Crowdsourcing the Future

Earlier this year, InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) committed to invest $500,000 over five years to the MPI Foundation to assist with CSR research. One core initiative revolves around developing an event measurement platform to quantify the parameters surrounding green meetings.

This is in keeping with InterContinental Hotels’ modus operandi over the past decade. The company has taken a lead in the industry through advanced technological R+D to build the cleanest, leanest and greenest hotel from Scottsdale to Kiev. We spend a lot of time researching corporate hotel CSR programs, and IHG’s is the most robust and integrated in the business.

“The purpose behind this [investment] was to make sure that we have a common shared definition as to what a green meeting is,” says David Jerome, senior vp of corporate responsibility for IHG. “We have some ideas on that, MPI does, and a lot of other people do. This helps us understand what we’re all shooting for.”

Some of those “other people” include Oxford University, Harvard University’s CSR Initiative program and the National Geographic Center for Sustainable Destinations.

“We’ve partnered with them because they’re fantastic institutions that match our objectives to work with some of the best minds to deal with a complex issue such as Corporate Responsibility,” says Jerome. “They look at our CR report and make sure we haven’t missed any issues. And they’re fairly critical about it.”

All of this combined research is culled to produce what InterContinental calls “The Innovation Hotel.” It’s the dream of the sustainable travel industry with every imaginable clean tech and CSR bell and whistle: green roofs, modular design, ground source heat pumps, rainwater harvesting, next gen solar power and furnishings built out of recycled materials. The hotel will also have facilities for community-based projects appropriate for the region.

There’s also a competitive advantage behind the drive for sustainability. Check out the video on IHG’s website with Samantha Van Leeuwen, head of UK hotels procurement for PricewaterhouseCooper. She says a lot of sustainability talk has been “hearsay, and not something to be put into practice.” So PWC is creating a hotel supplier index to track truly green hotels.

“A lot of the business now actually is looking for green meetings. They’re looking for green hotels,” says Van Leeuwen. “CSR is going to be even more important in our selection criteria over the coming years.”

Just how important?

“We feel that unless suppliers are aligned with our internal policies, then we can’t actually do business with them.”

So this is where you come in. Visit and follow IHG’s Twitter account @IHGinnovation to provide your suggestions about how to create a greener meetings industry. Tell IHG what your selection criteria demands.

“The Innovation Hotel is a really simple concept,” says Jerome. “What we’re trying to do is allow people to give us their ideas. It’s really about co-creation, and trying to leverage people’s opinions about how to deliver a hotel that they would want.”

He says the level of feedback so far has surpassed initial expectations, and also, planners still new to sustainability are visiting the site to educate themselves about the issues.

“This gives planners the chance to help shape the future with us…. It’s a place we intend to enhance and invest in much more over time because it’s been received so successfully, and it’s a fun tool. Hopefully your readers will feel the same way.”