Environmental, Social and Governance

Please click here to view the Sustainability Strategy for the Royal Automobile Club 2022-2026.

We have three overarching aims:

  • Reduce our environmental IMPACT
  • Improve our operational EFFICIENCY
  • Continue to build our REPUTATION

By the end of 2023 we will:

The importance of having an ESG strategy

The work needed to deliver the strategy is considerable, in terms of both management time and investment. However, there are three vital reasons for change.

Firstly, strong ESG credentials are increasingly affecting organisations’ ‘licence to operate’. Members and their guests want to know that we are operating efficiently and ethically, and more and more often it is appearing as an important issue in agreements such as contracts and leases.

Secondly, there will be, in the medium to long term, financial savings – particularly through reductions in energy consumption but in other areas as well.

Then, thirdly, there is the moral component: it is right that we play our part in addressing climate change.

Progress by early 2023

It was essential that we started by gaining a better understanding of the existing position and ensuring we have in place the right means of measuring progress.

We have nearly completed the installation of new and additional meters for gas and electricity so that we have a much better understanding of where and when energy is being used. This data is linked to a monitoring system to identify areas of high consumption and, particularly, areas or times of day where consumption is higher than we would expect; we can then act to reduce these inefficiencies.

We are also monitoring water consumption more effectively and, as with energy, comparing it against data on clubhouse usage to try to identify areas of exceptionally high consumption or of inefficiency.

Reducing waste is another key priority, so we have been analysing it by type – with paper/card, glass, plastic and food being the largest – and where the waste comes from and how we dispose of it. The best way to reduce waste is to reduce what we bring into the clubhouses in the first place, by reducing packaging for example, and we have already made good progress in recent years.

At Woodcote Park, we have appointed a new waste management company that doesn’t send any waste to landfill and are looking to do the same at Pall Mall. We have virtually eliminated single-use plastic items too.

Another major step forward has been that we are now able to identify all ‘Scope 1’ greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. These are defined as the emissions from sources that are controlled or owned by an organisation – in our case from sources such as boilers, air conditioning and clubhouse vehicles.

Other areas of progress include using eco-friendly chemicals throughout our housekeeping operations, improving the wildlife habitats at Woodcote Park and buying more locally to reduce the environmental impact of transport.

The priorities for 2023

Our top priority is reducing our energy use and we have set ourselves a target of, by the end of 2023, using 5% less energy each month than we did for the equivalent month in 2022. We are going to achieve this by targeting inefficiency and taking a myriad of small steps: there isn’t one big thing which will achieve this. These include things such as replacing our building management systems, fitting thermostatic valves, improving lagging, servicing pumps more often so they work more efficiently, adjusting heating to be lower when areas aren’t being used, and encouraging staff and members to act more energy efficiently.

Our second target for the end of 2023 is to reduce our water consumption by 5%. Water leaks are an obvious priority but we are also looking into where we can change to more modern equipment which uses water more effectively without negatively impacting members’ experience of the clubhouses. For example, this is part of the requirement for the bedrooms at Pall Mall which are being refurbished later this year.

We have two specific targets for 2023 related to waste. The first is to eliminate all single-use plastic items, replacing them where necessary with either multiple-use items or sustainable single-use alternatives. The second is to ensure that all waste food is recycled, in addition to seeking additional ways of reducing the amount of waste.

Identifying where our Scope 1 GHG emissions are coming from has been no mean feat, but we are now able to develop a detailed plan for how to reduce them – which will inevitably require investment in our infrastructure and equipment. By the end of 2023 we will have agreed a plan of action and annual targets to enable us to reach net zero by the end of 2026. We are also investigating how we can achieve net zero for Scope 2 emissions (the indirect emissions from the production of the energy we purchase) in a similar timescale.

Of course, as well as changing our own behaviour, we need to look at our supply chain. This includes everything from the daily deliveries of supplies to the materials and processes used when we carry out refurbishments. There has already been considerable progress in this area but over the coming months we will be reviewing all our purchasing policies and our suppliers – for everything from food to construction materials – to ensure they are aligned with the Club’s ESG strategy and contribute to us achieving our objectives.

Finally, it is important that we receive a third-party view on how we are progressing as well as measuring progress against our own targets. There are numerous possible awards and schemes we could enter, none of which is the perfect fit for the full range of facilities and activities at the Club. However, we have decided that the Green Tourism scheme is the one which is most appropriate and we are aiming high: we are seeking to achieve Gold level status for each of the clubhouses by the end of this year.

Both Pall Mall and Woodcote Park currently hold Bronze level accreditation with Green Tourism.

How members can help

All this has to be a big team effort, involving members and staff. Firstly, we need everyone who works at or visits the Club to know how they can raise suggestions which might contribute to our overall objectives. It is often the day-to-day user of something who spots potential improvements. For members, this will be covered when this area of the Club website is expanded over the coming months.

It is also important that members understand what we are trying to achieve so that they can put any changes they may hear about or experience into context.

Then, of course, members have a part to play through their own behaviour: turning the lights off when they leave their bedroom, not using more towels than necessary in the sports areas and ensuring they cancel unwanted restaurant bookings, for example, would be of great help. There will be more information on this coming out soon.

Where we stand compared with other organisations

The external benchmarking through Green Tourism will help us to understand this better but our understanding is that, at the moment, we are doing pretty well overall. We can’t claim to be at the leading edge but we are ahead of many other similar organisations.

Now that we have a plan with increasingly clear objectives and timings associated with it, we have no doubt that we will make strong progress in the next few years.