IDEEA Podcast Episode 18: Xenia zu Hohenlohe, Co-Founder and Chief Sustainability Officer, Considerate Group
In this insightful podcast, Xenia sheds light on the pressing challenges faced by investors in the realm of sustainability. From navigating varying reporting requirements to combating the risks of stranded assets, she delves into the complexities that must be addressed for a greener future.
To combat greenwashing and ensure transparency, Considerate Group embraces the power of data. Xenia highlights the significance of evidence-backed decision-making and introduces the Hotel Carbon Measurement Index (HCMI) framework. By adhering to this standardized reporting system, hotels can collect consistent data and benchmark their sustainability efforts against industry peers. Considerate Group has even developed a cutting-edge data monitoring platform that seamlessly aligns with HCMI, automating data collection and facilitating comparisons with other hotels.
Looking ahead, Considerate Group aims to be a trailblazer in the sustainability space. By collaborating with other organizations, they seek to tackle the challenges posed by climate change head-on. Xenia emphasizes the importance of aligning hotel operators and owners to achieve ambitious sustainability goals, envisioning a future where the hotel industry plays a pivotal role in conservation efforts and reshaping our cities.
Marina Franolic (00:00:29) - Hello everyone to one more IDEEA podcast. This year we will be gathering in Prague from September 18th to 20th. But before we start with the event, we will be announcing some great names, some great companies. And today with me here in Berlin is the co-founder and CSO of the Considerate group Mrs. Xenia.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:00:57) - Thank you, Marina. A pleasure to be here.
Marina Franolic (00:01:00) - It's really nice. Sustainability is one of the key topics at IDEEA this year and we're going to be pushing that topic throughout next session's years. We think it's very important. We want to break, bring it up. We want to challenge it in every way possible. And this is why we brought and we invited Xenia to share her knowledge and her experience and what she sees on the market.
Marina Franolic (00:01:27) - So, Xenia, can you please share with us a little bit about what Considerate group does?
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:01:33) - So Considerate Group was established in 2012 with a view to providing service solutions to the hotel and tourism sector when it comes to sustainability. So we were the first guest in the game in our sector to start focusing on the fact that we needed to be doing something to drive responsible business. Fast forward now to 2023. We offer a series of solutions. One of them being very data-driven. So we have our own data monitoring platform where we collect environmental data. So resource consumption helps hotels operate efficiently and also profitably. On the other hand, we have our sustainability strategic advisory, where we always have experts that come from the hospitality sector, but our sustainability experts too. And we help create strategies, we help report, we train the teams, and we make sure that strategies get implemented. So we're a sort of 360-degree service provider on ESG for this sector.
Marina Franolic (00:02:43) - I have to say, it's very impressive. 2012.
Marina Franolic (00:02:46) - You had a long-term view, I assume because this is a topic we've been bringing up for a long time, but actually, everyone is looking at it more seriously just recently.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:03:00) - Correct. So when I went to my first climate talk in 1989.
Marina Franolic (00:03:06) - My God.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:03:06) - And I wasn't brave enough to go onto the streets like the students of today do, I just thought somebody was going to deal with it. But the facts are already on the table then. So when we founded Considerate Group in 2012, I thought, We're late, we're really late, and it still took another 6 or 7 years for the market to really respond to what we're seeing now. But that's given us the advantage of being first movers, of establishing our services, of really having the expertise that a lot of people lack.
Marina Franolic (00:03:37) - Impressive. You work mostly with investors, correct?
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:03:42) - We do. We work with a mixture, so we do invest. This is a big part of what we work with, but we also work with operators and we work with brands.
Marina Franolic (00:03:52) - Well, in terms of investors, can you tell me a little bit what is what are their greatest challenges, how you support them and how those challenges differ depending on the type of investor. We have so many different types of investors ranging from private ones to real estate investment trusts. So what are their different challenges and how do you support them? So I think the.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:04:16) - Biggest challenge for them currently is the reporting frameworks. So if you are an institutional investor, you will have very different reporting requirements, legal reporting requirements when it comes to sustainability to when you are a private owner investor. So that's where it starts with. And the requirements in Europe, which go in line with the EU taxonomy are a huge challenge for institutional investors. And then when it comes to your rights, for example, then it's obviously much more your stakeholders. So if you are a trust who sits in the stakeholder or the trustees effectively and what are they being driven by? And a lot of them are being driven by sustainability now and then if you're an owner, it really depends.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:05:06) - If you want to take seriously this threat of having a stranded asset, are you in it for the long term? Then you want to make your property climate fit effectively. Plus you want the people who work in your hotel to want to work there. And as we all know, the staff of the future is interested in this, with that seriously committed to it. So everybody has different pressure points, but everybody is understood that they have to do it.
Marina Franolic (00:05:32) - Okay. If we talk about if we look a little bit at the CEE where the event will be held, most of the owners are private companies, but we don't have so much of the investment funds. So do you see that there are also picking up this topic that they want to know what's going to be with their asset in 5 to 10 years? Do you see them kind of raising the voice more now or is it still this region that is relatively slow and not responsive, at least not yet?
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:06:12) - I. I think you have to differentiate between the type of private owners as well.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:06:18) - Some are in there because it's been a family business and it's been with them for long, for various generations, and they're in it for the long run.
Marina Franolic (00:06:26) - And they're more interested.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:06:28) - They're more interested, okay. Because typically family businesses are run so that you can pass them on to the next generation. So that in itself is sustainable, right? So they will always be looking at the future goals rather than the five year investment to then be, you know, having it to somebody else. If you're somebody who's a private investor and just literally doing it because of a financial vehicle that you want to invest in, then maybe you don't have so much focus on it. But equally, again, there's this risk of stranded assets is becoming an increasing risk. So even if you might not have been thinking about it 2 or 3 years ago, in 2 or 3 years from now, if you haven't clocked it and you're in serious trouble, it might.
Marina Franolic (00:07:09) - Be difficult to sell it or to finance it. Yeah, of course.
Marina Franolic (00:07:14) - You mentioned in our talk before about what are the three main topics that you want to emphasize also within your work. And one of them was transparency. What do you mean by transparency?
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:07:30) - So there is now also a law in Europe which is against greenwashing, which means whatever you say, you have to be able to prove. Right, which comes with your reporting. And its proof is in that case, the proof is in the pudding is the data. So if you say you have goals that you want to reduce your energy consumption by, let's say, 10% in the next year, how are you going to prove that? So you need to deliver data. You need to be transparent about your actions, and you then need to be able to follow up on them. Otherwise, some of your stakeholders will come back to haunt you. So it's really not just making lofty statements about the goals and that you care about sustainability. It's really to say, okay, this is where we are today, this is where we want to be tomorrow and the day after tomorrow.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:08:15) - And this is how we're going to measure it. This is how we're going to implement it and this is how we're going to prove it. So that's really the transparency I'm talking about. But then.
Marina Franolic (00:08:24) - You know, you actually need to have the data and you need to collect it properly in order to showcase, right? Correct. So we come to the point I'd say, yeah. So what how can the data be collected and is it collected in the same way with all of the stakeholders or kind of is there actually a way I know and I'm looking from the events perspective, we keep saying that we need to collect data, but the question is if we all collect it in a different way. And I think it was the same thing in the hospitality industry until a couple of years ago, if we all collect it differently, then how can we compare it? How can we measure it? How can we all can point out that something, but it's not really comparable.
Marina Franolic (00:09:09) - So is there now a way to collect it in the same way for everyone?
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:09:15) - So there is a great framework for the hospitality sector established by the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, which is called the HCMI, the Hotel Carbon Measurement Index. All right. Just yesterday in Berlin, they launched the version two of this. This is a new sort of updated version to ensure that we in the industry all use the same benchmarks and the same reporting framework.
Marina Franolic (00:09:39) - That for operations only. Or is it also for the development?
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:09:43) - That's mainly for operations. Okay. Okay. So within that you can then have the Co two per room nights, for example. And then also there's the water measurement index. And so the energy and if you want the resource consumption is now something that we can all stick to the same benchmarks. We created a data monitoring platform in 2015 called Conserve, which we aligned to the HDMI because we don't need to reinvent the wheel whereby we collect all of that data automatically, automatically. So the more data you can get automated feeds in the buildings, the better.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:10:17) - You can do that through your building management systems. You can do it through smart metering. And then we have these industry specific overlays so that we can then benchmark against other hotels. So the more people aligned to this framework, then we can all be talking the same language. Otherwise we're not comparing apples with apples.
Marina Franolic (00:10:37) - And you'll actually have the data. So you will see how your competitor is doing, what you need to maybe focus more or less. That's great. Okay. And now you said also the alignment of framework, but that's, that's what we just said. You need to actually have the data to be able to to put everything together and compare. What do you see Considerate group in five years. Oh, that's a good question.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:11:09) - I think I hope that we you know, we are the leaders in this niche, not just in Europe, but in other areas of the world too. I think we're very Europe focused at the moment.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:11:21) - We've now got a small office in New York. We're working on projects in the Middle East as well. There is a lot of work that needs to be done in Asia that we can get involved in. So I still see us as being Considerate group, whether in collaboration with somebody else or by ourselves, I don't know. We are specialists in this sector and there's no need to sort of spread yourselves too wide. It's better to sort of just go into depth. Um, and the requirements are getting ever stricter because climate change is ever more present and we need to all be working in the same direction. So we're very open, we collaborate a lot, and we have a lot of partnerships because we cannot address this topic by ourselves. This can only be achieved if we all work together.
Marina Franolic (00:12:09) - Do you see also the hotel companies picking up this topic more and more? Because operators have been talking about it quite a lot. Uh, are they delivering or they are saying.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:12:21) - It's difficult for operators because you often have, you know, disjointed ownership. So just speaking to the chief sustainability officer of companies like IHG or Radisson, they've got great goals as a hotel operating company, but they can only get that far if you get the owners on board as well. So there is a lot of work that needs to be done on the alignment of the goals, stakeholder dialogues, and ensuring that we all move and travel in the same direction.
Marina Franolic (00:12:52) - Do you see that the law will start, that it will also apply for the private investors at some point that, you know, I'm going back again. But the the the funds they as you said, they need to report. And it's very strict reporting how they it needs to be done. But what about the small investors? Will they be pushed as well to, you know, really align with all the goals and work on it? Or do you think that at some point, if you want to invest in the real estate or in hospitality, you'll actually have to know, just like now, that you need to give in the tax return or the tax papers now that you have to do the same for sustainability.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:13:38) - Yeah, you're going to have to be reporting on your carbon emissions because otherwise the government's goals, the Paris goals that we have effectively can't be achieved if people who have carbon emissions don't report on them and everybody has them, right? So any business is going to and that's already becoming the first reporting year for any company, over 500 employees next year, 2020 sorry, 2025, which is called CSR. Yes. So that's the reporting that smaller companies will have to do. And again, I think, you know, if you're a private investor. You will risk having a stranded asset at some point. So you do need to be getting onto the train. You do need to be looking at this. And as I said before, the people working in that property otherwise will not want to work for you either. So, you know, the pressure will probably come more from the employees than it might come from frameworks. But then interestingly enough, somebody like the LGT, the Liechtenstein bank that works with a lot of family offices that own real estate, they all say, you know, these family offices are also looking at how do I want to operate for the next generation? Um, so they're all looking at that.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:14:48) - Um, and the movement seems to be in the same direction.
Marina Franolic (00:14:52) - And hopefully then the industry will do big steps forward because I think are definitely needed. Thank you so much. Is there anything else that you want to kind of point out that you want to say to the audience that will be hearing this interview?
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:15:08) - I think the one thing that gets me excited is the fact that we as an industry can have a really positive impact. And that was so yesterday, again, when the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance launched their new framework, which is called Pathway to net Positive, not to net zero, as we as an industry can have a really positive impact. A lot of times, especially when we own resorts, we are guardians of the environment and mental patches. You know, we can do a lot when it comes to conservation, tourism assets and natural assets that we as an industry look after. And we can also, you know, we can reshape the picture of cities. A lot of the hotel developments if we just integrate green walls and green roofs and greening of the of the areas around our hotel, we can make a huge impact because that takes down the temperature by a couple of degrees in a hot city.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:16:01) - So is looking at that positive impact that we can have where you didn't suddenly get more excited about the fact that you just have to retrofit. Let's look at the innovative solutions as well.
Marina Franolic (00:16:11) - I guess we can also teach to the to our audience, to our guests about the culture looking from this positive and green perspective.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:16:21) - Yeah, but first, we have to do it before we can teach it.
Marina Franolic (00:16:25) - Thank you so much. It was a pleasure talking to you. Thank you for being part of the podcast.
Xenia zu Hohenlohe (00:16:30) - Thank you.