21 November 2013

Heritage awards South Africa's first Diamond classification

Tsogo Sun’s Drakensberg Sun Resort has become the first hotel in South Africa to achieve Diamond classification status from The Heritage Environmental Management Company (Heritage).

The Drakensberg Sun Resort The Drakensberg Sun Resort

Integrating our environmental approach with our business practices has become second nature for the team. Every decision incorporates careful consideration of how it will impact on our immediate surroundings and the environment as a whole. – Darron Moore, Drakensberg Sun Resort general manager

In granting the award, Heritage recognised the Drakensberg Sun Resort’s steadfast focus on sustainable environmental excellence.

A Diamond classification is the highest level of recognition granted by Heritage, and recognises five years of continuous Platinum status. The Drakensberg Sun Resort is the only South African hotel that has achieved this level of certification.

The resort provides an excellent example on how to transform a tourism property into a sustainable, environmentally friendly product. Operating like a small municipality, it draws and treats its own water; has implemented a waste-recycling and -removal programme; controls and monitors its own electricity consumption; and manages its own sewage plant. Its efforts have seen reductions in energy, water and gas consumption, as well as in waste.

Through its sustainability efforts, the Drakensberg Sun Resort has also contributed significantly to the upliftment and sustainability of local communities and businesses in the surrounding areas.

Neal Dickinson, Heritage’s director of operations, said the resort has demonstrated its organisational commitment to responsible business: 'This award recognises the efforts that have been made to minimise impacts and raise awareness of environmental stewardship in the tourism sector.'

Deon Viljoen, director of operations at Southern Sun Resorts, part of the Tsogo Sun group, said Tsogo Sun remains committed to integrating leading environmental practices and sustainability principles into its core business strategy to ensure it protects the environment. The Heritage Environmental Rating Programme measures and tracks environmentally responsible business and sustainable practices at all Tsogo Sun properties.

‘The Drakensberg Sun Resort team has a clear understanding of its potential environmental impacts and has implemented extensive initiatives to identify and minimise resource use, reduce waste and raise awareness of environmental issues with our guests.

‘Through their activities they are upholding their responsibilities to our local communities, our guests, our shareholders, employees and business partners by concentrating their efforts on resource conservation, natural habitat preservation, pollution prevention and community upliftment,’ he said.

Darron Moore, Drakensberg Sun Resort general manager, said all staff, suppliers and contractors are guided by the resort’s environmental policies. ‘Integrating our environmental approach with our business practices has become second nature for the team. Every decision incorporates careful consideration of how it will impact on our immediate surroundings and the environment as a whole,’ he said.

He added that the resort’s efforts extend beyond its operations.

‘We encourage and empower our local community to underpin and support our efforts through empowering them to make a living through our sustainable environmental activities. One example is Thobisi, who used to be our gardener, managing our vegetable patch and herb garden. He now "owns" the vegetable and herb business and we buy our products from him.

‘We have also built a little shop where the local community and surrounding businesses can buy fresh produce from him,’ he said.

The Heritage Environmental Rating Programme is an independent, internationally recognised environmental certification programme and one of the top three environmental management programmes in the tourism industry worldwide. It is recognised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation.