UK Spa Association
Spotlight on Sustainability with Whatley Manor
Sue Williams has had a long career in luxury hospitality and is currently General Manager of Whatley Manor Hotel and Spa, near Malmesbury in Wiltshire. Her management roles have taken her to some beautiful Country House Hotels, including Le Manoir Aux Quat’ Saisons, Gidleigh Park and Cliveden House Hotel in Berkshire. Alongside being an operational GM, Sue is currently Board Member of Pride of Britain Hotels and contributes to UK Hospitality regional board and Hospitality Action Charity Committee, very much believing in giving back to industry wherever possible. A proud Master Innholder and Hotelier of the year 2018.
The Whatley Manor Sustainability Journey began in 2019, prompted by the owner’s belief that the business had a responsibility to reduce its negative impact on the environment.
Sue, with no previous experience in the field committed to researching the topic and educating herself as much as possible. Undertaking a Cambridge Institute of Sustainable leadership, course on, “Businesses transitioning to Net Zero Emissions” in 2021.
The business placed importance on developing strategic partnerships with organisations that had the tools and frameworks and expertise for the process of working towards Net Zero. This led to contact with NOW Sustainability for guidance and who in turn introduced them to EarthCheck which is the world’s number one, sustainability accreditation body for Travel & Tourism. Whatley is now well advanced on this journey, having achieved the Earthcheck Silver accreditation Sept 2022.
What do you offer in terms of sustainability for the spa and wellness sector?
When you go on your sustainability journey, so much of what you do is behind the scenes and therefore not visible to our guests. These out of site actions are the most impactful when it comes to reducing your carbon in the business. For example - we have moved away from purchasing fossil fuels and all our purchased energy is from certified renewable sources.
We have carried out an energy audit and concentrated on energy reduction. An example of this is moving to steam on demand in our thermal suite.
We have focused on reducing out water consumption, reducing this by 18% since our benchmark of 2019, by reducing the flow of our shower heads by 6ltrs per minute, quick response to leaks, reduced the amount of laundry generated and there for less to process, dual flush toilets and so many more incremental gains to save huge volumes of water. We have also reduced our overall waste by 33%, by speaking to suppliers and asking them to re-think their packaging or taking it away with them.
One of the first guest facing initiatives was to seek new product partners who were also on their environmental Journey. This brought us into partnership with Gaia and more recently Sothys, both very advanced on their own sustainability journeys. This is then reflected in our retail area. We replaced all our Spa textiles with Smart knit, which takes 40% less energy and water to process.
We have removed all single use plastics and reduced the use of paper and consumables. Either removed from use or replaced with compositable items, which we can compost onsite.
All Spa purchases as scrutinized by our Supply Chain officer, to ensure the purchase is from an ethical partner and all suppliers are required to sign the Supplier code of conduct, before the purchase is made.
With our Wellness focus we aim to achieve this with our Spa journey and treatments especially focussed on nurturing the guests. Two of our Sothys treatments “Mother Nurture” & “Garden Retreat Spa Experience” – we note on the treatment menu, that in line with our Environmental work we support SDG3 (Sustainable Development Goals 3 - Good Health & Wellness) and donate £3 from each of these treatments when booked, & donate that to Wiltshire MIND Charity. With the installation of a Float Pod we can now also offer guests a chance to Indulge in some serious self-care with this Infrared Sauna and Floatation Pod Experience.
We have also evolved our gardens, immediately outside the Spa, by rewilding the areas and cutting a path through the wildflowers and long grass that guests can amble through and take some quiet reflection time. In essence there isn’t a corner of the Spa that we haven’t looked at to ensure best sustainability and wellness practices, but as ever this is an evolving space of continued improvement.
Tell us about your latest project Earth Check and how this fits with Sustainability.
We are really pleased to be working with Earthcheck, they are the worlds leading sustainability accreditation partner in Travel & Tourism. We understood early on in our journey that this was a whole new way of doing business, and that we needed highly credible partners who themselves were working in line with UNTC (United Nations Tourism Council) and SBTi(Science Based Targets Initiative). Working with Earthcheck gives us a very robust structure to follow and targets to strive towards. We were delighted to be the first Country House Hotel in the UK to achieve Silver Earthcheck accreditation.
Through them we submit all our waste, water & energy data so that they can measure our achievements, they also come to property to carry out an in-person audit. They not only want us to measure our Carbon but in equal measure to use the Tripple Bottom line principle of “People, Profit & Planet”, so we follow the Sustainable Development Goals and use these as a blueprint to do good in business. We weave then into our work wherever possible, and ensure we collaborate with our suppliers and local community on the subject.
What would your one piece of advice be for anyone wanting to open up their spa offering to be more sustainable?
I think my top tip is to think of sustainability as simply the new way to do business in this era of Climate change. We all need to go on this journey it is no longer optional, those who fail to embrace the change are likely to loose relevance in the market place. This isn’t a project to shy away from as there are so many exciting possibilities that stem from it. It is important to you as an employer as this will help you attract new talent. It is a great team project, everyone in your business needs to play their part. You will also lean you business in so many ways when you embrace the changes. So my top advice it to jump in with both feet and get going, but to do it with a credible partner, such as Earthcheck so that they can support you with their 30 years of experience.