NEW YORK—Highgate, a leader in global real estate investment with more than 65,000 hotel rooms under management, recently announced an upgrade to 100 percent renewable electricity, beginning with a majority of its select service properties as well as 17 full-service hotels. The initiative will be certified by Green-e Energy, the nation’s leading independent certification and verification program for renewable energy.
“We’re determined to be part of the solution to address climate change. According to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, the hotel industry needs to reduce its carbon emissions per room by 90 percent by 2050 to keep the industry within UN goals for reduced emissions,” said Marianne Balfe, Highgate’s Vice President of Sustainability for Highgate. “This is a humbling statistic that highlights the importance of investments in renewable energy as a business imperative moving forward. The utilization of renewable energy is a simple and impactful step that the entire industry can and should be taking to reduce our collective effect on the planet. We are proud to be paving the way with aggressive and momentous sustainability efforts.”
For this renewable energy initiative, all the participating properties, which initially includes all of the Highgate-owned properties in the Highgate Select portfolio, have committed to third-party verification through Green-e for 2022. The renewable energy purchase commitment will cover the entire building consumption for these Highgate hotels, allowing meetings and conferences that take place within them to be Green-e certified.
“We are proud that almost 60 percent of our portfolio has boldly signed onto this initiative despite the challenges that our industry has faced over the past 20 months. Many other properties are interested in participating, however, it is generally a difficult time for hotels to incur additional expenses. We will continue to onboard more properties to the program as their revenues stabilize,” Balfe says.
U.S.-Based Projects Benefit
When asked about the cost of upgrading to 100 percent renewable electricity, Balfe told Green Lodging News, “We can’t disclose the dollar amount, but the investment benefits exclusively U.S.-based wind and solar projects via the Green-e certified renewable energy certificates (RECs) we purchased.”
Highgate currently does not own or operate any hotels with on-site renewable energy generation but Balfe says the company will begin managing The Royal Lahaina Resort in late 2021. This property has a 226kW solar system. “We are currently evaluating all of our properties for on-site solar installation potential,” she says.
Highgate is a member of the Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA) and is the first hospitality company to become a signatory to REBA’s Commercial Real Estate Principles, a foundational tool supporting the decarbonization of commercial buildings through energy optimization and renewable energy procurement. Highgate has also entered a partnership with ENGIE Impact to implement solutions for sustainability reporting, achieving decarbonization, and overall environmental footprint reduction. “We are particularly excited about leveraging their scenario modeling capabilities, complete with machine learning algorithms, to achieve operational efficiencies at our properties,” Balfe says.
Highgate properties have been involved in site-level green initiatives for many years but with the company’s growth in 2021, it launched a centralized corporate sustainability program. It is currently crafting branding for its program.
Highgate also recently announced the movement towards the elimination of single-use plastics. The initiative will include new partnerships with industry-innovating carbon-negative companies, phasing out single-use plastics in Highgate legacy hotel guestrooms, F&B outlets, meeting spaces and public spaces, along with sourcing renewable and compostable substitutes to common hotel supplies and amenities. Efforts will also include offering guests bulk shower amenities, filtered water refill stations, refillable water bottles and digital key entry.
Properties Audited for Single-Use Plastics
“Highgate’s single-use plastics elimination program is in the third wave of category phase-outs for our full-service and luxury portfolios,” Balfe says. “Above-property leaders are physically inspecting our properties for single-use plastics to monitor and drive compliance. In the coming weeks, external auditors will also be used to assist with this process. During these unprecedented times, properties’ compliance efforts have been impacted by supply chain challenges with subsequent difficulty sourcing items such as compostable cutlery, bulk amenities, and water refill stations.”
All Highgate properties have energy and water conservation projects in their capital plans for the coming years. From networked thermostats and VFD installations to building automation system upgrades and chiller and toilet replacements, each property is planning to progressively cut their carbon, energy, and water footprints. “Operationally, inspiring our Associates to conserve resources on the job through their behavioral choices is a high priority that is promoted through company-wide communications,” Balfe says.
Balfe, formerly Director of Energy and Environmental Sustainability, The Americas for more than 10 years for Marriott International, has been with Highgate since February. When asked what excites her most about the steps her company is taking to reduce its impact, she said, “I am impressed by Highgate’s level of commitment to and excitement around sustainability across all levels of the organization. As an example, today I spent time with one of our General Managers in Miami who focused his master’s thesis on environmental sustainability in hospitality almost two decades ago. Senior executives at Highgate have astute business acumen with a strong awareness around climate-related business risks and opportunities. With the heartfelt drive to be a force for good on this planet, Highgate is on the path to achieve extraordinary accomplishments. Coupled with our energy conservation efforts, our 100 percent renewable electricity initiative couldn’t be a better starting point on our decarbonization journey.”
Highgate will announce additional initiatives and partners in early 2022 that will complete the commitment of being truly a sustainable company. For more information, visit Highgate.com.