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Meet Paola Oliver-Serret, a Travelife Approved Auditor

Each month we feature an interview with a Travelife Approved Auditor. We have around 60 independently contracted auditors based around the world that must undergo an intensive training programme before they can audit with us. To continue carrying out audits for Travelife they must complete annual refresher training and a yearly performance review.   Haga clic aquí to find out more about our requirements for auditors. 

Location: Exeter, Devon, United Kingdom

Idiomas: Spanish and Catalan (native speaker), English (fluent), French (beginner)

Total auditing experience:  2 years

Travelife auditing experience:  2 years

Specialisations: Sustainability, environmental management, ISO 14001:2015

Auditing fields: Hotel o Alojamiento

Paola has always had an interest in protecting the environment. As a teenager she volunteered to educate people about recycling in her village and later in life became a member of ECOE, a platform that develops community-owned energy projects in Exeter and works to raise awareness of practical low-carbon solutions. Her journey to becoming a Travelife auditor began when she studied law in Spain. Whilst learning more about international relations she felt a growing sense of frustration about a lack of international legislation that could help protect the environment.

“I was disappointed to see a lack of commitment from governments, institutions, citizens and so on. As a result, I felt the need to do something about it.”

Paola Oliver-Serret

She began to look for a role that would connect with her own values and enthusiasm for protecting the environment, eventually leading her to Travelife. She says it means a lot to her to know how well our certification programme is helping to look after the environment. For her sustainability auditing is a dream come true, giving her opportunities to keep learning so that she can be an even better advocate for sustainability, hopefully inspiring more people to tackle climate change.

She especially enjoys connecting people during audits. She finds that we can all learn from each other, no matter our background or nationality. Paola says it gives her hope to see hotel staff so dedicated to improving their impacts and continually trying to achieve better results. She also gets to see some innovative ideas that hotels implement to improve their impacts. She recalls a technique using ions that Zealova Resort & Spa in Thailand has employed to clean their swimming pools without using chemicals.  Another Thai property, The Sands Khao Lak, help to reduce their use of chemicals, water and energy by offering a free beverage voucher for guests that opt to have their room serviced less often.

Advice for businesses

We asked Paola what advice she would give to businesses that want to improve their environmental and social impacts. “I would identify the exact sustainability related challenges you are facing, then find a way to quantify and translate those into operational, financial or other metric-driven terms that can be easily understood.” She believes that sustainable business practices need to be incorporated into all operational areas using a step-by-step process that breaks down challenges into manageable packets of work, better enabling the business to monitor and measure their success, adjusting initiatives as needed. As each step is completed, new goals and strategies are set so that improvement is continuous.

She emphasises that some of the most effective initiatives to reduce a carbon footprint are simple and easy to implement and shared numerous examples of how hotels in particular can do this. These ranged from cutting down on paper and printer usage by moving to electronic guest billing to changing towels and sheets twice a week instead of daily. 

Her final piece of advice is about staying informed and keeping an eye on what other businesses are doing. Keeping up-to-date on the latest environmental legislation helps a business with planning and risk management. Knowing what new technologies are on the horizon can provide inspiration and ideas to become a leader in responsible business.  

Top tips from Paola for sustainable living

If you have a choice of energy suppliers, always opt for one that generates green energy from renewable sources (hydro, solar or wind power).

A vegan diet has a low environmental impact.  If you aren’t ready to give up animal products completely, then at least switch some of your meals to plant-based food.

Choosing to walk, cycle or use public transport is an effective way to reduce your carbon footprint and improve air quality where you live.

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