Managing Director of Red Carnation Hotels, Jonathan Raggett is responsible for upholding the company’s reputation for outstanding service and luxury, whilst also taking into account the sustainability issues of today. From raising significant sums for local charities, to repurposing hotel toiletries and educating guests on how they can make a difference, Red Carnation Hotels is thoroughly committed to promoting sustainable luxury at each one of its 17 properties. Here, Jonathan Raggett chats about the company’s sustainability goals for 2018, and some of the highlights from his 20 years with Red Carnation Hotels.
You’ve been in the hospitality industry for over 30 years, what attracted you to Red Carnation Hotels?
“I was immediately attracted by the opportunity to work for a genuine family-run business. The company seemed dynamic and was clearly headed up by a charismatic Founder and President, whose passion, excitement and enthusiasm was tangible. I could see that this was a business that believed in investing in both its properties and its people.”
Why is sustainable luxury such an important principle for Red Carnation Hotels?
“The business of hospitality is all about giving guests exactly what they want; meeting and exceeding their expectations. However, in a world of diminishing natural resources this needs to be done in a way that is sustainable and part of my job is to educate both staff and guests about what we can all do to reduce our impact on the environment.”
What initiatives have been put in place to uphold this principle?
“One of our earliest projects was to invite all guests staying at a Red Carnation Hotel to make a small donation to specially chosen charities. These donations are then matched by Red Carnation Hotels. Through the generosity of our guests, we have been able to donate over £500,000 to Starlight Children’s Foundation, £320,000 to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital, over £11,000 to Cheshire Homes in Guernsey, over £20,000 to Les Bourgs Hospice in Guernsey, as well as €6,500 to Hand in Hand in Ireland, more than €22,000 to the Cong Community Centre and R148,000 to The Amy Biehl Foundation in South Africa.
What’s more, if guests want their bed linen and towels changed every day of their stay, then we do this with pleasure. However, for any guests concerned about the resources that are wasted through unnecessary laundering, they can now choose when they want these items changed if they are staying with us for a number of days. The cost savings made by reducing the amount of linen sent out for laundering is donated to our chosen charities.
Being a luxury brand, our guests are provided with toiletries from some of the best suppliers in the market, and while there is an expectation that many people will take leftover products home with them, we still have a high level of waste. However, in the UK we’ve been able to work with a company called Clean Conscience who repurpose these products into care kits which are then distributed to homeless and poverty charities. The repackaging of these products is carried out by staff at Clean Conscience, who either have learning difficulties or are disabled.
Creating the right ambience in our hotels, restaurants and bars is essential, and one of the ways in which we do this is by using candlelight. We’ve been working with local companies to recycle our used candles and in the UK in 2017 we diverted 950kg of waste candle wax from landfill, to create artisan scented candles.
In South Africa, we are delighted to work with an organisation called Pack for a Purpose. Some years ago, they recognised that travellers could have a big impact on the communities they visit through using a small amount of space in their luggage to pack supplies needed by community projects. Guests staying at Bushmans Kloof, The Oyster Box and Twelve Apostles are encouraged to fill any space in their luggage with general school supplies, which are then passed on to local projects.
We also have a policy where all members of staff are entitled to two paid days to undertake voluntary work for a charity of their choice. Activities that have been undertaken have included a beach clean-up, working in a local soup kitchen and gardening tasks at a local park.”
Both Ashford Castle and Bushmans Kloof are members of the National Geographic Unique Lodges of the world, is this down to their commitment to sustainable luxury?
“Both Ashford Castle and Bushmans Kloof have been identified as two truly unique hotels with a passion for preservation, protection and community engagement. The 800 year old Ashford Castle in the West of Ireland has recently completed a 5 year restoration programme, elevating the castle back to its former glory. In addition to the historical significance of this project, the community was also positively impacted through greater employment opportunities and investment made within the local community. Bushmans Kloof in South Africa is dedicated to preserving the cultural legacy of the Cederberg region and is the proud custodian to over 130 rock art sites painted by the indigenous San people, dating back 10,000 years. These preservation efforts have helped the Rock Art earn distinction as a South African National Heritage Site.”
What, in your opinion, is the secret to creating the perfect balance of sustainability and luxury?
“At 5 and 4-star level, I believe sustainability is about striking a balance between pampering our guests and ensuring they receive the high levels of service and comfort expected whilst being mindful of the need to preserve precious resources.”
What are your goals concerning sustainability for 2018?
“We realise that we cannot rest on our laurels, and while we have made progress on many environmental initiatives over the years, we have to continue to develop our work in this area. One area that we are currently focusing on is reducing our reliance on one-use plastic.
Throughout 2018 we will be building on all that has been achieved in recent years, ensuring sustainable initiatives are truly embedded in our culture. One of the ways in which we will achieve this is through staff training, so that our team are fully aware of how we are asking our guests to help and what they themselves can be doing to reduce their impact on the environment e.g. switching off lights and computers when not in use, using the stairs instead of the lift and making use of our cycle-to-work scheme.
One of the initiatives I am most proud of and look forward to championing throughout 2018 is the RCH Green Team, where team members from each hotel meet on a monthly basis to share best practise, hear from experts in the sustainability field and put forward ideas to help Red Carnation Hotels become a leader in championing sustainable luxury in the hotel industry.
Fortunately, we know from the feedback we receive from our guests that our efforts are well-received and that increasingly people are making decisions about where they stay based on sustainable credentials.”
In your time working with Red Carnation Hotels, what has been your greatest achievement to date?
“During my time with Red Carnation Hotels there have been many highlights, but there are a few achievements that I’m particularly proud of. Being in the Top 100 of The Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For list for five years and being listed at number two was a great moment. Likewise in 2016, when Beatrice Tollman, our Founder and President, was recognised for her unique style of leadership with a Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as being named Leading Hotels of the World Leading Legend.
I’m also very grateful that The Red Carnation Hotels brand is now one that is recognised within the industry, and our hotels are ones that people actively seek to experience. I’m always motivated by the loyalty we enjoy from our guests and the outstanding feedback we receive both directly and online.”
As part of the TTC family of brands, Red Carnation Hotels are also proud to partner with the Treadright Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation, working to help ensure the environment and communities that travellers visit remain vibrant for generations to come #letstreadright
Image Credits: All images courtesy of Red Carnation Hotels.