GLOBAL REPORT—Leadership starts at the top, and when a top executive is committed, the impact is far reaching and lasting. A champion of community-based causes and volunteer-driven organizations, it is no surprise Hilton Worldwide CEO Christopher J. Nassetta is also dedicated to mobilizing his employees to execute charitable work around the world.
“We have senior leader Chris Nassetta that makes it a priority and it’s really a grass roots movement where our team members become so passionate. The support is coming from all ends to help us do amazing things. When you see it come to life, it’s amazing to witness the impact and the difference we can make as a company,” said Max Verstraete, VP of corporate responsibility, Hilton Worldwide.
Hilton’s corporate responsibility strategy, “Travel with Purpose,” is an action-oriented philosophy that seeks to identify, engage and address issues of need in three areas: economic, social and environmental.
“We approach and respond to needs around the world by taking advantage of our global footprint, and then scale to find solutions. When you look at our scale, we are the leading hospitality company as we have the leverage of working with best in class organizations to drive thought leadership and improvement of certain issues,” shared Verstraete. “We’re present in more than 100 companies and we work at the local level. With over 4,600 hotels, we can have a significant impact.”
Creating opportunities for youth is paramount as an estimated 74 million young people are unemployed, according to the International Labor Organization. To address this challenge and armed with a goal to reach a million young people by 2019, Hilton and its team members are facing the issue via initiatives with nonprofit International Youth Foundation and through activation programs within the hotels. An expected outcome is that these trained youth will be primed for future employment with Hilton.
“There are barriers to progress within communities and we are bringing our skills there. We call it smart volunteering, providing a level of skills such as culinary, financial and sales skills. It’s about figuring out what are the local needs of the community and bringing those skills to overcome these barriers,” he said. “We have a growing pipeline and we need young people and talents to fill these positions.”
Hilton is taking action to protect environmental resources as well, requiring hotels to make sure there are efficiencies enacted in the areas of water and energy consumption, waste management and then measuring those efforts to gauge impact. As a result, the brand has reduced energy use by 14.5%, carbon output by 20.9%, waste output by 27.6% and water use by 14.1 since 2009.
“There are improvement projects in place at all times. It’s as important as having the right shampoo and conditioner. Adhering to brand standard verifies compliance,” he said. “As a company, we’re leaders in energy management as we have earned a system-wide ISO 50001 energy management certification across our entire portfolio and we’re the first hospitality company to achieve a superior energy performance certification from the U.S. Department of Energy at three hotels.”
An active commitment to energy conservation only scratches the surface of their holistic approach to reducing environmental impact. Additional efforts include seeking greater reductions in carbon and water over a period of six years; working with the World Wildlife Fund on the sustainable sourcing of seafood; and partnering with multiple organizations around soap recycling, among other projects.
Hilton maintains a strong presence in the global communities it serves through volunteerism projects. The brand encourages team members at its hotels to look at the needs from a micro level and find ways to meet those needs. According to Verstraete, Hilton’s community involvement is mutually beneficial as it provides value for business and the community by supporting the local economy, creating local talent and fostering relationships.
“The approach to this needs to be from a shared value and everything we do needs to bring value to the community, our team members, our guests and business partners,” he said.