90 Years of Marriott’s “Spirit to Serve” Culture
“It’s not the business you do, but how you do business,” says Mr. J. W Marriott.
Ninety years ago our company’s service philosophy was formed with a commitment to excellence encompassing a holistic approach to service through our “Spirit to Serve” and “Spirit to Preserve” global programs. “Spirit to Serve” is how we as an organization are committed to - and engage with - our guests, associates, and community. “Spirit to Preserve” programs are specifically designed to enhance the way we impact the environment and the planet.
Corporate Social Responsibility ( CSR) as a term has become very fashionable in the past few decades as companies struggle to become more sustainable in times of global climate change and political instability. CSR is one strategy to promote sustainability, which is the overall goal of any conscious organization. In fact, Corporate Social Responsibility as a strategy of Sustainability is such a broadly defined term these days, that my title has just changed to Director of Social Impact & Sustainability, a much more specific and targeted title that I don’t have to explain to every person I meet.
At Marriott we have built the company on our commitment to our associates, guests, community and environment and we have been growing organically in this way ever since. To us, social impact and responsible business is simply good business practice, and our chain is considered among the leaders in the hotel industry. Our recent Global Sustainability Report is a tribute to the way we operate and engage in conscious business all around the globe.
MARRIOTT BUSINESS COUNCILS NETWORK
Marriott has 92 business councils around the world. They comprise our General Managers who meet four times a year to plan and manage our Culture, Communi- ty Engagement, and Government activity programs. Business Council programs are designed to be relevant to their country or area and aligned with business council core values that are managed out of our corporate office in Washington.
Marriott’s Global Business Council network provides an excellent community engagement reporting system for all the properties and national programs reporting worldwide, resulting in an accurate, easy to manage community engagement tool and reporting system. Our General Managers are the key members of our Business Councils who work actively to promote Marriott Culture and “Spirit to Serve” programs and activities.
Every year our 92 Business Council Chairmen meet at Mr. Marriott’s house to discuss how they have worked together with their teams to Serve our World and have an awards ceremony celebrating the efforts for the best performers of our global team of Business Councils.
In 2014 Marriott Thailand Business Council won the “Overall Achievement” and the “Marriot Culture” Business Council Global Awards from Mr. Marriot at the global Business Council meeting at Mr. Marriott’s house.
In 2015 JW Marriott Phuket received the most coveted Marriott Award of Excellence from Mr. Marriott, the “Alice Marriott Award for Community Engagement.”
THAILAND BUSINESS COUNCIL SOCIAL IMPACT & SUSTAINABILITY STRATEGY
As part of Marriott’s continued commitment to excellence we developed a “shared value/ multi stakeholder/ strategic partnership” approach for our Social Impact and Sustainability outreach portfolio. Since our expertise lies in running hotels, not community development or environmental stewardship, we align ourselves with experienced partners in each area of focus. Among our partners must be government agencies in order to ensure credible policy support for our initiatives.
In 2013, the Marriott Thailand Business Council became the first Marriott Business Council globally to employ a Director of CSR to help strategize CSR efforts and maximize impacts for Thailand. Initially the job of the Director of CSR was to research, compile, and present the most relevant CSR engagement strategy to the Marriott Thailand Business Council for our General Managers to vote on. Traditional fundraising had been geared towards making charitable donations to organizations, not integrated CSR programs with shared value for all stakeholders. So, we decided to develop four national level strategic partnership programs to maximize the impacts of our joint efforts, implementing one a year until our portfolio was completed last month with the opening of Yaowawait School and Hospitality Learning Centre. Each project is aligned with our corporate global core values and is relevant and targeted specifically to Thailand’s needs.
STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIPS AND PROGRAMS
Our first Business Council Social Impact & Sustainability program was started 15 years ago when we established the award- winning Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation. This happened during the opening of the JW Marriott Phuket which was built on a beach where turtles nest. Our owners, the Minor Group and Marriott International, felt the need to develop a long- term environmental strategy to ensure the ecological future of the Mai Khao turtle population. Now the Foundation has grown to the point where they have six disabled turtles living permanently at the JW Marriott in a dedicated shelter, together with an education center. The project boasts five government partners plus the International Union for Conservation of Nature ( IUCN). It has earned a host of international awards for its cutting- edge conservation work. The Mai Khao Marine Turtle Foundation educates over 13,000 guests from more than 96 countries every year. It also engages ten area schools a year and releases 150 oneyear- old turtles to support the Phuket Marine Biological Center turtle nesting strategy. Working closely with the Thailand Business Council Chairman, in September 2013 we established Marriott’s first Strategic Multi- Faceted CSR Platform and partnership with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. We signed a long- term memorandum of understanding ( MOU) with IUCN/ Mangroves for the Future, targeting the following areas: Reforestation, Community Poverty Alleviation, and Sustainable Sourcing.
Marriott resort hotels are located in areas of natural beauty and need constant stewardship and active community programs in order to have harmonious business practices. Therefore, having the IUCN advise us on how to positively impact our environment and community was essential in aligning our business practices with the United Nation’s ( UN) Sustainable Development Goals. This project has been hugely successful and is considered a benchmark for private sector, government and NGO engagement. All measurable results from this project go directly in the Marriot global sustainability report.
In September 2014 we launched our second national partnership by bringing the South Korean band Crayon Pop for a free concert in Bangkok to launch the “Save the Children” 7% Helmet Hero Campaign, a multi- stakeholder partnership focusing on increasing the use of crash helmets and road safety education for children in Thailand. 2,600 children die every year and 75,000 are permanently injured in road accidents.
Together with our partners we target different engagement strategies: we provide education, and help make helmets cool by doing art on them with the children; the police take care of enforcement, and schools make helmets part of their uniform ( based on an MOU with 400 schools in Bangkok). Social change takes time so we all work together for the longterm goal of a “Safer Thailand for Children” aligned with the UN Road Safety 2021 Goals.
Finally, youth empowerment, specifically through education and job training, is a key element of our corporate social responsibility mission. On May 18, Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri
At Marriott we have built the company on our commitment to our associates, guests, community and environment and we have been growing organically in this way ever since.
Sirindhorn presided over the opening of the Marriott Pre- Vocational Hospitality School at the Yaowawit Lodge in Kapong, Thailand. The Yaowawit School provides 140 orphaned children from rural areas of Southern Thailand, aged 3- 18, with a home and a holistic education.
The Marriott Pre- Vocational Hospitality School will offer project- based learning, which allows Marriott managers to train children at the school, and allows children to come to the hotel to get handson training. This is the first time the Thai education system has recognized this as certified training, and this new “Marriott model” will be used in 400 vocational training schools around Thailand. In addition to hands- on training and education, Marriott hotels will pay the monthly salary of the hospitality school manager who lives on site at the orphanage, provide teaching materials, will cover costs for managers to visit and teach every two weeks, and will cover the cost of children visiting the hotels and doing internships. Marriott hotels also supports the initiative by selling the Yaowawit Lemongrass Spa products made from the on- site lemongrass farm located at the Yaowawit Agriculture Academy.
The Marriott Thailand Business Council’s visionary leaders guided the development of strategic CSR within the Marriott International corporation by employing the first nationally- based CSR Director anywhere in the world. This led to Marriot Thailand winning the Business Council of the Year Award in 2014. In turn, this paved the way for Marriott to employ regionally-based CSR/ Social Impact leaders to be engaged in developing programs to support our new corporate 2025 Social Impact and Sustainability goals. The global Social Impact and Sustainability team based in the Washington headquarters have recently employed Social Impact & Sustainability Directors in Europe, South America, and soon Asia. Our Social Impact and Sustainability portfolio in Thailand is now at capacity and we will be able to enjoy watching our projects flourish in the long term. As we expand our commitment to these projects in line with our 2025 Social Impact Goals, we will be able to achieve even more results and be even more impactful.
Authenticity is the most important factor to a successful Social Impact program. Success is never final, especially when working with communities and the environment. However, we remain positive and flexible while being committed and engaged in our commitment to longterm social and environmental impacts for Thailand.
Sean Panton is Co- Chairman and Director of Social Impact & Sustainability at the Marriott Thailand Business Council/ JW Marriott Phuket Resort and Spa. He can be contacted at Sean. Panton@ marriotthotels.com.
Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn arrives at the opening of the Marriott Pre- Vocational Hospitality School at the Yaowawit Lodge in Kapong, Thailand