|Team members of The Leela Palace Udaipur participating in the lake cleaning drive|
CSR initiatives have become an integral part of those hotel companies which recognise that besides doing their bit for the society or the environment, they are also developing a positive brand image that can go a long way in impacting their business in the future. Engaging the employees in such activities is a great motivator and helps in creating a holistic work culture in the organisation, along with attracting and retaining the workforce. The CSR initiatives introduced by hotel companies cover a whole gamut of activities that might not bring about a wide ranging change, but certainly a focused impact.
The CSR focus areas for most hotel companies differ with the international groups introducing their global corporate responsibility platform in India, eg Hyatt Thrive. “To achieve our goals, Hyatt Thrive focuses on four areas that we believe are essential to a thriving community – environmental sustainability; economic development and investment; education and personal advancement; health and wellness. The two programmes – Hyatt Earth and Hyatt Community engage our associates around the world in these four areas. Hyatt Earth drives environmental stewardship across our hotels, while Hyatt Community strengthens our community impact through volunteerism, philanthropy and disaster relief,” says Yasmin D Poonegar, director of Corporate Communications, Hyatt International South West Asia.
In the Leela Group, it is the chairman Capt. CP Krishnan Nair who inspires the entire group’s CSR activities. There is a programme called as Leela Cares for social and environmental activities. The ITC Group has a number of projects focused on education, community, health, environment, etc. According to Aradhana Lal, vice president – Corporate Communications & Sustainability Initiatives, Lemon Tree’s vision for 2020 is to build a reputation for ‘responsible growth’. “Lemon Tree Hotels goes beyond the simple paradigm of CSR and believes in running its business in a sustainable manner. We are driving sustainability through the three pillars – people, planet and profit,” states Lal. Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport has been associated with a few CSR initiatives, notable among which is the work done with Sneha Sadan a non-governmental organisation that provides a home for homeless children living on the streets of Mumbai. “These homes have given these children a chance to escape life on the streets, gain access to a shelter, education and a future. We are also associated with Hope Foundation,” says Oppenheimer Pinto e Fernandez, general manager, Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport.
Among the many initiatives that these properties are associated with, there are of course a few projects that are close to the heart of the organisation/hotel. Graham Grant, general manager, The Leela Palace Udaipur avers that the project that provided training and employment to underprivileged students from local community, is something that the hotel is particularly proud of. At ITC Maratha, Mumbai, it is the fact that the hotel has employed a respectable number of differently abled people in various key departments like housekeeping, F&B production, HR, front office. “We’ve made sure that they are at par with the other employees. This initiative speaks volumes about our culture of inclusiveness,” states Dhunji Kavarana, area manager (West) and general manager, ITC Maratha.
Lemon Tree Hotels takes a 360 degree view of engaging with differently abled people. “While we have robust policies for employing the differently abled, we are also equally concerned about guests who are differently abled and who we believe should have easy access to all areas of our hotels. That too has required a paradigm shift in the way we look at access – from hotel design, architecture, facilitation and sensitisation of staff,” states Lal.
Aligning with business strategy
|Dustbins being distributed by Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport team|
It is necessary that the factors that drive the CSR initiatives should align with the organisational goals and strategy. Poonegar points out that Hyatt Thrive brings together teams of passionate people to focus on local projects that contribute to the prosperity and well-being of their communities. “Its design draws on the knowledge and insight of a global cross section of stakeholders – including corporate leadership, property owners and associates throughout our organisation, community leaders and guests. Hyatt Thrive harnesses the power of our associates at our properties around the world to help our global community of colleagues, guests and neighbours do one thing – ‘thrive’. Hyatt Thrive builds on our rich history of community engagement and environmental stewardship and is a global framework for teams of passionate people to bring to life local projects that benefit their communities,” she explains. At ITC Maratha all activities are aligned keeping in mind the triple bottom line philosophy. “We believe that profit can only be measured economically, socially and in terms of the environment, which is our triple bottom line philosophy,” states Kavarana.
There are many tangible as well as intangible advantages of CSR activities for a hotel. The key ones, believes Graham Grant, general manager, The Leela Palace Udaipur are – employee engagement through CSR activities and guest participation and acknowledgment being a responsible company. According the Lal it makes sense to impart relevant employability skills to EWD’s (Employees with Disabilities) in those job profiles where their disability is not a disadvantage. “So we try for optimal placement – giving differently abled employees roles or placing them in positions where they are not at a disadvantage (for instance in workplaces where there is significant noise, it can actually be an advantage to have a hearing and speech impaired employee in that area),” says Lal, pointing out that EWDs have a greater sense of loyalty to the organisation and the turnover ratios in this group is much lower than that of the company overall. For them, being given an opportunity to make a living for themselves and becoming a part of society makes them feel proud and happy and hence loyal to the organisation. “Due to these two outcomes, they can then be employed routinely and on an equal footing with other people (rather than as a CSR or charitable initiative) which is the only sustainable policy in the long run,” she adds.
Fernandez believes that while CSR initiatives have its own benefits, however they are not related to business. “Through such initiatives we try to give back to the society in whatever small way we can. It helps in staff engagement as they enjoy participating and contributing in such activities. Also, it gives us immense satisfaction that other than our business we are also looking after the community which enables us to raise the bar on our Responsible Business Quadrant objectives,” he mentions.
|CSR initiatives in India|
Introduction of an apprenticeship/training/hiring programme for underprivileged youth at Hyatt Regency Mumbai, in conjunction with NGO partners YCI and the Kherwadi trust. The hotel follows YCI’s training curriculum and hires the trainees at the end of the programme. This is a pilot project that might be extended on a broader platform in the coming years. The hotel group has also initiated several sustainable green practices in its properties like recycled water being used for gardening. Replacing of steam traps with energy efficient steam traps. Since the introduction of seven energy efficient Toyota Prius to the hotel’s car fleet the usage of fuel has reduced to 10345 liters from September 2011 until January 2012 as opposed to 14099 liters from September 2010 until January 2011.
The Leela Palace Udaipur
Lemon Tree Hotels
The company philosophy is to make Lemon Tree Hotels an inclusive workplace and to build processes with appropriate learning that will facilitate this objective. The company currently has over 100 Employees with Disabilities (EWDs) in the team, who are all hearing-and-speech impaired. They work across different areas of hotels, eg housekeeping, kitchen stewarding and F&B service. This is currently five per cent of the total staffing of the 18 hotels the company owns/ operates across India. The goal is to take this to 10 per cent of total staffing in 2013 or about 250 EWDs.
Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport
Employee engagement is an integral part of any CSR initiative. Hyatt International has a well organised process for this.
“Employees want to feel proud of the organisation they work for. An employee with a positive attitude towards the company is less likely to look for a job elsewhere. It is also likely that you will receive more job applications because people want to work for you,” says Poonegar. At the Leela Palace Udaipur this is driven through HR activity calendar taking nominations from departments. The benefits, avers Grant, are many – it leads to emotional satisfaction, team building, and identification of key behavior indicators – initiatives and leadership.
At ITC Maratha to sensitise new employees towards differently abled people, sign language classes are organised. “We’ve received tremendous response for the sign language training,” states Kavarana. Lal explains that an initiative of this nature is never easy to implement. It requires sensitisation of the entire team and brings its own share of challenges. “However, we have been able to implement a comprehensive programme pan India that is functioning reasonably well. We pioneered this initiative in 2007 and have successfully conducted sensitivity training for all employees, including subsequent new hires. This was led by an external expert whose forte is Indian sign language and who has worked closely with hearing-and-speech impaired people. This has since become an integral part of our system and employees now welcome their differently abled colleagues,” she adds.
Environmental and community investment provides exceptional return to the user, asserts Grant. “We as a unit contribute to the wellbeing of society through responsible environmental action. In most cases there will be a financial benefit, certainly education, awareness and protocols to conserve energy have this impact,” he adds. The community investment provides genuine satisfaction not only with those less fortunate but as a unit to share and appreciate the ability to give, the return is a healthy and uplifting morale.