Partner Portrait Schweizerhof Bern – The Green Busters and Climate-Neutral Accommodation

Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & THE SPA is an institution in Bernese and Swiss hospitality. In its 150-year history, it has hosted stars like Sir Peter Ustinov, Grace Kelly and Albert Schweitzer. The establishment boasts a “five-star superior” rating and brings history to life with its classic ambiance, while at the same time providing a modern and comprehensive sustainability concept. Seraina Zahner, Quality & CSR Manager at Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & THE SPA, explains this in an interview with myclimate.

Ms Zahner, what or who are “The Green Busters”?

Since 2016 we’ve had an in-house environmental group called “The Green Busters”. The group meets regularly with the aim of making Hotel Schweizerhof Bern & THE SPA more environmentally friendly. As part of this, various projects have already been implemented or are being planned. It was very important to me that the team was made up of a vibrant mix of employees from various departments and different hierarchy levels. After all, the aim is that the ideas for the projects come from employees themselves and cover all areas of the hotel.

Can you give us an overview of the sort of measures that your establishment uses to try to improve sustainability?

Through our CSR commitments, we want to consciously take responsibility for our employees, our environment and our society. The three areas of activity cover the following themes and projects:

  1. Employees
    Employees are valued very highly by Hotel Schweizerhof Bern, since they are the heart and soul of the establishment. In this area of activity we tackle questions such as: What does the hotel do for the satisfaction, development and health of employees and to ensure that they remain part of the business for the long term? What responsibility do we actually bear as an employer? The projects deal with things like our occupational health management, our considerable efforts in the area of education and training, our in-house talent management, our various benefits and much more.
  2. Environment
    The environmental area of activity addresses topics such as climate protection, the efficient use of resources and energy consumption at Hotel Schweizerhof Bern. We try to avoid food waste, for example, and have already implemented several projects in this area. We are partners of United Against Waste and offer our guests compostable food boxes in all of our restaurants and at our events. On top of this, Marcel Bigler, our junior sous chef in Jack’s Brasserie, developed a vegetable seasoning created using leftovers from food preparation. Furthermore, local and seasonal produce are reflected throughout our food offering. In the comprehensive CO₂ analysis carried out with myclimate, it also became clear that we still have a great deal of potential in the area of paper consumption. We then decided to introduce a comprehensive document management system in the hotel this year and thus to digitise as many processes as possible. Waste and recycling is also a big theme in our environment group, which is why we launched the collaboration with Sapocycle, for example. Our hard soaps are all recycled and offered to families and children in need through Sapocycle.
  3. Society and market
    This area of activity is focused on non-profit commitments, as well as sponsorship, donations, partnerships and cooperation with our suppliers. For example, we are a supplier to Swiss Paralympic (the national committee for top-level sport for people with disabilities), support the Schweizer Tafel food redistribution organisation and actively help with the Race for Life (a sponsored cycling marathon to combat cancer). At the annual Foodsave banquet, a team of volunteers works in our kitchen under our head chef, Silvan Durrer, and Mirko Burri to conjure up delicacies using foods that would otherwise end up as waste. The dishes are served in front of the Heiliggeist church for free – a strong sign of the city’s commitment to avoiding food waste.

Why did you decide to add to this long list in February with climate-neutral accommodation assisted by myclimate?

We wanted to offer our guests the opportunity to take responsibility for the CO₂ emissions of their stay. Alongside the measures we are implementing ourselves, our guests are now also able to play a part in our plan to continually reduce CO₂ emissions. This project also developed from the comprehensive CO₂ analysis carried out with myclimate.

How receptive is your clientele to measures aimed at climate or environmental protection?

A three-month survey carried out with hotel guests on the subject of CSR revealed that our guests are very receptive and showed a great deal of interest in climate protection. More than 80 percent of all those questioned said they would be willing to pay a premium for climate-neutral rooms in order to take responsibility themselves. They believe that in this day and age it is essential for companies to commit to sustainability.

In closing, we’d just like your personal perspective: How long will it be until environmental and climate protection in hotels is automatically associated with more than just the familiar stickers about washing or not washing towels? What will supersede this?

We hope that our commitment will involve and inspire other hotels too. After all, it’s in five-star hospitality that there is so much potential that we can make use of together. CSR should not be an isolated, strategic part of company management but rather a fundamental philosophy. That’s not achieved by placing stickers by the towels. Rather, it’s a philosophy that has to be anchored in the minds of all employees and the management and that extends across all areas of the company. It’s important to recognise that this is a lengthy process and that we too still have a long road ahead of us.

Hotel Schweizerhof & THE SPA is situated right on the square in front of Bern railway station and employs more than 130 people. Together with myclimate, the hotel has calculated its annual CO₂ emissions and implemented measures to continually reduce them. As part of this partnership, climate-neutral rooms have been available since mid-February. At the same time, guests have the option to donate four Swiss francs to the climate protection project “Back to Green Island with Efficient and Solar Cookstoves” in Madagascar.

Stay informed!