Pay it for­ward

Ex­ec­u­tive suites and fine din­ing might be what we sign the cheque for, but our travel dol­lars are also be­ing put to­wards al­tru­is­tic en­deav­ours, re­ports Va­le­rian Ho

Business Traveller (Asia-Pacific) - - CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY -

In these com­plex mod­ern times, there are peo­ple and an­i­mals all over the world in dire need of help, and the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment also needs se­ri­ous pro­tec­tion. As in­di­vid­u­als, there are lim­its to what we can do. But when large busi­nesses in­vest in cor­po­rate so­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity (CSR) pro­grammes, they can have a ma­jor pos­i­tive im­pact.

As busi­ness trav­ellers, the ho­tels you stay at usu­ally have CSR ini­tia­tives de­signed to con­trib­ute to the lo­cal com­mu­nity or wider global is­sues, but these be­hindthe-scenes pro­grammes of­ten re­main un­sung he­roes – par­tic­u­larly those on a smaller, lo­cal scale. Here we cast a spot­light on wor­thy pro­grammes around the re­gion to high­light some of the is­sues and cel­e­brate the in­no­va­tive and in­spi­ra­tional projects un­der way.

CHILD CARE

Ed­u­ca­tion is one of the most pow­er­ful tools to give chil­dren a fu­ture and lift them out of poverty. But many peo­ple in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries have dif­fi­culty in buy­ing food, never mind find­ing funds to pay for school­ing. In Siem Reap, Cam­bo­dia, a hun­dred young women are now able to con­tinue their sec­ondary school ed­u­ca­tion thanks to Rosewood Hotel Group’s part­ner­ship with Room to Read. This pro­gramme helps to trans­form the lives of chil­dren in low-in­come coun­tries by fo­cus­ing on lit­er­acy and gen­der equal­ity in ed­u­ca­tion. Its Girls’ Ed­u­ca­tion Pro­gramme re­in­forces girls’ com­mit­ment to their own ed­u­ca­tion, works with them to de­velop es­sen­tial life skills, and in­creases sup­port for their ed­u­ca­tion among par­ents, school staff and com­mu­ni­ties.

In Tai­wan, the Man­darin Ori­en­tal, Taipei de­signed and sold 400 lim­ited-edi­tion stuffed pan­das at char­ity events to raise money for lo­cal schools in re­mote ar­eas. The Love Share ini­tia­tive was sup­ported with hand­made cook­ies baked in the Man­darin Cake Shop. As a re­sult, the Shan-Mei Ele­men­tary School in moun­tain­ous Alis­han County and the Qin-Ai Ele­men­tary School in Nan­tou have been able to buy new school equip­ment and mu­si­cal in­stru­ments.

The month-long Love col­ors – My Color­ful World art ex­hi­bi­tion at Hyatt Place Shen­zhen Dong­men was a special art project show­cas­ing the tal­ents of 30 chil­dren – some of whom have autism. The chil­dren cre­ated works such as tie-dye bags and hand­ker­chiefs, ref­er­enc­ing the an­cient folk crafts­man­ship of Yun­nan prov­ince, which were then sold to the public. The pro­ceeds were do­nated to the Rain­bow An­i­ma­tion and Car­toon R&D Cen­tre, which sup­ports dis­abled chil­dren.“This ac­tiv­ity per­fectly matched our brand per­son­al­ity, which demon­strates youth, vi­tal­ity, colour­ful­ness, and be­ing cre­ative and trendy,” said the hotel’s gen­eral man­ager Maria Yue.“It’s a very mean­ing­ful event, al­low­ing the public to get to know these special kids and their tal­ents. The whole of so­ci­ety should learn to un­der­stand, re­spect and care about them. This has been the third con­tin­u­ous year and we’d like to make it hap­pen ev­ery year.”

FOOD DONATION

When you think about all those peo­ple around the world who can’t af­ford to feed their fam­i­lies, it can be galling to see the pro­fuse waste from hotel buf­fets and large-scale events. In Sin­ga­pore, wel­fare homes, chil­dren, se­nior cit­i­zens and needy fam­i­lies ben­e­fit from the Man­darin

Ori­en­tal’s “Food from the Heart”pro­gramme, which dis­trib­utes sur­plus pas­tries and breads to those in need. In ad­di­tion, flow­ers from large events are also do­nated to Happy Flow­ers, a char­ity that repacks and sends bou­quets to those in hos­pices and nurs­ing homes.

In Hong Kong, both The Lang­ham, Hong Kong and Cordis, Hong Kong par­tic­i­pate in the Food Link and Food An­gel pro­grammes, which turn left­over veg­eta­bles and pas­tries into hearty meals to dis­trib­ute to un­der­priv­i­leged and low-in­come fam­i­lies. They’ve also signed up to the Green Luck Ban­quet ini­tia­tive by Green Mon­day, which do­nates left­over food from events to lo­cal char­i­ties.

AGRICULTURE REVOLUTION

As the say­ing goes, give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach him how to fish and he’ll eat for a life­time. This is ex­actly the phi­los­o­phy be­ing adopted by Shinta Mani in Cam­bo­dia. As part of its ef­forts to em­power the lo­cal pop­u­la­tion, the hos­pi­tal­ity group has in­vested in “home-farm­ing” ini­tia­tives. This has in­volved re­search­ing how to grow new crops and creat­ing model home gar­dens that fam­i­lies can recre­ate, with par­tic­u­lar em­pha­sis on plants that pro­duce healthy vi­ta­mins such as folic acid. The next stage of the project will be look­ing at how to scale this into com­mer­cial en­deav­ours that can again be re-cre­ated in poor lo­cal vil­lages. In a sim­i­lar vein, Angsana Lang

Co, Viet­nam’s Meet for Good pro­gramme of­fers lo­cal farm­ers land to grow pro­duce that is then sold back to the hotel for use in its kitchen and spa.

SOAP RECYCLING Of­ten when you check out of a hotel, you leave left­over shower gels and soap in your room. Across a hotel’s en­tire room in­ven­tory, this can rep­re­sent a lot of waste. But cer­tain com­pa­nies are em­ploy­ing so­cially con­scious and ecofriendly recycling al­ter­na­tives. The RitzCarl­ton group col­lab­o­rates with Clean the World, a non­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that col­lects par­tially used soaps and other hy­giene ameni­ties from the hotel. The soap is then sani­tised and re­dis­tributed to com­mu­ni­ties in need, while other prod­ucts are re­pur­posed and used in the pro­duc­tion of fi­bre-op­tic ca­bles.

In Phuket, all Ac­cor ho­tels op­er­ate a Soap for Hope pro­gramme, where left­over soaps are re­stored and do­nated to lo­cals, who can then sell them to make an in­come. The re­cy­cled soap is also sold to hotel guests, with the pro­ceeds dis­trib­uted to lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties and schools. FUNDRAISING Many ho­tels or­gan­ise fundraising ac­tiv­i­ties for their char­ity part­ners. Ev­ery year, Ma­rina Bay Sands holds the Sands for Sin­ga­pore Char­ity Fes­ti­val, which in­volves ac­tiv­i­ties such as the Sun­down Pic­nic, spon­sored walks and live mu­sic per­for­mances. Since its in­au­gu­ra­tion in 2013, the fes­ti­val has raised more than S$16 mil­lion (US$11.9 mil­lion) for lo­cal char­i­ties in­clud­ing the Dyslexia As­so­ci­a­tion of Sin­ga­pore, As­so­ci­a­tion for Per­sons with Special Needs, and Cere­bral Palsy Al­liance Sin­ga­pore.

Fundraising ini­tia­tives of­ten pro­vide op­por­tu­ni­ties for guests to ac­tively get in­volved in the ac­tion. Cy­cling en­thu­si­asts, for ex­am­ple, can en­ter spon­sor­ship pack­ages in the Anan­tara Hoi An Re­sort and EMM Hotel Saigon’s Yaana Bike Chal­lenge. The three-day, 226km ride from Quy Nhon to Hoi An raises funds for Op­er­a­tion Smile, an or­gan­i­sa­tion that pro­vides free surgery to chil­dren born with a cleft lip or cleft palate. ENVIRONMENTAL CON­SER­VA­TION With de­for­esta­tion rates at an all-time high, it’s heart­en­ing to know there are or­gan­i­sa­tions com­mit­ted to re­bal­anc­ing the scales. In 2011, Four Sea­sons Ho­tels andnd Resorts launched its Earth Week eek ini­tia­tive, which in­cluded a com­mit­ment to plant ten mil­lion trees around the world. Banyan Tree is also a firm be­liever in long-term tree plant­ing ini­tia­tives and en­cour­ages guests to get in­volved. So far, 25,000 trees have been planted thanks to ef­forts by hotel staff, guests and lo­cal com­mu­nity mem­bers.

Re­plant­ing of an­other kind is tak­ing place un­der the seas at a num­ber of resorts around the re­gion. At The An­daman Langkawi, an on­site Co­ral Nurs­ery is ded­i­cated to re­pop­u­lat­ing lo­cal reefs that were dev­as­tated by the 2004 tsunami. Guests are en­cour­aged to get in­volved, by su­per­glue­ing pieces of co­ral into pro­tected pools mon­i­tored by the hotel’s on­site ma­rine bi­ol­ogy staff, be­fore be­ing re­planted in the ocean. The Anan­tara Dhigu Mal­dives Re­sort is also com­mit­ted to un­der­wa­ter gar­den­ing, with a Co­ral Adop­tion Pro­gramme that helps to ed­u­cate guests and ac­cel­er­ate the re­gen­er­a­tion of the atoll reefs. More than 60 species of fish have been rein­tro­duced to the corals around the re­sort since the pro­gramme was launched. ANIMAL AWARE­NESS There’s been a lot of press in re­cent years about the plight of ele­phants in Asia’s de­vel­op­ing na­tions, but there are those fight­ing to com­bat the in­jus­tices. Anan­tara is one such hero. Street ele­phants are reg­u­larly res­cued and trans­ferred to the Anan­tara Golden Tri­an­gle Ele­phant Camp & Re­sort in Thai­land, where they live in a for­est en­vi­ron­ment and re­ceive proper vet­eri­nary checks and healthy di­ets. Anan­tara also launched the an­nual King’s

Cup Ele­phant Polo Tour­na­ment to raise se aware­ness of and money for the ini­tia­tive.

Else­where in Thai­land, baby tur­tles are nur­tured by the Mai Khao Ma­rine Tur­tle Foun­da­tion. The char­ity was launched with a donation of US$45,000 from JW Mar­riott Phuket Re­sort & Spa and the Mi­nor Hotel Group, who fo­cus on pro­vid­ing a safe en­vi­ron­ment for the hatch­ing sea­son (Novem­ber to Fe­bru­ary) as well as re­ha­bil­i­tat­ing tur­tles in­jured by fish­ing boats boats. For those look­ing for a more hands-on ex­pe­ri­ence, guests can get in­volved with re­leas­ing three-month-old tur­tles back into the wild at Banyan Tree’s Bin­tan prop­erty.

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