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
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.
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.”
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.
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.