Recent challenges have only made Marriott International far more aware of the need to advance sustainability and drive social impact, and the company is ever more resolute in its commitment to serving the world, says Rajeev Menon, president for Asia Pacific (excluding China)
Marriott International has some very substantial sustainability and social impact goals to achieve by 2025. Can you shed light on how the company’s Asian divisions have been able to contribute towards Serve 360 in recent years?
Serve 360 is a critical framework developed to guide and track Marriott International’s sustainability and social impact efforts through 2025. It is aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and outlines four priority areas – Nurture Our World, Sustain Responsible Operations, Empower Through Opportunity, and Welcome All and Advance Human Rights – each with its own set of 2025 goals.
Since the launch of Serve 360, our global operations have made significant impact across all four areas.
As part of Nurture Our World, our Asia-Pacific teams (excluding Greater China) launched a campaign in response to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. It sought to support those who have been affected, including our associates and their families. More than 2,000 associates contributed 3,500-plus volunteering hours to raise US$21,027 to the World Central Kitchen, which serves millions of fresh meals to Ukrainians fleeing their homes. Last year, when the pandemic devastated some of our markets, around US$660,000 was raised through the APEC Marriott Disaster Relief Fund to support associates who have been affected by the situation.
The Asia-Pacific (excluding Greater China) region is leading our international regions with a total contribution of 3.7 million volunteering hours to-date. Globally, our target is to contribute 15 million hours of volunteer service by 2025.
As part of Sustain Responsible Operations, one of our key programmes is the removal of tiny, single-use toiletry bottles. In 2019, we made a global commitment to replace these with larger, pump-topped bottles – ultimately preventing about 500 million tiny bottles annually from going to landfills. So far, 70 per cent hotels in my region have already implemented this change, and we are on track to fully comply by the end of 2022.
Food waste reduction is also one of our top priorities, and globally we have committed to reduce 50 per cent of our food waste by 2025. To support this ambitious target, more than two-thirds of Marriott hotels in our region are already enrolled in our environmental reporting platform. This is a crucial step because tracking will help our teams determine cost-effective solutions and avoid over-ordering. Studies have shown that Asia alone accounts for over 50 per cent of global food waste. We recognise the urgency of this issue and are working hard to enrol 100 per cent of our hotels by the end of the year, while continuing the expansion of our back-of-house food waste reduction programming.
Under our Empower Through Opportunity priority area, we have made Diversity, equity and inclusion integral to how we do business and interact with our key stakeholders. In Asia-Pacific (excluding Greater China), we’ve made significant progress towards gender parity for management positions. Around one-third of our hotel management positions are taken up by women, and there are 60 female general managers and hotel managers in the continent with a robust pipeline of top talent.
Supporting LGBTQ+ inclusion has also been a key priority for us. In this region, we created a formalised LGBTQ+ committee to increase visibility of the community and promote the importance of allyship within the workplace. Beyond the workplace, we partnered with external organisations…to raise awareness and demonstrate our full support towards LGBTQ+ inclusion.
And finally, for our Welcome All and Advance Human Rights priority area, Marriott International is committed to the fight against human trafficking, child sexual exploitation and forced labour. One of our 2025 targets is to have 100 per cent of on-property associates complete our human rights training. In my region, more than 55,000 associates from both managed and franchised properties have completed the training.
While this is by no means an exhaustive list, we recognise that there is still much work to be done. By leveraging the Serve 360 framework, we remain steadfastly committed to our goals as they guide our efforts to do good in every direction.
Did the pandemic disrupt Marriott’s ability to fulfil these goals?
To a certain extent, it did result in many of our programmes being put on hold. However, it is during these trying times that we also need to heavily rely on our core values to put people first, pursue excellence, embrace change, act with integrity, and continue to find the drive to serve our world.
Throughout this period, we are immensely proud of how our associates showed up for their local communities. Across the region, our hotels delivered lunch boxes, donated daily necessities, and collected unused linen for face mask production, just to name a few. There were many different efforts, but the outcome was the same – to help push through the crisis and serve our world.
Although the past few years have, arguably, never been more complex, global events such as the pandemic, increasing climate risks and humanitarian crises have led to significant increase in consumers prioritising purposeful brands. Challenging times like these have helped us reflect even harder on ways to advance sustainability and drive social impact around the world.
For example, last year we took the next step in our climate action journey with the announcement of our ambition to go net-zero, and commitment to setting a science-based target to aggressively reduce our environmental footprint. This year, we announced (our plan) to hire 1,500 refugees over the next three years.
Pioneered in Asia-Pacific, we have the Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy programme which was designed to meet our guests’ concerns about their personal impact on the environment and their need for more meaningful travel.
As the largest hospitality company in the world, we believe we have the responsibility to make a positive and sustainable impact wherever we do business. We are optimistic about the future of travel, and ready to pick up where we left off, go further, and look for more suitable opportunities to do good.
How do Marriott’s Serve 360 goals influence its conversations with clients, be they corporate accounts, trade buyers or leisure travellers?
Sustainability has been a priority for our customers for some time. However, a heightened focus on sustainability has become clearer during the pandemic as the natural environment in destinations previously impacted by over-tourism begin to recover.
Our Serve 360 goals provide a framework for us to partner with our customers, who have their own sustainability goals in mind, and are looking to embed many aspects of sustainability throughout their operations and value chain. As we work to advance our sustainability journey, we support our customers to do the same. This is particularly important in the area of reporting. For over a decade, the hospitality industry has been using a standard way to calculate two key metrics – carbon footprint and water footprint per occupied room. This information, along with environmental practices such as sustainability certification, recycling, and more have been shared with our business travel community through RFPs, addendums and business sales channels.
On the leisure side, this information has also been requested to help influence purchasing decisions. Google, Booking.com and others are adding hotel-level sustainability criteria to their search options, and our own Marriott.com hotel websites now also feature a Sustainability section – with further enhancements and sustainability practices forthcoming – to help our consumers better understand the responsible operations at each hotel.
Let’s talk more about the Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy programme, which has expanded from just 15 pilot hotels to nearly 100 hotels and resorts now across more than 50 destinations across Asia-Pacific in the span of a year. Where does it sit within the Serve 360 promise?
Our Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy programme is an extension of our Serve 360 efforts to make a positive and sustainable impact wherever we do business. The programme invites guests to reimagine travel from a perspective of pure leisure to an opportunity to forge deeper connections with local communities and environments, and create a positive impact on the places they visit.
To create meaningful and purpose-driven experiences, we make a concerted effort to work closely with NGOs and local experts, such as marine biologists and artists. To qualify, each of the experiences must fall within the three distinct pillars: Environmental Protection aimed at supporting the resiliency of the natural environment due to environmental degradation, pollution, and climate change; Community Engagement aimed at creating a positive impact in the communities where Marriott hotels operate through cultural education or volunteerism; and Marine Conservation designed to restore and preserve marine ecosystems and species.
In addition, we have a cross-disciplinary governance committee that reviews each hotel application from the perspective of operational feasibility; local relevance; community/environmental impact; brand resonance. All experiences are further tailored to support resiliency in the individual environment and community surrounding each hotel and will vary from one another due to different location needs, partners engagement and programme design.
Has Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy provided the company with new ways to engage its customers and to build valuable loyalty during the pandemic and now that travel has returned?
We are constantly finding new and meaningful ways to build emotional connections and engage with our close to 60 million Marriott Bonvoy members across Asia-Pacific. Our award-winning Marriott Bonvoy programme, in particular, offers guests the opportunity to unlock extraordinary experiences in appreciation for their loyalty. Members can redeem their points on getaways, vacations, flights and exclusive once-in-a-lifetime, money-can’t-buy experiences with Marriott Bonvoy Moments.
Now that travel has returned, we have observed that travel is becoming increasingly purpose-driven and impact-oriented. People are now looking to spend intentionally with the goal of leaving a positive impact whenever and wherever they travel to. According to the 2022 American Express Travel Global Survey, 83 per cent of millennials are considering the importance of purpose when they plan trips and decide which companies to work with, higher than 79 per cent of overall survey respondents.
Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy offers specifically curated guest experiences for sustainability and social impact awareness and action, and empowers guests to make a positive impact on the environment or communities when they stay at Marriott International hotels.