As the Meetings and Events industry sees a resurgence of in-person and hybrid meetings in 2022 and beyond, meeting planners are looking to re-engage in collaborative efforts with their venue partners to design and execute events with a sustainability focus. We connected with Denise Naguib, Vice President, Global Sustainability and Supplier Diversity, Marriott International, to learn the latest on hotelier perspectives on sustainability trends in the travel and meetings and some of the success stories thus far.
What trends are you seeing in how the hotel industry is mobilizing to address sustainability across the wider travel and meetings industry?
"The hospitality industry has worked together on sustainability for at least a decade. A few examples include:
- In 2012, we developed an industry-wide approach to calculating carbon and water footprint for overnight stays and meetings so that planners could compare those data points across the industry. The Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative and the Hotel Water Measurement Initiative are free tools for any hotel to use, ensuring that no matter the size and scale of the hotel, they too can deliver this important information to customers. Since this methodology has been available, Marriott has been able to provide customers with the carbon footprint of their overnight stays twice per year.
- In 2017, Marriott, along with other industry peers, partnered with World Wildlife Fund (WWF), American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA) and The Rockefeller Foundation to begin understanding the issue of food waste in our industry. Ten hotels participated in pilot projects and a toolkit was developed for hotels and meeting planners to help all stakeholders work to reduce food waste. It is available for anyone at HotelKitchen.org. As part of our sustainability and social impact goals, Marriott leveraged the learnings from these efforts to commit to a 50% reduction in our food waste by 2025. And just a few months ago, the industry announced the Hotel Waste Measurement Methodology to address the need to measure waste and food waste in a consistent manner.
- In late 2021, as the world gathered at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, The Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, with support from the World Travel and Tourism Council, announced the development of a Pathway to Net Positive Hospitality for the planet. The Pathway aims to enable every hotel to improve their impact, whatever their starting point on their sustainability journey. Resources to support hotels will be developed over the coming months.
“We are proud to be part of the creation of the pathway for net positive hospitality – underscoring our industry’s commitment to protect the environment and limit the effects of climate change on our planet. Led by the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, this collaboration will allow the hospitality industry to have a much greater impact collectively than we can individually. We encourage others in the industry to join us on this pathway, to help our communities remain vibrant places to live, work and visit, and create a better, more sustainable future for all.” - Anthony Capuano, CEO, Marriott International
We’ve worked together on many other topics including youth employment, human rights, illegal wildlife trade, single-use plastics, certifications, DEI and more. Personally, I’m proud that we can work pre-competitively on these efforts in support of our customers, our communities, and the planet."
Can you give an overview of how Marriott International has expanded its focus on sustainability and specific initiatives that you think meeting planners would want to be aware of?
"Marriott International is committed to making a positive and sustainable impact wherever we do business. We embrace our global responsibility to be a force for good, as demonstrated by our sustainability and social impact platform, Serve 360: Doing Good in Every Direction. As a leader in the hospitality industry, we have an even greater obligation to operate responsibly.
Marriott’s sustainability strategy is driven by a wide range of initiatives to reduce environmental impacts through the design and operation of sustainable hotels and responsible sourcing while mitigating climate-related risk and protecting and restoring the ecosystems on which life depends. Recent initiatives include:
- The reduction of single-use plastics including replacing tiny, single-use toiletry bottles of shampoo, conditioner and bath gel in guestroom showers with larger pump-topped bottles. When fully implemented across the globe in 2022, the company’s expanded toiletry program is expected to prevent about 500 million tiny bottles annually from going to landfills.
- The roll-out of an internal food waste prevention and reduction educational campaign, designed to support Marriott’s goal to reduce food waste by 50%.
- The launch of a publicly available responsible sourcing guide, to help Marriott’s supplier community join its sustainability journey on the path to responsibly sourcing 95% of the company’s top ten priority categories.
- The development of a certifications database to help properties operate more responsibly and work towards the goal of 100% of the portfolio receiving a third-party sustainability certification.
- Planting more than 415,000 trees over the last several years, including through the company’s work as a founding member of the Evergreen Alliance, a select group of Arbor Day Foundation partners and collaborators committed to advancing trees and forests as natural solutions for corporate sustainability and citizenship goals.
- Innovative ecosystem restoration and carbon sequestration projects, such as working with The Ocean Foundation to remove and repurpose sargassum seaweed, which has had devastating impacts on the environment.
As part of our commitment to net-zero emissions, Marriott has joined the United Nation’s Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)’s Race to Zero. Race to Zero is a global campaign rallying companies, cities, regions, and financial and educational institutions, to reach net-zero value chain greenhouse gas emissions by no later than 2050."
How is Marriott International proactively developing partnerships with meeting planners, suppliers and others to address broader sustainability goals? And can you share some of the outcomes and results of these partnerships?
"As a key partner to our sales organization, I spend a lot of time with our customers to understand their goals, discuss opportunities to partner on certain efforts, and hear their perspective on where we can all improve to drive more sustainable action. With the incredible increase in customer demand for sustainability information (for us a tripling over the past two years), we have developed various ways to engage with customers. We’ve hosted customer roundtable discussions, presented the top ten sustainable meeting ideas at our largest meeting planner event in August and shared numerous tools and resources both directly with customers as well as with our sales teams to support our customers.
We’ve seen the rise in customers using sustainability information as part of their decision-making process. We share these insights with our hotels so that they too can be aware of what buyers and planners look at when it comes to sustainability. We know it is important that all stakeholders understand the change that is happening in this area so that we can continue to move forward, together, to solve some of the world’s greatest environmental challenges while supporting the important industry we love and depend on!"