Hilton EMEA President On Recycling Soap, Reducing Plastic & Re-Using Linens
As Hilton approaches its 100th anniversary, Impact4All speaks exclusively to Simon Vincent, the company’s executive vice president and president for EMEA, about the various ways in which the global hospitality group is evolving its business operations – creating and contributing to sustainable programmes across 105 countries and territories.
What are some of Hilton’s core strategies to ensure that the sustainability is a priority for the company?
Through our corporate responsibility strategy, Travel with Purpose, we focus on ensuring we have a positive environmental and social impact on every community.
Travel with Purpose has two main areas: environmental impact, which includes everything from water and energy consumption to waste management and responsible sourcing, and social impact, which includes skills-based volunteering, in particular in support of young people, and disaster support.
Your mission statement is to manage your business through a lens of sustainability to benefit this generation and those that follow – what have been some of the best success stories in improving sustainability?
For nearly a decade, we have been using a proprietary system called LightStay to calculate and analyse the environmental impact of our hotels. Given the scale of our business, having everything recorded in one place is important, as it helps us track our sustainability initiatives and respond to any opportunities to reduce energy consumption.
Hotels across the region are also participating in waste reduction projects, including Soap for Hope, the largest global soap recycling programme in the industry. In Europe, Middle East and Africa, we have repurposed almost 500 tonnes of soap in partnership with our supplier Diversey. Team members donate the soap to families in rural communities, who are given handwashing tips to help tackle hygiene-related diseases.
Also in partnership with Diversey, we’re making use of old hotel linen to produce bags, all-purpose pouches, aprons and more. The project also provides employment opportunities for local women, who are engaged by Diversey to make the products. Hilton Athens recently became the first hotel in Europe to join. As of January, team members had already recycled 443kg of linen.
Managing energy consumption, conserving water and dealing with waste are significant tasks – each property must present its own particular challenges. Can you give any examples?
We have a role to play in every community in which we operate, but every region, town and property is different. Adapting our approach to take into account local needs and opportunities is critical.
As an example, the Seychelles faces a significant challenge when it comes to waste and resource management, so it’s crucial that hotels in the area are sensitive to this. The restaurant at Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort & Spa has partnered with a table water bottling system, Vivreau, to source its water from the local Mount Dauban. This means that water will be filtered before being contained in glass bottles, which are sanitised and then reused. Sourcing from local supply is also reducing the hotel’s carbon footprint through minimising its reliance on imports.
Hilton Batumi has also led the way in delivering projects to tackle energy consumption and waste management in Georgia. Environmental awareness is still in its nascent stages in Georgia, so it’s critical that a global business like Hilton leads by examples and works with local stakeholders to bring about change.
What are your thoughts about how the Internet of things will affect environmental sustainability?
The technology we have deployed in our guest-facing systems is a great example of how technology can drive sustainability. Digital Key, which is now active in more than 2,500 hotels around the world, allows guests to choose their own room and use their smart phone or device to unlock the door, all via the Hilton Honors app, which reduces the use of plastic room keys.
In future, our Connected Room offer, which is currently under beta testing in the US, could allow guests to pre-define their preferences such as room temperature and lighting. Based on their requirements, we would be able to adjust the settings just before they arrive to optimise energy usage, and reduce consumption when we know they are out of the room.
How does Hilton quantify the impact of sustainable practices at the property level and company-wide?
We’re constantly monitoring LightStay to track the impact of sustainable practices across our hotels. All hotels are given a target for energy and water consumption reductions based on the property’s profile, and we can track success through the system.