This International Women’s Day, we are turning our attention towards the women within Red Carnation Hotels who have been instrumental in championing and driving sustainability across our global collection. From pledging to the sustainable initiatives of TreadRight and launching global Green Teams in each property to identifying and removing single-use plastics, we are continuously striving to bolster the future of eco-tourism and sustainable travel.

A pioneer in our efforts is Michelle Devlin, General Manager at The Egerton House Hotel since 2012. Michelle’s dedication to sustainability has inspired tangible change across the collection, and almost every project has benefited from her vision, insight, and stewardship. Her advocacy for more plant-based alternatives on menus throughout our hotels has even inspired a highly successful and in-demand Vegan Afternoon Tea which thrives at her own hotel.

To celebrate the dedication of the women of Red Carnation Hotels, and to showcase the incredible work that they do to support the needs of both people and planet, we are spotlighting a few of the remarkable women behind how we Make Travel Matter this International Women’s Day.

Suzie Norris, Executive Assistant Manager at Chesterfield Mayfair Hotel 

What does being responsible for pushing sustainability within Red Carnation Hotels mean to you? 

I am proud to work for a company with such clear and strong sustainability goals and I am excited to be part of this challenging yet rewarding journey towards achieving them within the current five-year strategy.

As a Sustainability Ambassador for Red Carnation, what achievement are you most proud of?

I am the ambassador for Goal 3: Reduce food waste by 50% across all hotels by 2025. In partnership with waste management companies Winnow Solutions and Kitro, the hotels are provided with data and analytics of the food waste produced and its impact on the environment. It has been such an interesting process for me and for the chefs who identify the highest areas of food waste production. Using this data, each and every team member is empowered to derive ways to reduce our food waste and share best practices with our sister hotels. As of December 2022, we have reduced food waste by 39%, and with the continued commitment and passion of our teams, we look forward to another innovative year ahead for 2023.

What can you tell us about your Red Carnation Hotels career journey?

I have been with Red Carnation Hotels for over five years. During that time, I have worked in three properties: The Rubens at The Palace, The Milestone, and now, The Chesterfield Mayfair. My journey began on the Sales Management Programme gaining event planning and room reservations skills, along with developing my corporate and leisure sales experience. During the Covid-19 pandemic, I was part of the skeleton team at The Chesterfield Mayfair looking after our guests who were visiting for essential travel, whilst also assisting guests virtually with amending event and stay plans during the period of uncertainty. Now, as Executive Assistant to the General Manager, a great part of my role includes leading our sustainability efforts at The Chesterfield Mayfair and working with the global committee and hotel champions to drive change across the collection. In doing so, we can continue to contribute to the future of eco-tourism. 

Joanna Barnes, Executive Assistant to Chief Executive Officer

What does being responsible for pushing sustainability within Red Carnation Hotels mean to you? 

My role within the Sustainability Committee involves helping the hotels to achieve their collective volunteering target of 6,000 hours of volunteering by 2025.  I do this by promoting the benefit of two days of paid volunteering a year, advertising volunteering opportunities, collating the achievements of the hotels and individuals, and sharing volunteering successes.  My role is collaborative and requires teamwork with the other ambassadors and hotels. I see my responsibility as using my skills to provide inspiration and structure to the topic of volunteering.

I believe it is important to live the values I represent.  I personally love volunteering; what makes it special to me is that you can give your time and talent selflessly to help those in need, and in doing so, touch people’s lives that you may never meet.  It is a way to offer kindness, directly and indirectly, using your skill set.  Some personal volunteering highlights for me thus far include helping at the American International Church Soup Kitchen, litter picking at Victoria Station with Victoria BID, representing Hospitality Action at the Taste of London Food Festival, and representing The Vegan Society.  I also enjoyed being a Springboard Ambassador whereby I visited London schools to carry out mock interviews and inspire young people to consider a future career in the hospitality industry.

It is important that I don’t leave my ‘committee hat’ at the office! I believe that we each have a duty to interact with the world in a positive, ethical, and compassionate way; for this reason, I am personally committed to animal welfare causes and eat plant-based. I also promote responsible consumption outside of work, for example, by shopping locally and recycling my clothes and items through The Crypt Trust and The British Heart Foundation. I also believe in inclusive and life-long education; this led me to become a regular volunteer outside of work at an organisation which organises monthly conferences featuring presentations from world-leading psychologists, making the topic more accessible to the public and helping people to improve their quality of life.

As a Sustainability Ambassador for Red Carnation, what achievement are you most proud of? 

I am most proud of our ‘Volunteer of the Month’ initiative (VOTM) whereby one individual is selected by the Sustainability Committee each month for going above and beyond in their efforts.  I think it is important that contributions are recognised, and that we share best practices globally to inspire others.  Volunteering, by its nature, may not always show immediate results; it is through perseverance that change can be made over time. It also requires a certain character – someone who treats everyone with respect and kindness, no matter the situation, and I am proud to see so many selfless individuals recognised through our VOTM initiative.

I would also like to recognise how far the Sustainability Committee has come together. We have each achieved so much in the past three years: implementing food waste systems, increasing our IDEA (Identity, Diversity, Equality, Action) circle memberships, and all but nearly eradicating all single-use plastics in the hotels. I look forward to our next big achievement of our hotels becoming Net Zero by 2050.

What can you tell us about your Red Carnation Hotels career journey?

My journey at Red Carnation Hotels began in 2013 when I joined the Graduate Management Programme. One year later, I was promoted to Guest Services and Duty Manager at The Rubens at the Palace. The environment was fast-paced and varied, and being immersed in the operation provided me with important tools and skills for my next role as PA to the General Manager at The Rubens, Hotel 41 and bbar.  I thoroughly enjoyed my time in this role for the next seven years and enjoyed the variance of things that came across my desk. It gave me a real understanding of everything that went into running two Five-Star London hotels behind the scenes. I am now honoured to work directly for our CEO, Jonathan Raggett, as his Executive Assistant and, along with my team, provide him with the help he needs to run a portfolio of 17 global hotels.

Ailish Keane, Group Purchasing Manager for Red Carnation Hotels

What does being responsible for pushing sustainability within Red Carnation Hotels mean to you? 

Being part of the Red Carnation sustainability ethos makes me very proud. Our sustainability goals and plans are not just written down on paper, they are a part of our everyday operations and standards. We are setting the best practice standards for the hospitality industry. We also have the full support of the General Managers, Mr Raggett, the Tollman family, and TTC.

I really enjoy being part of both the Red Carnation Sustainability Committee and the Ashford Castle and The Lodge at Ashford Castle committee. It makes me proud to work for a company that is focused on supporting the local area.

As a Sustainability Ambassador for Red Carnation, what achievement are you most proud of? 

As part of the RCH Sustainability committee, I am responsible for Goal 4: increase the number of local and organic suppliers. I have been working with the fantastic team of Executive Head Chefs from all our hotels since early 2021, recording their suppliers and monitoring the growth in the number of local and organic suppliers. Last year, we were delighted to be recognised for our efforts by the Travel Industry awards as the winner of “Sustainability Initiative of the Year – Communities”.

What can you tell us about your Red Carnation Hotels career journey?

My career with Red Carnation Hotels began at the Ashford Castle Estate in the 1990s. I joined as Chef de Rang in the George V Restaurant, where I stayed for two years. I returned to the Ashford Estate as Purchasing Manager in 2017 following the Tollman family’s incredible restoration. I am honoured to have recently begun my role as Group Purchasing Manager for Red Carnation Hotels.

Xigera Safari Lodge

Volunteer spotlight: Nurah Brown

A few months ago, Nurah Brown - who works at the Xigera Safari Lodge Maun Office - started a sanitary pads campaign, a much-needed initiative for young girls in Southern Africa. Many young girls miss three to four days of school a month due to taboos on menstruation and an inability to afford proper sanitary products.

By driving this initiative, Nurah is paving the way for a future where girls can go to school clothed with confidence. This supports their well-being and their schooling, but in doing so, also helps to pave the way for driving the future generation of eco-ambassadors by protecting their right to education.

Across Red Carnation Hotels, we are very proud of Nurah and her continuous efforts to try to better people’s lives.