At Red Carnation Hotels, we genuinely care about our people and our local communities and work hard to protect the wildlife and environments through The TreadRight Foundation. At all of our properties, we have a Green Team who help ensure that we are using sustainable produce, products and that we are reducing waste wherever possible. 

In celebration of Youth Climate Action Day which invites young people to take action and promote change, we wanted to highlight Niamh Richardson on her commitment to sustainability as an ambassador for her department. 

What is your role at Summer Lodge and how did you get involved in the Green Team?

I am on the first year of my Graduate Management Programme with Red Carnation Hotels and currently work in Summer Lodge's food and beverage department. At my induction, I was introduced to Emma Smith, who is currently completing the second year of her programme in our front office department. Emma was the initial Sustainability Champion for Summer Lodge and is responsible for the editing and design of our incredible Green Team magazine. I expressed to Emma that I had been a green ambassador in my previous job and also studied in-depth employee participation in corporate social responsibility, therefore eager to help with Summer Lodge's sustainability campaign. Emma was keen to have me on board and asked me to represent our food and beverage department on the committee.

In just six months, my involvement with the Green Team has grown in ways I never expected. In August this year, we published the first edition of our magazine - this is a co-creation between Emma, Emily Gardener and myself which includes various research articles, interviews, informational posters and updates of our sustainability efforts here in Dorset. Being a writer for the magazine has given me an immense sense of purpose and reading about all that we have achieved in such a short space of time reminds me of the positive impact we are making whilst streamlining our Green Team's goals, efforts and objectives. 

I am also proud to manage Summer Lodge's social media accounts which makes me responsible for the PR and marketing surrounding our Green Team magazine, sustainability efforts and information on local suppliers. This involves understanding occurring micro and macro sustainability events and organising volunteering days and content creation surrounding this. When releasing the first edition of our magazine, I also devised a campaign across our social media channels - this created a huge buzz and the people it reached as well as the feedback it received was mind-blowing for our little team here in Evershot!

As part of the Green Team, what has been your favourite project so far?

My favourite project took place on 28th July for World Conservation Day. World Conservation Day is about safeguarding nature and raising awareness of plants and animals which are at threat of extinction. In light of this, we volunteered with our gardening team to learn more about the supplies we grow in our kitchen gardens and how this reduces our environmental impact. We were then given a demonstration of our food waste being recycled to compost, which is then used to fertilize and improve the soil. At the end of the day, the volunteering team got to harvest a potato patch for Chef Titman, which I later helped wash and peel.

This has been my favourite project as I was able to observe the entire life cycle of our supplies. From the recycled compost used to fertilize the soil and grow the patches, which are then harvested and freshly prepared for our dishes, knowing that any of the food waste will once again be recycled to a compost – WOW! This day gave me a deeper sense of appreciation for the current sustainable projects already underway and perhaps more importantly, what an incredible team effort is involved. It just goes to show, even though the teams responsible for these projects are not active green ambassadors, sustainability is embedded in our philosophy, evident in our day-to-day roles.

What future projects are in the pipeline and what do you and your team hope to achieve?

We have started a new recycling and waste management project in our kitchens and housekeeping departments, liaising with local charitable organisations to avoid wasting our hygiene products. In conjunction with my article for the next edition of our magazine, I spent time learning about our incredible local food providers and their dedication to sustainable agriculture and producing fantastic quality food. We are so lucky in Dorset to have such an incredibly close community of caring people who love our environment, so it was great to speak to so many different people, share our ideas for change and improve the sustainability initiatives we already have in place. We hope to visit more of our local suppliers in 2022.

Over October and November, we are learning more about the native animals and plants that call the Summer Lodge gardens ‘home’, speak with local Mycologists to see whether we have rare mushrooms on the grounds and we are expecting a visit from a bat expert who will use a sonic detector to work out which species have been visiting us at night.

You have previously studied the link between wellbeing and employee participation in corporate social responsibility, can you tell us a bit more about what you found?

In 2019, I carried out a research project, exploring British chains and independent hotels, to determine how diverse corporate social responsibility practices impact employee well-being. The link between employee well-being and CSR were yet to be explored in the context of the British hotel industry, as well as research comparisons between chain and independent organisations. The findings propose that independent hotel employees attain greater well-being as a result of better engagement with CSR projects, whilst identifying they are driven by sustainable, ethical and philanthropic CSR due to its impact on the local community. Chain hotel employees demonstrated much poorer well-being and quality of working life as a result of poor communication of/involvement with their organisation’s CSR activities.

Such research reveals that the more we, as employees, are engaged with CSR activities, constructs such as company culture are enhanced and healthier work environments fostered. This is further rationalised whereby the study determined that those actively involved with CSR campaigns were further motivated by organisational values as opposed to self-fulfilling rewards. Overall, our active involvement with sustainability campaigns not only transforms our well-being and quality of working life but ultimately, our quality of life, determined by the ecosystem and the conservation of our natural resources. So the question now presents, how do we get our employees to recognise this and take an active role in their venue’s Green Team?

For others interested in getting involved in sustainability causes at their workplace, do you have advice on how to get started?

Sustainability is at the heart of Red Carnation’s philosophy and everything we do, making it incredibly easy to gain more insight and get involved. Firstly, I would recommend approaching your hotel’s chosen Green Team champion and asking how you can help with sustainability efforts across your venue. Or better yet, have you got an idea for a potential green project – spot it, own it, fix it and follow it! If there is a venue with only a few champions, some departments are often overlooked, so general managers and Green Team champions appreciate input from everyone. If there isn’t a Green Team champion, speak to your manager and perhaps express your interest? After all, there is no pressure to commit too much time to these projects - the smallest endeavour can make the biggest change.

Being a Green Team Champion has been one of the greatest decisions I have made so far in my degree programme. My involvement has allowed me to expand my network within Red Carnation Hotels and The Travel Corporation whilst giving me a greater sense of purpose, knowing that my efforts are contributing to a greater ecological balance.