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Interview Series: Ray Bennett, Chief Global Officer for Global Operations at Marriott International

Euromonitor International is pleased to present an interview examining hotel companies’ strategies for sustainability and responsible business practices in light of the International Tourism Partnership (ITP) announcing four goals to drive progress towards sustainability. Euromonitor International senior analyst Amanda Bourlier spoke with Ray Bennett, Chief Global Officer for Global Operations at Marriott International.

What is Marriott’s role with ITP?

We are working in collaboration with other hotel companies to help support the four ITP goals. In addition, we are also developing our own 2025 goals that we will be launching shortly as well. Those goals for ITP around carbon, water, human trafficking, as well as youth employment.

These goals were chosen to align with the UN Development Goals and are global, correct?

That is correct.

Could you tell me a bit about Marriott’s initiatives?

We have been working in collaboration with our divisions around the world for the last year, year and a half to re-establish our goals with regards to carbon, water, waste and youth employment as well. That work will be launched here in a couple of weeks where we believe based on the work of the Paris Agreement that on the carbon and water standpoint, we will be in complete alignment with what’s going on from a science-based goal setting standpoint. And from a waste and youth employment [standpoint], we are also doing a tremendous amount of work in that space. I know that ITP is focused on 1 million youths by 2030, and we are doing a significant amount of work in helping disadvantaged youths around the world gain employment through our hotels as well as doing training and development, and sourcing those individuals as well.

One of the other factors we are watching is overtourism. Is there anything that Marriott is focused on to help address overtourism?

No, we actually welcome tourists around the world to all of our destinations. What I think is most important is the work we do on the ground. We are helping all of our hotels reduce their carbon and water footprint, as well as doing human rights training. We’ve made it mandatory for all of our hotels to conduct human trafficking awareness training as standard. But I think that from a deterring tourism [perspective], that’s not something that we traditionally do. But we do a lot of work to help our hotels reduce their sustainable footprint where they are.

What opportunities do you see to use loyalty programs to support responsible business practices?

There are several programs we are currently working on. One is called “Green Choice”, where you can defer getting your room cleaned and get points but also you have the opportunity to plant a tree if you so wish to help offset your carbon footprint. In addition to that from a loyalty standpoint, prior to arriving at our hotels as well, you can talk about re-use. So if you are staying with us and you’d like to reduce your water usage, you can hang your towel on a hook in your bathroom. And we have collateral in all of our baths across our entire portfolio talking about this program as well.

Are there any initiatives related to locally sourced ingredients you would like to highlight?

That’s another area that’s a huge focus for us, is sourcing local, sustainable products in the communities where we work. We know that that creates jobs and also gets fresher products to our hotels. When you look at our food and beverage initiatives, having a sustainable supply chain is vitally important to us as well. In a number of our hotels, and I’ll bring up one as an example, where we actually have a farm on the premises of the actual hotel, where we’re growing our own produce to again reduce distribution costs and sustainability costs of getting food to our hotels [editor: this is the JW Marriott in Orlando, Florida]. Another area we’d highlight is food waste. We think this is another tremendous opportunity for our organization, and so over the last few years that’s another area we’ve focused a tremendous amount of effort by tracking waste and working with local food shelters and other establishments to use that food, instead of wasting food.

How much of these initiatives would you say are driven by consumer demand vs corporate factors?

We do have a lot of our special corporate customers and a lot of our transit customers asking about this work. Our consumers are pushing us as relates to the sustainable practices that we have at our hotels. But by all means, we are also doing a tremendous amount of work. I think it’s a collaboration of consumers asking for it and also our focus in these areas as well. We think it’s the right thing to do not only for business but also for our business.

Are there any consumer segments you notice are especially sensitive to these initiatives?

It’s becoming more prevalent in all ages, but if you look at a specific demographic, millennials are more focused on this right now than what we would traditionally see in a baby boomer. But baby boomers are also asking questions about this as well as they visit our hotels. And they are taking advantage of the green choice program and things of that nature as well. I think it’s across all demographics.

For additional insight, please contact Amanda Bourlier at amanda.bourlier@euromonitor.com

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