Q&A: Michael Mason-Shaw, general manager at Hyatt Place London City East

by: Felicity Cousins | December 14, 2023

The 280-room Hyatt Place London City East was developed from a brownfield site and opened in 2021 with BREEAM Excellent certification. General manager Michael Mason-Shaw has been tracking his personal carbon footprint for more than five years and believes change comes from the individual, as well as at individual property level. He believes encouraging staff with support from the executive team level is the way to succeed when it comes to operating a sustainable hotel. Read more about the hotel’s successful initiatives and how to navigate the sustainability future below.

How did Hyatt Place London City East become such a sustainable offering?

MM-S: It ultimately begins with making sure you have the right team and the right structure in place. I was lucky enough to come into this project a year before the hotel opened but prior to that the owning group had put together a stellar management team. Cycas Hospitality who is the management company I work for and Berkeley Capital Group who is the asset management company. The MD of Berkeley Capital Group, Lissa Engle, is very well versed within ESG and was able to bring the owners onboard with that ESG vision from the get go. 

It just made perfect sense that we were following BREEAM as the first step on our journey. You need a solid foundation and we all felt we could achieve that for the asset, because it was ultimately a renovation asset not a new construction. We brought in a superb construction company green accredited throughout, so we had the foundation right. I’m really pleased to say we achieved BREEAM Excellent.

Do hotels need a dedicated person to manage the sustainable practices and operations for the pathway to net zero?

MM-S: It comes down to the importance of having someone within your team that is the pioneer and understands the world of ESG. I’m a general manager and I’m passionate about it and I have some knowledge, but having Berkeley Capital Group’s Lissa Engle onboard from an asset management perspective was pivotal and that’s really been from the get go; we’ve had and an ESG focussed committee at executive level between the management company and the owners to help us really deliver that roadmap.

It is a full time job and the legislation around ESG has evolved over time and I’ve noticed a real step change in the RFP process. 

How have RFPs changed?

MM-S: Gone are the days 20 years ago when you had five or six questions around how you treat your employees, or do you have a utilities control within your property, or do you have a non-plastic policy… Now we are up to 35-40 questions and it’s all around SBTi targets, the legislation coming in next year (CSRD) and what accreditations are we party to. There has been a real step change this year in the RFP process. I’ve seen it coming the last two years but more and more RFPs are actually front and centre placing that as a core policy within whether you are accepted onto the programme or not.

And if you are part of the company’s scope 3, then you will have to be reporting your data…

MM-S: Yes and it’s interesting when you talk about scope 3, because we have not started on scope 3 yet – it will come in 2024. CSRD means we wouldn’t need to report until 2027 because we are classed as an SME (fewer than 250 employees) but we are starting the process in 2024 because we want to be known within the industry as someone that is taking this super seriously. We are working with a couple of different platforms too so we will be working with Omnevue, which collates all of our data.

And this aligns with all the different legislative frameworks? 

MM-S: Yes because we’ve been part of the GRESB platform for two cycles and we have just gone through our second cycle and we know we still need to get more infrastructure around our reporting, so we are going to be working with Omnevue next year and then on top of that we will be working with Eco Vadis so that really gives us the ability to look at how we can decarbonise – particularly within the supply chain around scope three. So I’m really looking forward to getting under the skin of scope 3 in 2024 and really outreaching to our existing supply chain. We are also working with EarthCheck.

There are so many companies to help along the way how did you know which partners to choose?

MM-S: Yes, we know the partners we want to partner with, and I think it realistically starts by having that ESG team from the get go. So we know that this is our first year and this is where we want to focus, and then in our second year this is where we end up. And we are going to do that by working with these X, Y and Z partners.

However, ESG could perhaps be GSE – because you really need to make sure you have the right level of governance in place because otherwise you won’t be able to have your stakeholders, your team, your suppliers and guests on the journey with you.  

Yes we cover a lot of E and S but not so much G. Maybe we should.

MM-S: G isn’t going to just happen – actually we need that governance at the beginning to steer and to give conformity. So in terms of accreditations it’s about putting them into pillars and which of the accreditations are really supporting your E S and G. In the next few weeks we are changing our Hyatt Place website and we will have a full area on the site, which is devoted to sustainability and on that page it will really break down what we are doing, why, and these are the partners. I’m looking forward to showcasing that in early 2024. We are also part of a wider family with Hyatt who is so supportive and I’m really proud of the work we are doing with the World of Care programme with Hyatt. 

Do you think RFPs will come down to one question – have you been audited for sustainability data?

MM-S: We are ahead of the curve for that we have ISO14001 and ISO54003 and ISO10464 (external assurance for verification for scope 1 and 2 data). And Omnevue is ISAE3000, which means it’s compliant with all the standards on the CSRD, SFDR and EU taxonomy. So I think there will be a real focus on the RFPs on which accreditations have you got and have you been audited. You need an audit because we can all supply data but it needs to be verified at some point. That’s what is nice about EarthCheck as we are building the foundations for Bronze this year, then we go straight into the Silver audit – we have already set the date for year – and then we move onto the next one.

What other initiatives are you looking forward to?

MM-S: I want to mention Klimato who we are working with in 2024. They do the carbon footprint for menus and I’m really excited to have them onboard as partner because for the first time we can publish the carbon footprint of our dishes.

What about the hotel’s food waste?

MM-S: In terms of food waste we have done a number of things such as partnered with Too Good To Waste for a number of years, but having something tangible where you can monitor the day-to-day food waste is really new technology. Bringing in artificial intelligence in such a way that it enables us to really get under the skin of managing what effectively could be quite a big part of our carbon consumption is really exciting so we are partnering with Kitro (similar to Orbisk and Winnow). 

You have been monitoring your own carbon footprint for a while, can you explain more?

MM-S: I started with Ecologi and that’s how I got into offsetting and I’ve planted over 3000 trees and done 130 tonnes of carbon offsetting, and that’s my own personal work. But I’ve also started to work with the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance around six months ago. I said to the team at our last ESG meeting how many of you would like to sign up and be part of it? And they all put their hands up. So then we can showcase what we are doing and once you have started that journey with the whole team we can communicate that to our guests.

So does it come down to individual properties doing their bit?

MM-S: It has to be done at an individual level and I’ve done my carbon footprint with Ecologi for five years now, but then it is also an individual level as a business. Each business has its own unique carbon footprint but you need to know what is happening in your own property and you can control what’s happening from an ESG perspective.

Are you happy with the hotel’s progress towards 2030 goals?

MM-S: Yes. We did an audit with Deepki last year in terms of understanding where we sit on the net zero pathway and we are well within the parameters.

What are your thoughts on carbon removal portfolios?

MM-S: Lissa Engle from Berkeley Capital Group has done a lot of work around this so she’s afforded a relationship with Patch, which is a carbon removal platform. As a company we are looking to do sequestering – to take the carbon out. Once we have our scope 2 and 3 data then we will know what our carbon footprint is and that will be the next step for us.

Tell us about the bike programme?

MM-S: We have Brompton bikes for our customers and we have always supported the bike allowance for our staff and will continue to do that. Out of 95 staff around 12-14 staff regularly bike in to work but I want to go further, so we will do more with ActiveScore (which offers accreditation for active travel provision in real estate).

Can you explain how the SHe Travel Club award works?

MM-S: Around 64 per cent of global travellers are female and 52 per cent corporate travellers, and this was a way for our hotel to empower female travel. Since we opened the property the female segment of our customer base has been increasing. There are four pillars with the SHe Travel award– safety, comfort, service/amenities and dining. I wanted to show them how important the female traveller is to us and in the audit we scored 81 per cent and got the Platinum award.

What’s the biggest challenge hotels face when trying to be sustainable?

MM-S: I think there is an element from the customer. Not all of the globe is fully onboard. We are very well versed in Europe in terms of climate awareness and the challenges we have, but I think there are other parts of the planet that are half a step behind and so it’s important to communicate what we are doing from a hotel perspective.

Image: Michael Mason-Shaw and his team. Image supplied.