Three-year-old Auckland Hotel Achieves carboNZero status in New Zealand

Published: 1 December 2014

The need to manage greenhouse gas emissions is proving a bugbear for many New Zealand industries, but one hotel operator is setting a benchmark in its sector by becoming the first hotel in New Zealand to attain carboNZero certification. It achieved carbon neutral status by measuring its greenhouse gas emissions through the internationally accredited programme in accordance with the ISO standard for reporting greenhouse gas emissions and removals, and by taking the additional step to put in reduction plans and offset all remaining emissions.

Sudima Auckland Airport, one of five properties owned by Sudima Hotel Group in New Zealand and Australia, was opened by the Prime Minister in 2011 and from its first day of operation was distinguished by its sustainable design and features, which include refrigerator-free guest rooms, LED lighting and Chilled Beam airconditioning, which is unique to Sudima in the South Pacific and uses hot and cold water to maximize energy efficiency and provide twice the fresh air of any comparable system.

Rooms feature paperless compendiums and the property is designed to harvest rainwater that is filtered and recycled for non-potable use. The hotel has a Qualmark rating of 4.5 and consistently operates near full capacity.

Now the challenge has been set. Sudima Auckland Airport achieved carboNZero status by scrupulously determining current actual carbon emissions, a six-month process that involved measuring all goods and products supplied to the hotel by more than 20 other companies; assessing use of natural gas and electricity and the quantities and disposal of waste; and tracking air and car travel by the hotel's staff.

Once emissions were determined the equivalent carbon credits were purchased by the hotel, which is now required to change practices and features where necessary to reduce and mitigate its emissions year-on-year.

Sudima Hotel Group's project executive Kanika Jhunjhnuwalasays the carboNZero certification is valuable proof of Sudima Auckland Airport's superior green credentials. "We know that more and more travellers - whether for business or pleasure - are factoring in sustainability when they decide which hotels to patronize. And we knew that while we have many green elements in our design, construction and d├ęcor, guests and potential visitors weren't necessarily aware of our advanced position, so the certification is a crucial proof point and something people recognize."

Sudima does not intend to rest on its laurels; aside from the task of reducing Sudima Auckland Airport's emissions on an annual basis, the group intends to achieve certification for its other four properties, in Hamilton, Rotorua, Christchurch and Brisbane. In the Christchurch hotel's case, a $25 million upgrade is underway and the emission benchmarking process will begin after this is completed and full operation is restored, taking into consideration what it is now learning from the Sudima Auckland Airport experience.

Ms Jhunjhnuwalasays, "It's early days and this is a great enterprise for us. One of the reasons that no other hotel in New Zealand has yet achieved carboNZero status is that it is not easy for an operation of this type, and older buildings in particular are less efficient and require more electricity and natural gas expenditure for heating, cooling and other elements.

"It is our hope that as we progress in this area, other hotels will follow suit. It seems to us that the combination of New Zealand's 100% pure tourism marketing campaign and high international visitor numbers means that our hotels should be walking the talk, and we are happy to be the first to demonstrate that carbon neutrality is possible in our industry."

Enviro-Mark Solutions, a subsidiary of Landcare Research, owns and manages the carboNZero certification programme. Its CEO Dr Ann Smith says of Sudima Auckland Airport's new certification, "It's exciting to see a sector leader challenging the industry to step up its game on the sustainability front. We're already observing a response from the industry, with other hotel operators in the region contacting us to discuss certification.

"The travel industry is one where consumers have a more sophisticated awareness of related carbon emissions and the environmental costs, and we're working with Auckland Airport and a number of travel agents to help make the whole sector more sustainable. It requires operators like Sudima to really push the boundaries and not just rely on superficial green measures. There is also an increasing degree of collaboration and knowledge-sharing among our members, which is hugely productive and great to see in the transition towards a low-carbon New Zealand."