Marriott’s sustainability and social impact program aims for large-scale change

Marriott’s sustainability and social impact program aims for large-scale change

Spring 2019 | Written by Kiley Jacques

It was a hot, muggy summer in 1927 when J. Willard Marriott and his wife, Alice, opened an A&W root beer stand to quench the thirst of people in Washington, D.C. The stand, which had nine stools, eventually grew into the Hot Shoppes Restaurant chain. The company’s subsequent growth included milestones like pioneering in-flight catering in 1937, and 20 years later, opening the world’s first motor hotel. Partnering with Sun Line in 1972, Marriott became the first lodging company to enter the cruise business. The first JW Marriott, named in honor of founder J. Willard, opened in downtown Washington, D.C., in 1984, and from that point on, the Marriott name became synonymous with high standards and innovation within the hospitality industry worldwide.

Today, Marriott International owns the most powerful portfolio in the industry, with 30 brands and more than 6,900 properties across 130 countries and territories. Ritz-Carlton, St. Regis, and Courtyard are among the brands under the Marriott umbrella, but the company’s concerns go far beyond providing stellar accommodations to the world’s most discerning travelers.

“As Marriott International, we are the largest hotel company in the world, and with that comes some very significant responsibility,” says Denise Naguib, vice president of sustainability and supplier diversity for Marriott International. Naguib, who has been with the company for 14 years, since implementing Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment program at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, has been the driving force behind creating Marriott International’s sustainability strategy and keeping it relevant.

Marriott’s Andaman Resort in Malaysia minimizes its environmental footprint by sustainably managing its energy and water use, reducing waste and carbon emissions, and increasing its use of renewable energy.

Since 2007, Marriott has had a 10-member Global Green Council in-house that is focused on minimizing the company’s environmental footprint by sustainably managing their energy and water use, reducing their waste and carbon emissions, and increasing the use of renewable energy. Marriott’s most recent all-encompassing sustainability and social impact platform is called Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction. Guided by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, Serve 360 aims to deliver a targeted set of 2025 Sustainability and Social Impact Goals, including its objective to sustain responsible operations. The platform’s three other key coordinates are “nurture our world,” “empower through opportunity,” and “welcome all and advance human rights.”

“Hotel companies, including Marriott, are setting long-term goals that align with global trends,” says Lindy Farrar, manager at Greenview, a boutique sustainability firm that provides hospitality organizations with consulting and advisory services. “For instance, a wave of consumer focus brought single-use plastics into the spotlight over the past year, and we have seen both governments and industry taking actions to ban or eliminate their use.”

In the late 1960s when straws started being made from plastic, no one thought about how they might impact the environment. They were used for decades, since they worked better than paper and were cheaper to produce. Finally recognizing that something as small as a plastic straw, which will never completely decompose, can have a huge negative impact on the environment, sustainability-minded hoteliers and leaders in other industries began to switch to biodegradable alternatives.

In a similar initiative, Marriott is eliminating small plastic bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash and replacing them with larger bottles in wall-mounted racks at some of their brands. To date, 850 hotels have made the switch, removing more than 1 million tiny plastic toiletry bottles—which would eliminate about 200,000 pounds of plastic per year.

Including a drastic scale-back of these plastic products, which will reduce waste to landfill by 45 percent, Marriott’s environmental footprint goals across its portfolio by 2025 break down like this: reduce water intensity by 15 percent; reduce carbon intensity by 30 percent; reduce food waste by 50 percent (from a 2016 baseline).

Marriott LEED Goals:

100 percent of Marriott hotels will have a sustainability certification and 650 hotels will pursue LEED certification or equivalent by 2025

Sustainability Certifications:

By 2025, 100 percent of hotels will be certified to a recognized sustainability standard

By 2025, 650 open or pipeline hotels will pursue LEED certification or equivalent

Sustainable Building Standards:

By 2020, LEED certification or equivalent will be incorporated into building design and renovation standards, including select service prototype solutions for high growth markets

By 2020, 100 percent of all prototypes will be designed for LEED certification

By 2025, Marriott will partner with owners to develop 250 adaptive reuse projects MI’s new global Headquarters will achieve a minimum of LEED Gold certification

Orlando World Center Marriott utilizes the HyCube modular hydroponic vegetable production system to incorporate mineral-rich nutrient solutions in place of soil to cultivate produce for the nine dining outlets and 450,000 square feet of meeting and event space.

Denise Naguib is the vice president of sustainability and supplier diversity for Marriott International.

Following UN Sustainable Development Goals, Marriott actively reduces their environmental impact by constructing and operating sustainable hotels that employ innovative technologies to plan, implement, track, and communicate how they operate responsibly.

Marriott integrates leading environmental and social practices into their supply chain by focusing on sustainable, responsible, and local sourcing. Marriott associates have been working with The International Union for Conservation of Nature to plant more than 60,000 mangrove saplings and engage in marine wildlife restoration. Photos: Ana Grillo

Strategies to implement these goals are being considered not only at the corporate level but at the community level as well. While Marriott’s communications team issues updates on multimillion-dollar renovations and guest celebrity chefs, it also reports on the company’s involvement in employment initiatives for underserved youth and their investment in and promotion of natural capital initiatives, such as rainforest protection, coral restoration and mangrove reforestation.

At many of its properties worldwide, the designation of 360 Champion is given to those employees who Marriott singles out as “Passionate individuals or teams of individuals volunteering to be the face and energy of Serve 360 on and above property—rallying their fellow associates, organizing events, educating and communicating within the property, reporting and sharing best practices.”
A highlight of the company’s renewable energy initiatives, last year The Courtyard by Marriott in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, became the first Marriott-branded hotel in the United States with 100 percent of its electricity needs generated from solar power. The hotel has also recently been refitted with LED lighting, reducing total electricity consumption by about 15 percent.

Prior to the Lancaster Courtyard by Marriott’s renewable energy feat, solar panels were installed at a number of Marriott’s European properties. Elsewhere outside North America, notable efforts to protect the communities and environments where Marriott properties are located have been made. In Cape Town, South Africa, for example, Marriott International built a desalination plant to convert seawater into drinking water for guests at one of their properties after a devastating drought this year threatened the fresh-water supply for the city. The plant saved the city about 400,000 liters of water a day according to President and CEO Arne Sorenson.

At 24 Marriott International properties in Thailand, the hotels are supporting the local community in their mangrove reforestation efforts since this valuable ecosystem has been destroyed over the last four decades. Since 2013, Marriott associates have been working with The International Union for Conservation of Nature to plant more than 60,000 mangrove saplings and engage in marine wildlife restoration.

Guided by their 2025 Sustainability and Social Impact Goals, as well as the UN Sustainable Development Goals, Marriott International is committed to creating positive and sustainable impact wherever they do business. The company is planning to open more than 1,700 hotels over the next three years. With Serve 360 solidly in place, that’s 280,000 or so new rooms for sustainability-conscious travelers to enjoy and feel good about staying in.

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