Q&A Stuart Winstone, CEO, SilverDoor Apartments

by: Felicity Cousins | October 20, 2023

SilverDoor Apartments is a global corporate serviced apartment provider with more than 2,000 property partners worldwide. We talk to Stuart Winstone, CEO, SilverDoor Apartments about cost vs sustainability, data driven certifications, how to be realistic about scope 3, and making sure data reporting is fit for purpose

In a recent SilverDoor report in the US it was said that cost continues to be the determining factor for both corporate and relocation managers in planning their accommodation strategies. How far down the list is sustainability?

SW: There’s no doubt sustainability is a priority for organisations (as well as travellers), but given the current economic climate, it’s also not surprising that cost is still steering corporate decision-making for the majority of businesses. Feedback from our clients show an increasing interest in sustainability credentials of a given property. Clients want more data, more information and more transparency about what suppliers are doing, their environmental impact, and the efforts they’re making; but budget, suitability or convenience are still considered more important and only where the cost difference between two options is marginal (or weighted in favour of the greener choice) will the environmentally friendly option be chosen.

What does SilverDoor think of sustainable accreditation bodies for accommodation suppliers and why is the serviced apartment sector so behind on the uptake when it comes to this type of certification?

SW: We need to be wary of flooding the market with a lot of ‘green’ accreditations and ‘badges’ that people struggle to compare and make sense of. Greenwashing is still very real and badges unfortunately can be mis-used by businesses to look like they’re doing a lot when in reality they’re doing little or nothing. 

There are some credible certifications from data-driven platforms such as CDP and Ecovadis, and we’re hopeful that one or two will emerge as the industry standard. The challenge for many of our suppliers is that, as a small business, they sometimes don’t have the resources to successfully secure an accreditation, and many of our clients understand and respect their position.

Having been through a third-party-verified CO2 emissions report, CDP disclosure, and an Ecovadis submission in the last 12 months, we can attest to how much time, commitment and resources are required and for some small businesses, it’s just not as realistic. Quite rightly, metrics and legislation is changing regularly as understanding around sustainability also deepens. Keeping pace with these changes is important for every sector, not just serviced apartments, but to do that effectively you need to have qualified resources in place, which can be a challenge.  

Why do you think the extended stay sector is behind hotels on sustainability reporting? Do travel bookers have the same expectations of the serviced apartment sector as the hotel sector when it comes to impact?

SW: When you’ve got one huge building of 250 identical rooms or big blocks of similar room types, a centrally-controlled heating and lighting system and a cookie-cutter operational model and guest experience, it’s a lot easier to measure, estimate, and extrapolate data. Many of our suppliers have really diverse portfolios, housing stock of varying types, ages and locations. Some providers have units within larger blocks where data is either not controlled by them or not available to them.

The more controllable and autonomous nature of self-contained units means that in-unit behaviour can vary hugely and therefore impact results significantly, which also makes understanding much more difficult. Comparing apples with apples between the serviced apartment sector and hotel sector isn’t realistic on that basis. In short, it’s much more complex, and we need to be careful that by implementing well-intentioned targets, we are not driving smaller suppliers out of the market and limiting choice for the traveller. The appetite for reporting is unquestionably there – we need to be mindful that it is fit for purpose.

How important is DE&I in the extended stay sector and what does SilverDoor have in place to champion diversity and inclusivity in the serviced apartment sector?  

SW: Very important. Within our own operations we run the SilverDoor Academy, which is an opportunity for university students to apply for and experience a year-long work placement in industry working across a variety of departments. From marketing to account management, finance and business development it is a structured, focused programme that gives all students who join us the opportunity to deepen their own knowledge and skill-set and is a significant part of our investment in supporting the next generation coming into the industry.

Diversity and inclusivity is built into our business model in that, if a supplier can meet our standards of quality, safety and security, and if they fulfil a requirement for our clients, they will be offered exactly the same platform for exposure to our clients and exactly the same opportunity as any other supplier. There are no barriers whatsoever to a business working with us beyond these fundamentals of service.

SilverDoor is setting its science-based targets by next year – what are those targets and what will be the goals?

SW: Our report is with SBTI and we look forward to receiving our targets and goals in the coming months.  

Is SilverDoor on track to becoming carbon neutral in its operations by 2030? What’s the biggest challenge going to be on that pathway?

SW: We’ve already undertaken our Scope 1, 2 and most of our Scope 3 CO2 reporting and our footprint is a pretty small one. I think most of our clients would recognise that and are actually more interested in the Scope 3 element of the picture, which relates to our suppliers. Before we commit to anything, we need to be 100 per cent certain that commitment is realistic and meaningful, and achieving it is within our control. Right now, there are too many uncertainties lying outside of our control for us to credibly make that commitment.

How do you envisage having a net zero supply chain by 2050 with more than 2,000 property partners currently? Will you only work with those partners who offer net zero stays in the future?

SW: Certainly, the ambition to be net zero is hugely important but we can only commit to and focus on achieving ambitions that we are fully in control of. The same can be said for our property partners, hotel companies and indeed any business or sector. We don’t control the design and build of the apartments within our portfolio so we need to be realistic about what is in our control and what we can influence. What we can do is advise, educate and encourage suppliers to take steps in the right direction.

Is Scope 3 an impossible ask in the hospitality sector given the breadth and stretch of each supply chain?

SW: Nothing’s impossible! What we need to do is work together as an industry and come up with a method to measure emissions in a way that supports and maintains businesses and economic growth as well as improve sustainable operations.

SilverDoor opened a new office in Madrid last year – what did the company do to offset the increased energy / carbon footprint with this expansion?

SW: Our new space was fully refurbished in 2018 and has delivered a significant improvement in terms of energy efficiency, as well as offering a much higher quality working environment for our team. When looking to open any new office we consider a number of factors to ensure it is the right fit for our team including location and quality of fit-out and services.

What do you see as the biggest change in the next 10 years for serviced apartments and the extended stay sector when it comes to sustainability?

SW: Reporting will be critical. The need to not only harvest data around carbon emissions but really interrogate it to identify where impact is being felt and more importantly undertake forensic analysis that can aid clients with policy decisions. We have always needed, and will continue to need in the future, a clear understanding of where we are on the sustainable landscape. Data and reporting will have a fundamental role in signposting that and informing future roadmaps to building a more sustainable future.