The proof is in the pudding, or in this case – the Diamond! Nestled in the Cathkin Peak area of the Central Drakensberg in KwaZulu-Natal, Tsogo Sun's stylish Drakensberg Sun Resort has consistently proven that through sustainable efforts a luxury resort can operate seamlessly, and contributes to the upliftment and sustainability of local communities and businesses, whilst adhering to environmentally friendly practices.
On the 3rd November, the Drakensburg Sun Resort achieved the highest accolade in South Africa, a Diamond Classification status.
This award recognises the Resort's unswerving focus on sustainable environmental excellence for a period of five consecutive years, officially making the Drakensberg Sun Resort South Africa's most sustainable tourism product! "Since 2008, the Resort has maintained its Heritage Platinum Certification status and demonstrated its organisational commitment to responsible business, and this award recognises the efforts that have been made to minimise impacts and raise awareness of environmental stewardship in the tourism sector" says Neal Dickinson, director of operations at Heritage. "
The Drakensberg Sun Resort is recognised as a leader in this field by its peers and has received numerous awards for its efforts to become more sustainable and we have are confident that in awarding this prestigious status to the management and staff at the resort, they will be encouraged to continue to set the pace in responsible tourism practice " he adds.
Continuously implementing efforts towards reducing and managing its impact on the environment, and striving to actively contribute to a more sustainable society, Tsogo Sun requested the Heritage Environmental Rating Programme to measure and track environmentally responsible business and sustainable practices at all their properties.
Heritage is an independent, internationally recognised environmental certification programme. Developed using seven international environmental management systems and ISO 14000, the Heritage Environmental Rating Programme is one of the top three environmental management programmes in the tourism industry worldwide.
It is recognised by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) and is an integral part of the annual Fedhasa Imvelo Awards, which recognises and rewards sustainable and responsible tourism in Southern Africa.
Annually Heritage audits each Tsogo Sun property to ensure compliance with environmental standards and procedures.
The certification programme now recognises four levels of environmental excellence:
- Silver classification is the entry level and properties that achieve this status recognised that they have an impact on the environment and are actively working to reduce their footprint.
- Gold classification properties have established a formalised environmental management system and are actively managing their business through the application of policies and procedures designed to minimise their environmental impacts.
- Platinum classification is reserved for those properties that have achieved world-class standards or environmental stewardship and sustainable business practice. The Drakensburg Sun Resort first received Platinum status in 2009.
- The Diamond classification is the premier level of recognition – recognising 5 years of continuous Platinum status. The Drakensberg Sun Resort is the only South African hotel that has achieved this level.
"The Drakensberg Sun Resort team has a clear understanding of their 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. At Tsogo Sun we remain committed to integrating leading environmental practices and sustainability principles into our core business strategy, working tirelessly to ensure we protect our environment."
says Deon Viljoen Director of Operations, Southern Sun Resorts at Tsogo Sun. "This recognition is particularly relevant as the Drakensberg Sun Resort is situated next to a World Heritage Site", says Deon.
The Drakensburg Sun Resort can 'write the book' on how to transform a tourism property into a sustainable environmentally friendly product. In a nutshell the Resort operates 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 sewer plant. There have been notable results: reductions in energy, water and gas consumption as well as waste. Their conservation activities warms hearts and minds alike and includes a Vulture Restaurant that encourages endemic birds back into the Drakensberg mountains.The Resort also reintroduced Dassies back into their immediate environment after an epidemic obliterated the Dassie population in 1992.
The increased Dassie population is also aiding the return of the Black Eagle to the area. Darron Moore, General Manager, Drakensberg Sun Resort says "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. All staff, suppliers and all contractors are guided by our environmental policies.
The Drakensberg Sun Resort's efforts also extend beyond its own 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.
Other recent additions include a traversing agreement for small game between Drakensberg Sun Resort and its neighbours as well as upgraded environmentally friendly hiking trails," says Darron. The Drakensberg is unquestionably one of South Africa's most magnificent natural creations and the magic of the Drakensberg is a treasure to behold – one that the Drakensburg Sun Resort is working hard to preserve for generations to come.