Name: Jeffery Smith
Title: Vice President Sustainability
Company: Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas
Years in Current Position: Two Years, Six Months
Primary Responsibilities: Managing operational impacts across 18 hotels and 32 spas, while supporting sustainable development for a pipeline of projects that grows the brand to touch on six continents.
Organization’s most significant accomplishment in global corporate responsibility: “We eliminated plastic amenity bottles in 2003, plastic straws in 2016, and have been using coral safe sunscreen since 2019. Also, in every hotel there is a provision for funding to be spent outside the hotel operation. It allows each hotel to decide what is locally relevant. It empowers the hotels to take on projects that are meaningful to each location. It is part of our brand positioning. In the luxury space it is our goal to be the No. 1 company in sustainability. Everyone who joins the company we tell them who we are. We do training and activities around it.”
Organization’s most significant challenge moving forward in global corporate responsibility: “We are still working on plastic. That will keep us busy for a few years. We want to get rid of all plastic by 2022. It is our big crazy goal.”
BANGKOK—Unquestionably, Six Senses Hotels Resorts Spas has one of the most active and impactive sustainability programs on the planet—in any industry space, luxury or not. As proof, its list of awards is long and its accomplishments real. What other company is aiming to eliminate all upstream and downstream plastic by 2022? Or that has not been using plastic amenity bottles since 2003—long before other companies made the transition to dispensers? Leading the way at the corporate level for Six Senses is Jeffrey Smith, Vice President Sustainability. He is assisted by Jennifer Klar, Corporate Sustainability Manager, a full-time Sustainability Manager at every hotel, and an intern.
“It is the ultimate responsibility of every general manager to follow guidelines and meet targets,” Jeff says.
He has been with Six Senses for a total of four years and four months and previously worked in a variety of positions including Renewable Energy Consultant in the Toronto area and Manager, Surin Project, Elephant Nature Park in Surin, Thailand. He has a Master’s Degree in Environment and Sustainability from Western University.
“The best part of my day is having calls with our hotels and learning about their impacts. I love to hear about the wildlife stories,” Jeff says. “I grew up watching wildlife TV shows. I have always enjoyed learning about wildlife. Professionally, I started out as an environmental engineer.”
2030 Carbon Reduction Goal
As Vice President Sustainability for Six Senses, Jeff’s responsibilities vary from day to day. “I sit on the executive team,” Jeff says. At one moment he may be pushing an owner toward clean energy, at another he may be leading the way toward an energy reduction goal. Six Senses, for example, is aiming to reduce carbon consumption by 15 percent by 2030 (2018 baseline year).
Currently, only a small percentage of Six Senses’ energy comes from renewable energy. “Three hotels have solar heat,” Jeff says. “Six Senses Fiji was designed to be 100 percent off-grid. We did not quite hit the target. It is 60 to 80 percent solar powered—the largest off-grid Tesla battery system in the South Pacific.” Jeff said the Six Senses Ibiza will have a deep-sea cooling system.
One of the most unique features about Six Senses is its water bottling operation. Over the past 16 years, Six Senses has been bottling its own still and sparkling drinking water. By establishing on-site filtration and bottling facilities, each resort eliminates the transportation impacts and use of plastic water bottles.
“It allows us to eliminate 1 million plastic bottles a year,” Jeff says. “We don’t have to purchase bottled water.” Six Senses shares this technology with its local communities and now more than 100,000 people are getting access to clean drinking water in places like the Maldives and Vietnam.
“We do want to go bigger on the water,” Jeff says. “We want to see it happen at more hotels.”
Local Sustainability Fund
Six Senses’ sustainability fund comprises 0.5 percent of revenues, 100 percent soft toy sales and donations, and 50 percent of house-bottled water sales. The money is used locally in a way that supports equal access to an improved quality of life for all and restores habitats and wildlife populations.
“In every hotel there is a provision for funding to be spent outside the hotel operation,” Jeff says. “It allows each hotel to decide what is locally relevant. It empowers the hotels to take on projects that are meaningful to each location.”
Each property has an organic garden, which provides the resort’s kitchens with fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits as well as a range of ingredients for spas and Alchemy Bars. Hens produce fresh eggs from their comfortable coops with surround sound.
Six Senses’ architecture and building practices follow indigenous designs from local architects and artisans. Every project has a goal of LEED Silver certification. “We have built it into our design standards,” Jeff says. “Brand standards take you half-way there.” He says some owners are targeting LEED Gold certification and one team is targeting LEED Platinum.
Engaging Guests with Earth Lab
Earth Lab serves as a place dedicated to engagement and innovation. This is where Six Senses communicates the work happening on and off site at each of its properties, for example marine conservation, forestry or farming initiatives, harnessing renewable energy from solar or biomass, and bottling drinking water. It also displays consumption data including water, energy, and waste.
“It is a physical space in hotels dedicated to engagement and innovation,” Jeff says. “We like to do things like making new products out of crushed glass. It is where composting takes place. There is an educational focus to it.”
All guests and hosts are welcome to join in the activity and learn some handy life skills, such as making do-it-yourself compost and chemical-free detergent or extracting the essential oils from herbs grown in organic gardens. Children can join in foraging, farming and recycling during Grow With Six Senses activities. For an unconventional souvenir, Earth Lab’s seed bank allows guests to grow organic produce back home.
Jeff says that while Six Senses is owned by IHG, the company still operates the same way it did before. “We still have the same sustainability framework we have always had,” he says, adding that IHG is currently establishing science-based targets for carbon reduction.
“Everyone who joins the company we tell them who we are,” Jeff says. “We do training and activities around sustainability.”
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.