Pullman Dresden is one of our pioneer accommodations at ChargeHolidays. In today’s article, the sustainability manager (SM) together with the general manager (GM) from the hotel takes us behind the scene and explain their efforts and engagement towards a more sustainable future. Most important: the demand and influence by the travelers. Become a responsible traveler now and read in this article how you can have an important influence towards a better world!
SM: When I started at Pullman Dresden in 2018, our hotel manager and technician had already been dealing with sustainability certifications for almost seven years. In the same year, sustainability was a topic in my studies of “International Hotel Management”, but still felt far away. Far away quickly became within reach for our hotel: On the one hand, our guests began to ask more and more actively and even to contribute their suggestions. For example, we changed our coffee capsules after a guest pointed out an alternative made from sawdust! On the other hand, the certifications have shown us exactly where we can take action so that we can prioritise, put a deadline to our goals and monitor our progress in the semi-annual audits. Sustainability is a non-stop process to improve and it’s essentially important for us to keep questioning ourselves. We do no longer see sustainability as a separate unit, but rather as an element of every action. Our personal interest has strengthened so much that we realized the sustainability in our hotel should not remain a topic for two people. Instead we have built up an entire sustainability team since 2021 with our own contact to reach out in case of questions and ideas: [email protected].
Based on that change, can you share one unique feature of your accommodation that sets it apart in the hospitality industry?
SM: The fact that I am the Sustainability Manager in addition to my work in Quality Management at Pullman is something special. I haven’t heard of such a position from other accommodations, so I’m all the more pleased to be able to give it a kind of starting signal. In the meantime, our entire sustainability team is burning to infect our colleagues as a kind of sustainability influencer. They in turn either approach us directly with their ideas or drop them in our idea box. Because just as they receive my suggestions non-stop, they should also feel heard by us. Sustainability is not just about how we treat our products – it’s also about how we treat people.
I strongly hope and believe that in a few years or even months, this progress won’t be unique anymore. But the hospitality industry still has a long way to go. And we are right in the middle of it…
Why is sustainability a significant concern for your hotel?
Of course, sustainability in all its levels, environmental, social and governance, is also something that our guests demand – fortunately! In the same way, it meets the questions that I ask myself personally – so that I as an employee also demand sustainability at work. Probably not least because I belong to the younger generation (I just slid past Gen Z 😉).
But sustainability is not only green, it’s also colorful: diversity is simply part of it, and not just because we welcome guests from all over the world – also the hearts of our employees beat in all the colors of the rainbow. Why sustainability is important to us is now obvious: to make every guest’s visit and every employee’s daily work feel comfortable. Which doesn’t mean that we’re already doing everything the right way.
GM: All of this is a very natural process, which I like very much because it is not forced by rules from outside, but comes from us. Sustainability is not only an attitude, but also an invitation to my team to keep looking at what we stand for with this team and with our hotel. I would even say that we are, so to speak, our own little society within society, which we represent.
How do you think that the area of tourism will change within the next few years?
If I take a look into the crystal ball, the focus will shift even more clearly to the fact that sustainability is an integral part of all our actions and decisions. We have already been through such an increase: I personally have the feeling that sustainability was nice to have in society a few years ago. Then there came pressure from outside, and we had to act in this field. What has changed so far is that many of our pullmen and -women now absolutely want to change something out of their own motivation.
We also hope that the whole industry is going to share and learn from best practices. It’s only logical to learn from and with each other. After all, we are not taking anything away, but making something bigger out of it.
What initiatives have you implemented to promote sustainability?
This interview is a great start 😉 Talking about it is so important to get sustainability noticed. Other colleagues are already doing a better job of presenting their progress in podcasts and the like. In this respect, we still have a lot of catching up to do. Our award as a Certified Green Hotel is therefore tangible proof of greendoing instead of greenwashing. In addition, we are Gold certified through our hotel chain Accor’s Planet 21 program and are right in the middle of earning the highest level, Platinum, next. Let me take you to some of the current highlights:
We offer a green conference package which includes for example pastries from the regional bakery, all meals as vegan or vegetarian options, vegan notepads made of grass paper from the Dresden-based company matabooks, and the fact that we calculate the event’s carbon footprint.
We also have introduced our room service robot Sir James and have deliberately removed the minibars from more than half of our rooms so far (more to follow). In this way, we reduce approximately 152 kg of CO2 per room per year!
In the same breath, we replaced all paper stacks with a digital guest folder. Last year, we even banned the last remnants of single-use plastic. And if you want coffee in your room, you can now enjoy organic coffee capsules made from renewable raw materials, CO2-neutral and completely compostable.
In the underground car park you will find an e-charging point and energy- and water-saving devices throughout the floors, as well as dimmed lighting on the floors in summer – which is LED throughout the hotel anyway.
At breakfast you taste fair trade coffee and tea and lots of vegetarian and vegan food! Among them free-range eggs instead of barn eggs. This is still not the perfect solution, because contrary to the name, the chickens do not have much free range even in this type of farming. Therefore, we want to improve step by step.
By the way, in order to avoid oversupply at our restaurant, our chef has worked out a concept so that more of the food ends up in your stomach and less in the trash. Throwing away food is not an option for us anyway. Instead, leftover buffet treats end up in the app Too good to go, where they can be picked up at a discounted price.
Internally, we keep up to date on important terms, animal welfare, easy veggie recipes, podcast recommendations and Dresden events thanks to the “Fact of the Week” on our Green Pinboard.
Since sustainability is a continuous process of improvement, we are currently in the middle of researching an all-round solution for waste separation in the rooms. What we don’t want is to have the waste separation insert in the rooms, only to dump everything back into one garbage can on the housekeeping trolleys. Additionally, there will soon be a water station with reusable bottles for all guests and staff.
On our website, we have dedicated an entire section to our commitment.
“Talking about it is so important to get sustainability noticed”
Do you undertake any measures to enhance socially sustainable practices. If so, could you please elaborate?
By far the most visible is our hotel facade. My personal highlight is when motifs such as the AIDS ribbon light up on it, since we cooperate with AIDS-Hilfe.
Additionally, we are…
… rowing against cancer.
… a long-standing partner of the Hope Gala.
… sponsoring the Gehörlosensportfest, a deaf sports festival.
… supplying the homeless café with food and drinks.
… keeping a trained eye on children in emergency situations through our WATCH = We Act Together for CHildren program.
…. making changing tables accessible in 2022 to everyone traveling with a baby instead of only providing them in the women’s restroom.
… being busy elves and giving children in Eastern Europe a nice Christmas with self-wrapped presents.
Just as indispensable: diversity management. We are proud that…
… our hotel is LGBTQIA+ certified and that our employees can be who they want to be. For this, we fly the flag at our hotel entrance!
… we have an intergenerational workforce between 16-65 years which is also international from 12 nations.
…we reconsider ourselves and our principles in training courses regularly and also support students on their pathway.
… we take the wind out of discrimination’s sails with our Ethics and Corporate Social Responsibility Charter. It’s just as long as its title, but thanks to the training courses it is becoming part of hotel employee flesh and blood.
In the same way, we want our employees to feel comfortable. To name just a few examples:
… our health management ranges from health breakfasts to courses and surveys with an health insurance company on site to one-on-one appointments with our company doctor.
… we build greater understanding among departments by offering volunteer experiences where employees get to know a colleague’s workday during cross-training sessions.
What are the challenges in transitioning towards more sustainable operations and what kind of assistance would be beneficial?
GM: From a business point of view, it is equally our task to position ourselves economically and to create a balanced approach to all the economic mechanisms. As an employer for 83 employees, sustainability for our hotel is one pillar of many that we consider. After all, we don’t want to develop in a one-dimensional way.
“I wish that all this becomes normality and it’s no longer extraordinary to take care of the environment and fellow human beings.”
Are there policy instruments or initiatives that governments could provide to assist your establishment in advancing its journey towards greater eco-friendliness?
If all that is given, my concern would be to enforce these regulations more strictly, e.g. through controls.
And speaking of Germany: Our country still has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to digitization. I notice that in every letter that flutters in from the tax office. Also, every guest experiences it when he or she checks in – because the registration form is only available in paper form (I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this is soon going to change!).
If I were to book a stay at your hotel, what would be your eco-friendly expectations from me?
We try to steer our guests a bit by offering incentives. With Make a Green Choice, our guests let us know that they don’t want their room cleaned every day for the sake of the environment. As a thank you, their next drink is on us. That’s very popular!
We have also already hosted guests who explicitly asked about our progress in the field of ESG. One of them also gave us the hint to look for coffee capsules made from renewable raw materials. In this way, our guests can also help shape the hotel and make sustainable changes.
In addition to individual travelers, many companies nowadays pay attention to sustainability certificates, which I notice especially in the increasing number of inquiries we receive.
My tip once you arrive in our lobby: Treat the hotel facilities as if they were your home. On average, we use 2.5 times more water in the hotel than at home, so don’t let the shower run longer than usual, for example. At the breakfast buffet, my colleagues will then be grateful if you take our advice to heart: Better go twice than throw away once, which basically means you can take everything you want but please eat everything you took.
And: ask for support when you do not know what is the most sustainable choice. We are also happy when you respond with a smile, which I can guarantee you will have a lasting effect on our motivation 🙂
As a final question: What is the must-go local place guests at your hotel have to see during their stay?
SM: The Kunsthofpassage! In the Dresden Neustadt you wouldn’t expect such a colorful courtyard! Besides small local stores and artful house facades, you can discover it in any weather: Rain, for instance, makes it a rain theater for eyes and ears.
GM: “The Elbzentrale, a pop-up wine bar in summer! Grab one of our hotel bikes and enjoy selected wines and the perfect sunset in a beach atmosphere directly at the Elbe.”
This interview was conducted by Lilith. Our CEO is eager to learn everything about sustainable travel and share deep insights with you. Her vision is to make people as well as nature profit from travelling. She wishes you a great trip wherever the next booking takes you and is happy to share details and insights on request: [email protected]