2020 was a year of firsts. Along with global struggles, it forced many industries to reflect on their practices and look at the future with a fresh perspective. citizenM, the award-winning hotel brand bringing affordable luxury to a new breed of world travelers, used the time to accelerate existing environmental, social and governance (ESG) activities.
As the brand expands its portfolio across Europe, Asia and North America, citizenM focuses on its environmental and social vision and goals – ‘influencing positive change in a world where we are simply guests,’ as our company likes to say.
To achieve key ESG priorities, citizenM will future-proof all hotels while creating greener, healthier and more sustainable buildings. How? By using smart, sustainable design and construction. Energy used in every hotel will be optimized too – whether it’s Seine-side in Paris or the tallest building in New York’s Bowery.
Benchmarking for better: GRESB results
For outside verification of progress, each year citizenM participates in the GRESB assessment. GRESB — formerly known as the Global Real Estate Sustainability Benchmark — is a mission-driven, investor-led organization that has standardized ESG data. Since 2008, GRESB has been the global benchmark for real estate and, more recently, infrastructure. It has covered more than 96,000 assets and 540 infrastructure portfolios – and over 100 investors use this data to steer the industry towards a more sustainable future.
Taking part in the GRESB assessment means citizenM can align with ESG standards and grow as a positive, sustainable brand whilst benchmarking itself against leaders in the real estate industry. It’s working, too: The year 2020 saw citizenM jump over 25% in their score compared to 2019 for the GRESB standing investment benchmark report. citizenM also placed third in its peer group in the GRESB development benchmark report, a new category introduced in 2020.
Intelligent, sustainable buildings: BREEAM, LEED and C-PACE
Combining conscious design and construction with efficient operation to create green buildings is a major step towards reducing citizenM’s impact on the planet. In the long run, green buildings are better for the environment, employee health and guest wellbeing.
Highlights for citizenM in 2020 included receiving the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Gold certification for citizenM’s Boston, Washington DC and Seattle hotels. citizenM Amstel Amsterdam joined citizenM London Shoreditch in receiving the Outstanding BREEAM certification for construction (the highest level), while Tower of London was awarded the Excellent BREEAM certification. In the Netherlands, all four hotels were re-certified under BREEAM, the leading international sustainability assessment method.
In addition to green building certifications and furthering actions on operating sustainably, citizenM has proudly closed the largest-ever hospitality financing package under the U.S. Department of Energy’s Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy (C-PACE) program. The long-term, fixed-rate federal C-PACE funding, awarded for energy efficiency, renewable energy, water conservation, electric vehicle charging and resiliency projects, has been authorized during 2020 by some U.S. cities and states. The program recognizes businesses for renewable energy upgrades — an attractive option now for enabling energy improvements that lower utility bills and increase property value.
Now under construction, the citizenM Los Angeles Downtown is the first citizenM hotel to achieve the funding, receiving USD $42 million for the project’s green-building elements. It’s the third largest C-PACE loan in US history – furthermore, the second largest in California history, after a hospital recipient of C-PACE — and the largest ever in the hospitality sector, according to CBRE.
‘Making positive movements in a world where we are simply guests’
Through its ESG activities, citizenM seeks to be a good neighbour in every community it calls home. The brand starts by making positive changes – from building hotels to operating them – in society. During the COVID-19 pandemic, citizenM donated unused hotel iPads to those affected – patients, children, the elderly, the sick and healthcare employees. The initiative helped loved ones stay connected and children without computers attend online classes during the lockdowns. So far citizenM donated 1,021 iPads: that’s 271 from the Paris Gare de Lyon hotel, 250 from Tower of London, 250 from London Bankside, 100 from New York Bowery, and 150 from Rotterdam.
To thank the amazing behind-the-scenes heroes during the pandemic, citizenM also held a worldwide 1,000 room giveaway on social media. The heroes could be anyone from delivery drivers to flatmates who made the lockdowns a little bit easier. The lucky winners received two free nights in a citizenM hotel.
The community support doesn’t stop there. In partnership with Vitra and the Glasgow School of Art (GSA), citizenM is challenging postgraduate design students to submit their take on three iconic Vitra pieces which need refurbishment. Launched in January 2021, the students’ brief is to focus on sustainable design. Once they submit their proposals, three students will be selected by a panel of industry experts to take their ideas through to completion, resulting in three pieces of furniture with a new lease of life. One will return to citizenM Glasgow, while the other two will be available for sale on Artsy and fund a bursary for future design students at GSA.
Shortening the distance between people and opportunities
In 2020, citizenM donated €224,000 (USD $272,700) to charity partner World Bicycle Relief. This has funded 500 bikes for Bicycle Response Against Covid Emergency in Malawi and a further 680 bikes to mobilize four more schools in rural Kenya. World Bicycle Relief awarded citizenM with the ‘Trailblazer Award’ honouring the company’s ongoing support in tackling issues of transportation, poverty and social justice. To date, citizenM has raised over €800,000 (just under US $1 million) for the citizenMovement Foundation.
The feeling within citizenM is that when it comes to environmental and social goals and better corporate governance, there’s no such thing as standing still. Says Klaas van Lookeren Campagne, Chief Executive Officer at citizenM, “While we’re very pleased with our progress in ESG, citizenM still faces plenty of challenges. We want to integrate our ESG strategy into all areas of our business operations, while exploring longer-term opportunities like embedding social, environmental and climate resilience attributes into our buildings. Moving forward, we’re focusing on the ESG issues most important to our stakeholders, improving the accuracy of our data and future-proofing all our hotels.”
Diving into ESG is an important step for citizenM to become a proudly conscious, sustainable hotel brand. From the first hotel opening in 2008, citizenM has been on a mission to bring affordable luxury, green buildings and a conscious approach to travel in the world’s most exciting cities – and will continue pushing forward to become a leader in the field. citizenM is all about the latest tech, bringing world travellers everything they need, and nothing they don’t. This ethos feeds into the brand’s approach to sustainability; reducing waste, developing green buildings and setting the standard for hotels across the globe.