How to successfully combine luxury and sustainability in a boutique hotel


Emma Stratton, a director of Cornwall's Scarlet Hotel, explains how the property has been conceived, built and operated to combine luxury with environmental responsibility.

At the Scarlet, we set out to build a new hotel to show that sumptuous need not mean unsustainable, and that luxury isn't necessarily a guilty pleasure.

The Scarlet Hotel is located on the north coast of Cornwall in the town of Mawgan Porth, nestled into the cliffs just above the South West Coastal Path and the beautiful Mawgan Porth beach. The stunning location and scenery provided much of the inspiration for the Scarlet's design, which sought to blur the lines between indoor and outdoor space. We encourage our guests to feel inspired by our location and reconnect with nature; whether it's by relaxing in one of our cliff top hot tubs listening to the sound of the waves, watching the local birdlife from their bedroom balcony, savouring the views of a colourful sunset from the terrace, or simply finding peace in front of a wood fire on a chilly evening.

As a place influenced by the natural rhythms of Mother Nature, The Scarlet aims to do all that it can to reduce its negative impact on the environment, without compromising the experience or service guests receive. We recognise that as a relatively large hospitality organisation, we have a responsibility to reduce our negative impacts on the environment and our local community; we do this by managing our waste, continually working to reduce our carbon footprint, and supporting our local community.

We developed a sustainability policy in order to clarify our aims as a sustainably conscious business, and we ensure that our policy is being put into practice and delivered by setting annual business goals that link directly to the aims of our policy. We were one of the first hotels to employ a sustainability manager to oversee our environmental and community initiatives, and drive the importance of sustainability throughout the business.


Inspiring through our actions

In order for our business to be truly sustainable we need our team members, at all levels, to be engaged. New staff members are required to attend certain training to pass their probationary period, which includes a sustainability induction. This is delivered by our sustainability manager, and ensures all new team members have an understanding of why sustainability is so important to us as a business, and how they can help us improve our performance in their roles. Throughout the year refresher courses are delivered in specific departments, depending on their needs. Most importantly we try to open a dialogue with our team members so that everyone feels comfortable offering their suggestions and ideas, or identifying where practices might not be as efficient as they should be. As well as training, we try to encourage our staff to participate in the community where we are based and run regular beach cleans and litter picks for everyone to get involved in. We also invite members of the local community, and our guests to join us in these activities to help keep our natural environment clean and beautiful.

It's important to us to keep our staff motivated and engaged in our policy and way of working. The Scarlet Hotel was purpose built as an eco-hotel, with features such as a grey-water recycling system, solar thermal panels, a natural reed-filtered swimming pool, a green roof, biomass boiler, and rainwater harvesting. It's important that our staff understand why we are an eco-hotel, and also that the decisions made within the building, such as purchasing decisions, have just as much impact as the building itself on the natural environment and our community. It can be all too easy to assume that a business is sustainable simply because the building was designed in a certain way; however ensuring that our operations are also low impact is something that we have to continually work on.


Our guests

The Scarlet's target market includes a surprisingly broad range of customers for whom art, design, seriously good food, and wellbeing are important in their choice of hotel. Many of our customers delight in our efforts to minimise the impact we have on the environment, but overwhelmingly they choose us because The Scarlet is a unique hotel. Whether it's our ayuvedic-inspired spa, our fresh and exciting restaurant menu, or artwork produced by south-west artists - we appeal to a range of guests, yet are able to give them a holiday that doesn't cost the earth.

For example; to save energy and keep packaging waste to a minimum, we elected not to have fridges (for milk), kettles or in-room tea and coffee trays, which are a common feature of the majority of standard hotel rooms, and a prerequisite for some quality assurance assessments. We have challenged this norm; instead, preferring to take our guests freshly made tea, coffee and homemade snacks at their request. Guests have commented that they love having 'proper coffee and tea' and the freedom of having it delivered to them anywhere in the hotel.

We encourage our guests to keep their impacts as low as possible while staying with us in a number of ways. Our fantastic location means that our grounds have direct access to the South West Coastal Path, enabling fantastic car-free days out for guests who want to explore the coast by foot. For guests that do want to explore further afield, our chosen local taxi company runs its fleet on biofuel. We operate a guest gifting scheme, which enables our guests to donate direct to charities that have an impact on our local environment and community.

While we can't list everything that we do here at the Scarlet, there are a few "tips" that we think can help other businesses who might be looking to deliver a high quality and luxurious product, yet do so in a responsible fashion.


1. Core Values
Be sure sustainability is a passion that runs throughout your business, rather than viewed as a trend or marketing tool. Commit to sustainability-related business goals and report on your performance to customers.

2. Invest in what you believe in
Sustainable decisions can sometime require an up-front investment; however pay backs can come in the form of customer loyalty for recognising you put your money where your mouth is.

3. Choose Well
When making purchases remember that less can sometimes be more - think about quality and durability when purchasing products, as well as the ethics of where the product was made and who it was made by.

4. People & Planet
Sustainability isn't just about protecting the natural environment, be sure you also consider the people around you. Engage guests, employees, suppliers and your local community in decisions and activities. Working together can generate mutual benefits including delivering a better product or service.

5. Share Stories
Add value to a product by telling customers about its background; where it has come from, who was involved in creating it, and why it is better than an unsustainable alternative.


This article was kindly provided by Boutique Hotel News.

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