Industry NewsSustainability VP Marianne Balfe on Highgate’s First ESG Report

Sustainability VP Marianne Balfe on Highgate’s First ESG Report

Highgate’s recent decision to produce a formal environmental, social, and governance (ESG) report is designed to take the company’s sustainability efforts to the next level.

According to Vice President of Sustainability Marianne Balfe, the real estate investment and hospitality management company had effectively made a commitment to “improving working, living, and playing environments for all life on this planet.”

Balfe noted that beyond raising awareness of the environmental issues Highgate is already successfully addressing, the report includes the performance evaluation data she called “crucial for incentivizing our team and striving to be the best possible corporate citizens we can be.” In sharing highlights of Highgate’s successful sustainability performance to date, Balfe said the impact of these efforts on their properties is already apparent.

“More than 200 of our hotels (60 percent of Highgate’s portfolio) were powered by 100 percent renewable energy in 2022 using Green-e certified renewable energy certificates that benefit U.S.-based wind and solar energy projects; more than 15,000 trees have been planted through our hotels’ reforestation initiatives; and more than 110 electric vehicle charging stations have been installed at our hotels,” she said.

Balfe mentioned, too, that Highgate was the first hospitality company signatory to the Clean Energy Buyers Association’s Commercial Real Estate Principles, which supports the decarbonization of commercial buildings through energy optimization and renewable energy procurement. Highgate’s efforts to increase the utilization of energy-efficient technologies and renewable energy, Balfe commented, are also reflected in its Environmental Brand Standards, which require hotels to install smart guestroom thermostats, 100 percent LED lighting, and intelligent kitchen hood fans for properties with large kitchens.

Balfe also noted social components of Highgate’s ESG initiatives that, she claimed, “prioritize equity and inclusion from the top down,” including its People First leadership approach and its new Opening Doors Together Program to “hold everyone in our organization accountable to our DEI goals.” Looking ahead, Balfe said Highgate plans to advance its engagement in biodiversity protection for climate stability and will continue its existing efforts to eliminate single-use plastics. Although Highgate already has 95 eco-certified hotels, she said the company is intent upon “further growing our number of hotels with third-party certifications recognized by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.” It is also evaluating onsite renewable energy feasibility and is conducting a comprehensive analysis of onsite solar and battery storage opportunities across its entire portfolio.

Beyond exhibiting the company’s most successful initiatives and displaying its full carbon footprint for its entire supply chain, Balfe said data would be used to establish achievable goals and measure progress. Of the report’s overarching goal, she said, “Our mission is to bring greater awareness to these efforts and inspire others within our industry to also contribute toward making a positive impact on the environment.”