Sponsored by Nestlé Professional
One of the judges nailed it when they described the Oakley Court's impressive journey towards winning this Catey as "an overwhelming, persistent drive towards a sustainable hospitality culture".
As an independent hotel, the Oakley Court works with a tighter budget than larger chains, so the team constantly have to look for cost-effective but impactful ways to improve the green offering at the 118-bedroom hotel.
There are too many initiatives to mention here, but some of the more inventive include an Evogro system that enables the hotel to grow its own greens and herbs all year round, and a two-acre vegetable garden that supplies the kitchen and is watered with collected rainwater.
There is also an on-site smokehouse and staff even grow lemons in the conservatory to use in drinks. The in-house honey is also used in recipes and staff can learn about beekeeping from the resident beekeeper.
Other initiatives include CHP, or combined heat and power units, which generate 40% of the hotel's electricity and account for an emissions savings of 45.73 tonnes. Water usage is managed through water-efficient dishwashers and eco-smart shower heads that pump out eight litres of water a minute rather than 18 litres. And a partnership with Managed Waste Solutions ensures the hotel has an environmentally-friendly waste management policy.
The hotel's Green Team, headed by maintenance manager Mario Lewandowski, monitors sustainability performance. He reports that 47.14% of the hotel's waste was recycled in 2016 with a target to increase this to 60% in the next 18 months. Water and energy usage have seen savings of £20,000 and the hotel aims to reclaim 32% of its energy tax, thanks to the government's Climate Change Levy.
Partnerships are a cornerstone of the hotel's sustainability. In March, it struck an agreement with car rental firm Whitecar to enable guests to rent 100% electric, zero-emission Tesla cars at a set price. The hotel also installed two Tesla charging points to be used by guests.
When it comes to people, the Oakley Court has a longstanding partnership with East Berkshire College, enabling students to undertake work experience in the kitchen, and the hotel also sponsors college-run ventures, such as Berkshire's Best Young Chef.
Happily, all this feeds into its CSR targets. The hotel's conference business has increased and is attracting larger companies because it meets their demand for green venues. In 2015, this boosted year-on-year revenue by £500,000 (15% of the total) and in the last financial year it rose by a further 6%, adding £220,000.
And the Oakley Court is no stranger to sustainability awards. For example, it has held a gold Green Tourism award for the past four years and was named Eco Hotel of the Year in the 2016 AA awards. Certainly, its commitment to developing its green credentials over the years was deemed outstanding by the judges, who were united in describing this Catey as "well-deserved".
What the judges said
"Its whole-business approach involves staff, suppliers, the local community and, importantly, customers, along with some great quick-win initiatives, such as complimentary bikes and biodegradable confetti."
"Comprehensive and continuous improvement over a number of years demonstrated energy-saving, water-efficiency and good work with suppliers."
The Grove of Narberth, Pembrokeshire
Hotel du Vin, Newcastle
Lussmanns Fish & Grill Restaurants
The Oakley Court, Windsor, Berkshire
Julie Barker, University of Brighton and TUCO
Dominic Burbridge, The Carbon Trust
Clephane Compton, Sustainable Consulting
Mike Hanson, BaxterStorey
Freya Mills, Sustainable Restaurant Association
David Nuttall, Harper Adams University
Jon Proctor, GreenTourism
Chris Young, Real Bread Campaign and London Food, Link magazine, The Jellied Eel