Corporate Responsibility: How Well Do You Know Your Travel Partner?

InterContinental Boston Lobster
Lobster shack near InterContinental Boston

There’s a present shift in the world of Corporate Responsibility where hotel, airline and travel companies are integrating sustainability initiatives more holistically into their daily operations. They’re implementing new strategies, promoting the results, and engaging their employees, customers and communities at the same time. It’s no longer about just “doing the right thing.” It’s also about generating business in a changing economic landscape.

In effect, the “Social” has been dropped from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), which stormed into the public consciousness after the big banks went into business for themselves during the housing boom. The Europeans did this years ago. Corporate Responsibility (CR) now impacts all facets of business, from sales and marketing to new product development, versus simply community outreach.

“It is our responsibility as entrepreneurs and business leaders to tackle the issues our society faces, from climate change to poverty,” says Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines. His new book, Screw Business as Usual, focuses entirely on CR. “To find solutions, we at Virgin have had to consciously cast aside traditional thinking, form unusual partnerships and consider unorthodox answers.”

In concert with Screw Business, Branson just launched Virgin Unite to collaborate with customers and share new ideas.

In 2006, InterContinental Boston had a recycle rate of 8%. Today it’s 61%. Much of that has to do with employee education through InterContinental Hotels Group’s (IHG) “Green Engage” program, which also pursues customer engagement. The program includes the Innovation Hotel 2.0 initiative, designed to create the ultimate 21st century sustainable hotel, catering to the needs of “people, planet, profit.” The  website was just completely revamped, hence the “2.0,” with updates and feedback relating to hotels around the world.

IHG also just launched its new IHG Planet CR Facebook page to further communicate their Green Engage and Innovation Hotel initiatives directly with customers.

And due to InterCon Boston’s actions, the Miel Brasserie Provençale restaurant is now the first hotel restaurant in New England to be certified by the national Green Restaurant Association.

Last summer, Hyatt Hotels unveiled its new Hyatt Thrive program that details the company’s four pillars of Corporate Responsibility, which “Hyatt believes are crucial to foster thriving communities.” They are: Environmental Sustainability, Economic Development & Investment, Education & Personal Advancement and Health & Wellness.

If ever you wanted a clear breakdown of where the corporate travel industry is heading into the future, this is it.

Special shout out to the Hyatt Regency New Orleans, which kicked off its October grand opening with a $300K donation to Brad Pitt’s Make It Right project in the Lower 9th Ward. Three years ago, we helped build one of the first four houses amid what can only be described as a barren wasteland. After visiting again in December, it was surreal to see the 75 post-mod homes, with another 75 on the way.

In November, Hilton Hotels partnered with the Global Soap Project, a non-profit that recycles hotel soap for underprivileged communities worldwide. In addition, Hilton is donating $1.3 million to upgrade Global Soap’s processing and distribution infrastructure. This saves lives—literally.

“When living as a refugee in Kenya, soap was hard to come by, even completely nonexistent sometimes,” says Derreck Kayongo, founder of The Global Soap Project, who was honored as a 2011 CNN Hero in December.

Also in November, The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company partnered with America’s Promise Alliance, a non-profit chaired by Colin Powell that helps kids graduate high school. Part of the partnership includes “Grad Nation Business Collaborative Meetings.” These are opportunities for business leaders to share their knowledge with youth groups to build stronger communities.

Every 26 seconds, a child drops out of school. Maybe your group can help.