Interview Susanne Larsson Vår Gård in Saltsjöbaden
Vår Gård is a Nordic Ecolabelled hotel and conference facility in Saltsjöbaden, southeast of Stockholm, where sustainability acts as a guiding principle in all parts of the business, and benefits all stakeholders, including guests, employees, partners and suppliers. The genuine work is not a least noticeable on initiatives such as no waste just taste, the collaboration with local food producers, VI-skogen and the food waste app Karma, but also their values and corporate culture are permeated by a holistic thinking.
VarUnik has talked to Susanne Larsson Hotel & Conference Manager about sustainability, how to survive a pandemic and how important it is to understand the human driving forces in times like these. Vår Gård is part of the KF Group and has always safeguarded a healthy and sustainable employee culture. “We are guided by our values and look at this work in the long term, and now it is more important than ever to mobilize forces and action around social and ecological resources to drive sustainable development in all types of activities,” says Susanne.
And the work has paid off, Vår Gård has been named Meeting Place of the Year twice by Swedish Meetings and has a 97% employee satisfaction. But the pandemic year has been tough and full of challenges and lessons learned. A crucial change for the business was that Vår Gård changed and also targeted the private market and thus had to find new concepts that suited that target group. It meant a major restructuring work where a clear focus on long-term sustainability and high quality was at the centre and virtually all parts of the business had to be adapted to be able to offer a safe environment for both guests and employees. “We opened up Vår Gård seven days a week instead of the previous five. We have had to work more across the departments to be able to secure the staff’s employment. Thanks to strong owners, we have been able to use a lower level of bookings to renovate and develop during this period. Among other things, we have created a new large meeting room, rebuilt our Bakery & Wine Café, renovated hotel rooms and increased the number of double and family rooms,” explains Susanne.
When asked how they think the work ahead will be affected by the pandemic, Susanne answers; “Without a doubt, we are forced to stop and analyse both previous decisions and new ideas and thoughts even more than before. This applies to both analysis of target groups, our range but mainly analysis of our own strategies. As an effect of the Corona pandemic, everyone needs to reflect on their everyday life on a deeper level and so do we. And sensitivity to the outside world and its needs will be critical in the delivery. We as a business need to listen partly inwards, partly to each other but mainly to our guests and our surroundings. We need to become even more observant of behavioural changes and realize how important it is that we understand the human driving forces. we can influence via our decisions and strategies in addition to both braking and accelerating where needed ”.
And of course, creativity flows at Vår Gård, and it is noticeable that they are quick to create safe and innovative meeting opportunities for their now private guests. Among other things, safe and secure Easter celebrations, family sausage grilling, outdoor parties, places for co-working, and monthly offices are offered. Family dinner, day office and walk and talk can also be booked. All to meet the customer’s needs in pandemic times.
As a Nordic Ecolabelled facility, the entire operation is inspected annually. Among other things, the facilities’ climate impact is analysed throughout the life cycle and everything from water and energy consumption, emissions, food waste, recycling and waste management is reviewed. But what does the sustainability work around the textiles look like at Vår Gård? “We are aware of our choices and try to do our best in the purchases and choices we make. As we do not possess expert knowledge in sustainable textiles, we take the help of various certifications such as GOTS, OEKO TEX, Fair Trade, Good Environmental Choice and others. In addition, we make sure to be clear to our suppliers that we want sustainable materials, ”says Susanne.
Vår Gård also wants to involve the guests in the work of reducing their impact. “To reduce both water and energy consumption, but also reduce the wear and tear on our textiles, we offer our guests to use their towels and sheets for more than a day and in return we plant trees through the Vi forest.”
And if you could dream freely about textiles and sustainability, what would it look like?
“Having a supplier who can offer a circular textile solution would be the dream. Where we can use e.g. a towel until it is worn out and then return it for recycling where it will be new again. This is combined with a laundry that can offer water- and energy-efficient washing of our textiles, without negative environmental impact, as well as carbon dioxide-free and resource-efficient transports, ” Susanne concludes.