Reaffirming their commitment to combating climate change and doing business in a sustainable manner, Aitken Spence Hotels, the pioneers of biomass energy in the Sri Lankan hospitality industry, recently partnered with atmosfair, Germany, to embark on a venture that will not only reduce the carbon emissions of the hotels but will also strengthen the communities in the areas the hotels are built in.
As an organisation that is committed to combating climate change, Aitken Spence Hotels works with an Integrated Sustainability Policy and the choice to work towards helping both the environment and the communities they work was a natural extension.
Biomass was chosen over other forms of renewable energy as it offered the unique opportunity to support the communities they work in as well as to help combat climate change and reduce their environmental footprint. Speaking on the project Malin Hapugoda, Managing Director of Aitken Spence Hotels said “Heritance brand is unanimous with unique architecture and living traditions. We have gone as far as possible to be environment friendly and our most significant effort in this area is the decision to supplement hotel’s climate change mitigation actions by replacing non-renewable fossil fuel with bio mass. We decided to opt for bio mass against other renewable energy options so that we can extend the benefits to the local communities”.
The partnership between Aitken Spence Hotels and atmosfair will spread its benefits to around 400 farmers and their families in the rural areas where the hotels operate, by helping them generate income from their barren and unfarmed lands. The project focuses on using regenerated wood supplied by the farmers to generate energy, thereby ensuring that no existing farm or forest land will be depleted as a result. Farmers will be provided with an incentive after they go through an identification and screening process to ascertain eligibility.
Commenting on the initiative Executive Director of atmosfair, Dr. Dietrich Brockhagen said that “This development shows the leadership of the private sector in combating climate change in Sri Lanka. The project carried out in close cooperation with Aitken Spence and atmosfair demonstrates that entrepreneurship and environmental protection can foster each other for the benefit of all.” The use of biomass has many fringe benefits as well. The cultivation of Gliricidia, which is used to generate energy, helps convert land that is lying fallow or barren into fertile lands once again. The reduction in the use of diesel has the double benefit of being more environmentally friendly and also saving the country’s foreign exchange, which would otherwise be spent on energy generation.
Renewable energy in the form of biomass was first introduced by Aitken Spence Hotels at the Heritance Tea Factory in 2007. The biomass gassifier plant converts Gliricidia plants into energy that helps run the hotel. The Heritance Kandalama followed suit, with the biomass gassifier plant replaced auto diesel. Through this project in the two hotels a total reduction of 750 tonnes of CO2 emissions was achieved, emissions that would otherwise pollute the atmosphere and contribute to climate change and global warming. Atmosfair is an organisation that was set up in Germany in 2005 by the German Government Federal Environment Agency and Germanwatch, an environment and development organisation to support carbon offsetting across the globe. Atmosfair is currently working in Sri Lanka and is partnering with Aitken Spence Hotels on their initiative as it offers the rare combination of helping the planet and the people, two crucial factors in the triple bottom line.
The dedicated CSR programme of Aitken Spence Hotels, the Brighter Futures Foundation will implement the project through the Aitken Spence Charity the Spence Evoluzione Charitable Trust.
Although possible emissions caps could come into effect on the aviation and hospitality trade in the near future, thanks to their latest endeavour with atmosfair, Aitken Spence Hotels will continue in the future to prove itself and stay one step ahead of global trends.