Amanda Visser, group manager – Sustainability at The Star Entertainment Group, speaks with Architecture & Design about The Star Entertainment Group’s sustainability journey since 2013, their performance in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) Assessment in 2016, and the impact of their sustainability efforts on costs, efficiency, business growth and the community.

The Star has a reputation for sustainability. How has this impacted the Group’s operations in terms of cost and efficiency?

The Star Entertainment Group has been on the sustainability journey since 2013. As a leading company, sustainability is at the forefront of our thinking, not only from a business improvement perspective but also our contributions towards our community. The Group achieved the 'global leadership position' of the 'Casinos and Gaming Industry' in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI) Assessment for the first time in 2016 and again in 2017.

A big part of our focus is on our team members, and getting them involved in our sustainability commitments. So changing behaviours across our properties in turn, increases our recycling rates, helps to decrease our water consumption and creates a more engaged team who can then respond well to our guests. In the last few years, we’ve been working really hard to deliver year-on-year benefits from a cost perspective as well as in a range of performance areas. These include reducing waste to landfill and increasing our recycling rates, and also delivering improvements in our resource consumption performance in line with our targets.

Reducing energy consumption delivers the cost benefits; however, our targets are oriented around carbon and water reduction. Considering sustainability in the way we build and the way we operate delivers those commercial benefits; however, thinking about reducing carbon per square metre of our operational space is really the overall driver here, which will deliver the long-term cost reduction.

Do factors such as sustainability or star ratings help with the value of your properties?

A benefit of our sustainability approach is cost reduction in our operations from the reduced resource use; however, our plan is centred around creating that long term value for our team members, guests, shareholders, investors and the community where we operate in. So the Star Sustainability Strategy is group-wide and across all of our properties; however, we do amend our approach to sustainability projects depending on the site factors of each of our assets.

The level of development that’s currently occurring across our assets will affect the plans that we put forward for sustainability. For example, the Star Sydney is committed to achieving a Green Star performance rating this year – the first for the Group, but we see this initial rating as our baseline rating and we will need to work hard to improve upon it over the coming years. But we also amend our engagement strategy around the events: The Star Gold Coast hosted the Commonwealth Games in April this year at the same time that we were running our National Sustainability Roadshow. This enabled our team members to be better resourced, to be able to support our guests with any of the sustainability questions they may have had.

In terms of your sustainable design concepts, do you go above and beyond the stipulated laws, regulations and requirements?

We are constantly evolving our standards that we design and build to; our requirements are mapped out on our sustainable design and operational standards, which clearly communicate our targets for carbon and water – to achieve a 30 percent reduction by financial year 2023. The standards also present mandatory and voluntary requirements for a range of material categories, aligned to Green Star and NABERS, which include energy, water, materials, general management, biodiversity, supply chain and climate change mitigation and adaptation.

The Star became a member of the Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) this year and has since committed to a number of Green Star design and as-built ratings. Using the Green Star framework has been advantageous for us. Our buildings are used for a range of purposes and they operate 24 hours, unlike regular commercial buildings.

We have adapted the Green Star tools to ensure we can target credits that make sense for us. We have also completed our hotel refurbishment project recently in Sydney and Gold Coast where we’ve had the hotel room fittings, fixtures and equipment surpass the recommendations received from our recent energy and water audits. What we are looking to do is go beyond these recommendations to help us deliver our cost and operational benefits without compromising on the guest experience.

What are your main focus areas for your sustainability strategy?

The Star focusses on a number of issues ranging from energy and carbon management, waste and recycling through to social sustainability issues and managing our ESG, risks and opportunities. On environmental sustainability, one of our primary areas of focus is our energy and water project pipeline, which began in 2015 and followed our first full site Level 2 energy audit.

The audit reports provided detailed recommendations for energy and water improvements, so we took all the opportunities that had timely return on investment and prioritised implementation. Each year, we quantify the number of projects completed and the resource and cost savings achieved from them, and map them against the business-as-usual model. These projects range from lighting replacements to full infrastructure project upgrades, which include recycled water and reverse osmosis plants to building analytics and fault detection systems to reduce operational energy use. We are now in Year 5 of the pipeline and we have completed 37 projects, which equate to over two million dollars in avoided energy costs.

If you were to build another complex today, what would you do differently in terms of sustainable design?

When you create a building from the design stage, you remove all the legacy issues – you have the ability to plan a central energy plant, you can size everything accordingly, you can design fit-for-purpose well-sealed buildings with new technology and you can make your operations efficient from the beginning.

New developments definitely have that opportunity. As we open more floor space, we expect it to be more efficient than our existing buildings and our entertainment spaces. Our current development plans in conjunction with our Hong Kong based partners have an investment potential of over $5 billion and include at least six hotels, around 70 bars and restaurants and significant other tourism, entertainment and resort offerings.

The Queen’s Wharf precinct in Brisbane has the advantage of being a new build and is targeting a 6 Star Green Star rating for the new non-residential buildings, and Australian best practice sustainability outcomes for repurposing the existing heritage buildings.

What is the biggest sustainability challenge for The Star? Is there something you could teach other organisations, especially in the hospitality space?

There are a number of hospitality businesses that we look to for best practices and work out what we need to do to integrate into our resorts. A growing portfolio means a potential increase in absolute carbon emissions, energy, water and waste generation. The more visitors you have, the more impact you have on your resource use.

The 24/7 operations also mean our intensity is higher than other commercial buildings. We know we need to continuously evolve and consistently improve; we are growing rapidly but we do need to ensure we reduce our carbon emissions in line with our intensity.

As our emissions profile gets bigger with the increase of assets, we need to ensure our carbon emissions per square metre come down. One way is through the energy and water project pipeline, and the other is through technology.

Another big challenge for us is engaging our guests in sustainability performance. We have millions of visitors to our properties every year and it can be quite challenging to reach out to them and tell them what we are actually doing about sustainability because we have limited touch points throughout their stay.

However, we have the advantage of a company leadership that is very supportive and engaged with all aspects of our sustainability strategy. For The Star Entertainment Group, the sustainability journey since 2013 has been really focussed; we know we have a long way to go but hopefully, we can support sustainability performance in the cities we operate.