of improvement [for the sector] so I think there are great times ahead. There is buy-in from a lot more people already, and the realisation that this is now at the forefront of what needs to be done, and not just an after thought of ‘OK if we have some time or money left we can look at it’. I think it’s becoming more of an integral part of the hospitality life.

Sustainable Hotel News spoke to Léa Jacquot-Benson on February 19th.

For more Q&As click here.

For our feature on single-use plastic and hotels see below.

FOCUS ON: Single-use plastic and hotels