Interviews 5:15 Min read
Jaume Ordinas (Garden Hotels): “We want to set an example to encourage other companies to opt for sustainable initiatives”.
Jaume Ordinas is the comptroller of the Garden Hotels Group and coordinates the chain’s circular economy project, which has become a benchmark in the sector.
Jaume Ordinas is the General Comptroller of the Garden Hotels Group and is responsible for the entire area of Internal Auditing for the hotels. He manages the Purchases, Booking and Collection departments and supervises the internal project for improving standardised procedures. He coordinates the BI (Business Intelligence) project for the configuration and analysis of data that the company uses to trace their sales strategy.
And as if this wasn’t enough, he leads and coordinates the company project that promotes sustainable management of waste in the accommodation premises, to obtain organic compost, minimising the environmental impact and helping local agriculture.
What does your circular economy project consist of?
The first point of this initiative is sustainable and conscious purchasing. Garden Hotels offers guests gastronomy made from local (km0), seasonal products where possible. We also have an organic buffet, called BioCorner, serving all types of 100% organic products such as APAEMA organic lamb, that we use to made dishes such as caldereta de me ecològic.
The second point in the circular organic process is correctly separating the waste generated in this buffet and taking it to the new composting plant to turn it into organic matter.
Finally, this organic matter is turned into compost and this is returned to the farmers registered in organic agriculture. They fertilise their fields to grow new products. I must add that Garden Hotels doesn’t sell this compost. We exchange it for fruit and vegetables grown in fields fertilised with this very compost. This is how we close the circle and it starts again.
This year, with the acquisition of a composting plant and equipment which can collect, transport and transform organic waste and prune into compost has been the culmination to close this circle. It is important to mention that this project is financed with the sustainable tax fund and the participation of the Conselleria de Medi Ambient i Territori.
How did this initiative begin?
In 2016 we began a project (a pilot at this time) called “Compost Project”. Thanks to the surprising results, we were able to see that a million stays had generated approximately 738.781kg of compost. With these figures, we proposed a pioneering challenge in 2019 in the Balearic Islands: to create our own compost and close the circular economy process.
The chain’s owner has been involved in all the actions which have a social or sustainable aspect. The sustainable initiatives arise when Miquel Ramis, owner of the chain, at the time wished to standardise the cooperatives and hotel chains.
Nowadays, Garden Hotels is a company which is committed to its surroundings, local communities, providers and the environment, and has therefore been taking responsibility for including this commitment in their business management strategy for many years. Our CSR is structured on responsible tourism, based on three fundamental pillars: social sustainability, economic sustainability and environmental sustainability.
Was it difficult to implement? Did you hit any obstacles?
I would be lying if I said that it was all plain sailing, but we can also say that effort pays off in the end, and this project brought great rewards.
Basically, the obstacles were the provisions of the old waste law, and requesting different authorisation from public administration. The remaining obstacles could be overcome with perseverance and commitment from everyone who was involved, and obviously with the economic effort from management.
Do you know what the impact of these sustainable actions was??
We know that a tourist generates approximately 0,67kg of organic material per day.
In 2019, in our Playa Garden Selection Hotel & Spa we reached a total of 49.754 kg. If we were to calculate the total for all the hotels in the group in Majorca, the final result would be approximately 280.795 kg.
What benefits does this project give you?
It gives us the satisfaction of being able to contribute towards revitalising organic agriculture and the local economy, promoting good practices and actions of the hotel owners and associations, to the rest of society. This project certified that the benefits of circular economy can be seen in the environment and in the revitalisation of the fields and farmland on our island. This is real, effective and tangible change.
This project also makes us proud because it involves companies working in the social sector such as Desechos, Amadip, Fundación Se Garrover and Estrella de Levante. These companies employ people at risk of social exclusion, therefore helping us to create a more empathetic and socially responsible society.
In addition, the reduction of environmental and transport costs, and the creation of alliances with different sectors (agricultural, hotel and municipal), has taught us a lot.
What role does technology play in the implementation of this project?
It plays a vital and important role, because all traceability of the prune and organic matter remains, and the entire risk management, voltage, temperature operations are uploaded to an application called Gladtolink. We then upload all this to the cloud to analyse and monitor it for correct management and to see the evolution, monitoring and necessary reports with our Business Intelligence.
What is the key to success in the integration of sustainable measures in hotels?
Honesty, hard work and of course, respect. Hard work, because training staff requires effort, time and economic investment. Respect for our land, our nature, which is actually the most precious thing we have. Believing in what you are doing is also vital, not only believing but also being passionate about every part of the project – this is what will help you to overcome any obstacles which may arise along the way.
Do you make guests aware of these measures? How do they react?
Yes, of course, via various online and offline channels. We use our website and social media channels to continuously communicate these actions online. Regarding offline communication, in our hotels, we have BioCorner, the buffet where it all begins, and also the restaurant staff are all trained to complete these actions. These are the main ways of showcasing this project.
We also promote the project in our hotels in other ways, such as the digital totem that we have in the Reception areas, and the in-room welcome (which has been a QR this year due to covid), etc.
When guests become aware of these actions, the feel grateful and happy to be part of a project which is so important for our land.
Is being sustainable expensive?
Economic profitability is very closely linked to sustainability. It’s not really possible to have a sustainability project which doesn’t make a loss in the first few years, because products are more expensive or we need to invest in technological equipment, etc.
We must be clear that when you start a project like this, you don’t look at profitability, but the investment and value involved. And this value is, first of all, in the differentiation, breaking the established moulds and doing something a bit different, to offer a product or service which is completely different and top-quality. Secondly, become an example to follow for the society and other companies, show that it works and be the company that all the other companies want to be like, so that they jump on the sustainability ‘band waggon’.
For this, it is so important to have support from public administration for these projects which are expensive to launch. This project, for example, is funded by the sustainable tax fund and the participation of the Conselleria de Medi Ambient i Territori.
Do you believe that sustainability is an aspect that guests and taking more and more into account?
Without a doubt, awareness is valued more and more in this aspect. This makes us proud, drives us and gives us strength to carry on, despite certain complications which arise, as can happen in any project.
Which more urgent measures do you believe the hotel sector must take to be more economically and environmentally sustainable?
All projects related to sustainability and the environment are equally important. It is vital that these projects are visible. The purpose of visibility in itself is not so much to advertise ourselves, but to “convince” the other companies and the society that this is the “pathway to take”. Become a model example to encourage other tourism companies to take part in initiatives which are beneficial for our environment. Finally, we are aiming to not be the only ones, but a part of a global initiative.