When talking to Kirsten Brøchner-Mortensen co-owner and Marketing Director of Brøchner Hotels in Copenhagen, it is obvious that here is someone who not only cares for the environment and her local community, but also understands how this makes crystal clear business sense.
Brøchner hotels were founded in 1982 when Kirsten’s grandparents opened Hotel King Arthur, at that point a very small hotel. Their business thrived and today there are four hotels in the heart of Copenhagen, all with their own individual style adapted to the area of the city they’re in. What makes them even more unique is that in 2008 they made the bold move to become CO2 neutral, the first hotels in the world to do so.
Brøchner achieved CO2 neutral status partly by offsetting, but not as we know it. Having done their research they found that with a finite amount of renewable energy available on the energy market, using only green energy from their provider would leave other consumers with a larger percentage of non-renewable energy.
To counteract this, Brøchner decided to buy and destroy CO2 quotas, thereby lowering the overall amount of carbon released. Logically, energy companies with CO2 quotas to sell are also more energy efficient than others and by buying up their quotas, the hotel is indirectly supporting investment in renewables by driving up the price of quotas through demand.
However, this is only part of the picture. The hotel runs numerous energy saving initiatives and staff are deeply involved in the climate strategy through a committee made up of members from all levels and functions of the hotel.
A hugely successful idea was the brainchild of a housekeeping maid. What if only one towel per guest was put out, with an extra in the wardrobe, out of sight yet available if needed? Combined with a friendly post-it note in the bathroom encouraging frugal towel use this has produced excellent results with the scheme being emulated by other hotel chains. Kirsten said: ‘We’re very happy others are using our ideas - it shows we’re setting a good example and is great for the environment.’
As part of their climate plan, Brøchner invested in a small fleet of electric cars endearingly named Buddy’s, both for the use of hotel staff and for hotel guests to hire. An added benefit for guests is being able to park the car free in any of the city’s public car parks.
In an interdependent world, there’s however only so much you can do alone and collaboration and alliances are core values for Brøchner. So when an invitation arrived for the hotel to take part in electric car parade, they happily accepted. Kirsten and her staff turned up on the day in their uniforms to represent the hotel to discover a police presence, most likely due to a few members of the Danish anarchist movement taking part.
Kirsten had to weigh up her options quickly, making a decision whether to pull out or carry on, potentially risking the reputation of the hotel if things got out of hand. She decided to go ahead, a decision that led to alliances she could not have imagined.
The parade was a peaceful affair and chatting to a philosophy student in the aftermath, Kirsten learnt that he was working to get Mohammad Yunis, inventor of micro-credit and founder of the Grameen Bank to Copenhagen to talk at Roskilde, Denmark’s largest music festival. One thing led to another and Kirsten ended up hosting Mr Yunis at Brøchner during his stay. Laughing, she said: ‘I never in a million years imagined I would be having lunch with Mohammad Yunis a few weeks later!’
At the lunch, Kirsten also met the promoter of Roskilde Festival. In the spirit of collaboration, Kirsten agreed to lend her fleet of electric cars to festival staff to use as part of their eco-campaign Green Footsteps. This was the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership, one that continues to this day. ‘When you start doing things out of the ordinary, extraordinary things start happening’ Kirsten said, smiling.
Brøchner’s sustainable values, forward thinking approach and willingness to work with others has definitely opened doors for them in the business world. Kirsten observed: ‘As a small hotel group, the large corporations used to not pay us any attention. Now they are practically rolling out the red carpet!’
They claim to be ‘authentic, honest, sustainable, comfortable and solidly embedded in the local community giving the visitor a unique opportunity to experience the real Copenhagen’. After staying at one of their hotels, meeting Kirsten Brøchner-Mortensen and hearing their story, I can only whole-heartedly agree.