Interview with Ben Brakes

Interview with Ben Brakes, Environmental Manager for Whitbread

Ben Brakes Interview
Part of our Global Sustainability Leaders Inteview Archive, this interview dates from 2011

Whitbread has placed sustainability at the heart of their strategy. What is Whitbread doing to make the hospitality industry more sustainable?

We’re serious about sustainability at Whitbread because we know it’s the right thing to do for the planet and it’s what our customers and our team members want. It has to be something that everyone can engage with and something that is affordable for everyone, every day. 

We also know that it can give us competitive advantage, save costs and more importantly reduce our impact on the environment and positively support local & global communities. We are building our CR strategy called “Good Together” into the heart of how we do business and it has become an integral part of how we make decisions, measure our performance, how we choose our partners and how we express our core company values.

What steps are Whitbread taking to make Premier Inn the lowest carbon producing hotel group? 

We have adopted a package of 25 efficiency measures including grey water and heat recovery systems, air and ground source heat pumps and energy efficient kitchen equipment that helps the company reduce its carbon emissions, conserve water and manage waste effectively. Many of the technologies will be introduced at the 4,000 Premier Inn bedrooms under construction this year, the 6,000 Premier Inn bedrooms being refurbished and at the 13 new restaurants under development.

Recently Whitbread spent £7 million on sustainability to boost the environmental performance of their hotels - how was this spent?

In the financial year 2010/11 we invested over £7million in developing our Green hotel and Restaurant in Burgess Hill, introducing over 20,000 low-flow showerheads, saving enough water to fill an estimated 105 Olympic swimming pools, increasing building insulation in all our hotels with enough insulation to fill Wembley Stadium over 22 times and replaced 70,000 energy inefficient light bulbs with LED’s, saving an estimated 9300 tonnes of carbon. 

What roles within the sustainability industry to you see developing?/Do you now look for more people with sustainability experience and skills?

Now that our Corporate Responsibility programme is up and running we are looking at firmly embedding it in the business, rather than it being an independent work stream. For this we envisage sustainability being a part of everyone’s role within the Whitbread Group. We still require dedicated specialists within the sustainability arena, such as energy and environmental managers but we expect general sustainability awareness and experience to become part of everyone’s CV. 

Do you see an increase in roles within the sustainability sector? 

Overall I imagine we will see an increase in sustainability roles. As mentioned earlier, we feel that we have moved first in our sector and others are sure to follow. This in turn means that they will require sustainability specialists in order to begin their journey.

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