November 17, 2019

IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) VP for Global Corporate Responsibility, Catherine Dolton, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss sustainability and value creation across 5,800 hotels in 100 countries

IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) VP for Global Corporate Responsibility, Catherine Dolton, joins Alberto Lidji to discuss sustainability and value creation across 5,800 hotels in 100 countries.

 

IHG has 400,000 team members, numerous brands and their biggest market is the USA, followed by greater China.

 

Over 75% of their hotels are run by third party franchisees; they have a broad and diverse international stakeholder base and it is important for IHG to work very closely with all of them.

 

Sustainability can align very well with strategic objectives and, as Catherine points out, if you cut waste you cut costs. Sustainability and good performance go hand in hand.

 

Plastic waste is a major consideration and IHG recently announced they’re getting rid of all the mini amenity products across all their hotels – single use toiletries, such as the individual shampoo bottles and conditioners one is accustomed to finding in hotel bathrooms. 

 

Food waste is another key area being tackled by IHG.  Efforts are being deployed internally to help their 5,800 hotels measure, monitor and track food waste.

 

Catherine explains how IHG has numerous partnerships helping them become more sustainable.  In Australia, for instance, they’re working with OzHarvest  – an organisation that collects unused food from their hotels that can be used charitably instead of going to waste.

 

There are many challenges when it comes to reducing plastic and other types of waste, especially when one considers the sheer number of brands, markets, hotels, rooms, suppliers etc. Health, sanitation, operational procedures -- they all present challenges that need to be considered and overcome.

 

In North America, they have an initiative called Renovation Donation where items such as TVs, beds and furniture that are no longer needed following a hotel’s renovation are donated to non-profit organisations.

 

IHG are also members of the Circular Economy 100 (CE100) Network from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation – a place for learning, knowledge sharing and collaboration.  They also recently announced a partnership with Junior Achievement, which focuses on preparing young people for future employment.

 

They value global partnerships but also recognise they need a tailored approach to local markets. In the last month Catherine has been both to their Atlanta and their Shanghai offices, and it brings home that you really need a different approach to different markets because you have different business and operational issues.  Therefore, you need to have partners locally that know individual markets very well.

 

The big players in the hotel industry also collaborate and share insights; many are members of the International Tourism Partnership (ITP), where they embrace specific goals for 2030 and collaborate in various ways. 

 

Moving from single use toiletries is a monumental task. There are a huge number of suppliers across many markets; you have to find the right bulk product and brand in an individual market.  There are many practical considerations in individual hotels, too. Even installing a fixed shampoo bulk dispenser in place raises questions:  what are the procedures for refilling these bulk bottles to make sure they’re clean and to the right standards? How often do you refill them before replacing them? Even housekeeping carts need to be changed since they’ll need to carry bigger bottles, not small ones.  Financially, there’s an up front cost for these fittings.  Essentially, there are many angles that need to be considered.

 

Suppliers are not only moving in line with IHG, but they’re also completely on board and coming up with many new and interesting ideas for sustainable solutions.

 

Scale is very important.  The big game changer for Catherine revolves around how to bring on new hotels in the future at very low or even net zero carbon. A big challenge is how do you redesign these mainstream brands so that their environmental impact is next to nothing.

 

IHG’s senior management is very involved in driving sustainability forward. Earlier this year they established a responsible business governance committee, which meets quarterly and  brings together key areas, such as environmental, social, community impact, diversity and inclusion, human rights, responsible procurement, cyber security etc.

 

Due to the sheer volume of guests, IHG are in a prime position to drive behavioural change on a global scale. The move from having towels washed daily versus every x-number of days is a case in point. Catherine is very excited about the ability to make a difference at such scale and recognises there is much potential going forward.

 

 

Catherine’s key takeaway: it’s all about collaboration. The scale of the challenge for the industry when it comes to environmental sustainability is huge. And it’s about collaboration not just within their own organisation but also collaboration within and across industries. This isn’t about competitive advantage, rather, it’s about finding those solutions that are really going to make a difference.

 

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