Rotana Hotels: Expanding with sustainably in mind
Combining a unique understanding of the culture and communities of the Middle East with a collective, international team, Rotana has acquired extensive experience in the hospitality industry. With the aim to reach a total of 100 properties by 2020, the business is focused on delivering its sustainability objectives as it continues to develop its diverse portfolio.
Launching its sustainability objectives in 2012, Rotana has expanded its vision through its global corporate sustainability platform, Rotana Earth. Not solely placing emphasis on consumer demands, but remaining conscious of its ongoing environmental, economic and social impact, the business wants to enhance communities, whilst placing a unique touch within all hotels under its umbrella.
Fully guiding its transition, Head of Sustainability, Christiane Zeidan, works with the company’s corporate sustainability committee, as well as Rotana’s President & Chief Executive Officer to develop policies and strategic goals, in alignment with its core values.
“There are Environmental Health and Safety managers in every property at Rotana. I work with the team, guide and support them to achieve a mature sustainability programme implementation,” says Zeidan.
“Hotels report on key-performance indicators (KPIs) and day-to-day operations, while we integrate sustainability in different audits to ensure progress towards the company’s sustainability goals.”
Publishing three sustainability reports in 2012, 2014 and 2017, 50% of the company’s portfolio, located in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has obtained ISO 14001 environmental management certification, something which is recognised by guests and suppliers.
“Guests are more conscious and their expectations are increasing, particularly in terms of sustainability practices. We have to make sure we meet those expectation,” notes Zeidan.
“It’s essential to have a smart balance, that the level of guest’s satisfaction should be maintained while ensuring that destinations continue to be attractive and retain their commercial potential.”
Undertaking a sustainability materiality assessment to gain a deeper understanding of all material issues, Rotana has sought to track its performance, in order to fully reach its goals, as well as engage all associated stakeholders.
“Our stakeholders range from our guests, our investors, our suppliers as well as communities and local governments. When we are expanding into new countries, we look at ways of investing in local economies, whilst placing emphasis on our environmental concerns and social responsibility,” observes Zeidan.
“Complexities occur when country-specific sustainability regulations are missing, whether the local community is attracted to sustainability or if the required infrastructure is not in place to support our goals. This is where the challenge of our investor’s economic priority comes over environmental concerns and social responsibility which requires more efforts from our management team to educate and raise awareness in order to achieve our sustainability objectives.
“The immediate notion is that implementing sustainable practices will increase operational cost, which is completely the opposite. We try to show how much we're going to save on operational cost and by how much we can drive business by adopting these sustainability practices,” she adds.
From a lack of awareness regarding financial saving, to how sustainability has an impact on driving profit for the company, employees feel proud, more engaged and wish to continue working for a company which is keen to reduce its impact on the environment.
Through the Rotana Earth platform, the business has sought to introduce sustainable procurement, resulting in a greater understanding of its supply chain capabilities. Creating value-based suppliers, the business has worked to address all ethical and social issues, such as child labour within the supply chain, whilst supporting local families and its guests.
“A thorough understanding of our supply chain enables us to create value for suppliers and our community at large. Wherever we source products, we believe the workers that have produced them, the communities living near the sourcing locations and the environment around it should not be negatively impacted. We want to ensure that there is no link between our business activities and adverse environmental and social impacts through our suppliers business relationships,” reflects Zeidan.
“We take a holistic approach to managing these supply chain risks. This includes the development and implementation of the Rotana Code of Responsible Purchasing and continuous monitoring to evaluate compliance and manage foreseeable risks and social impact from our supply chains. A sustainability assessment criterion incorporated within our supplier qualification programme and procurement survey.”
Whilst a large number of products remain imported, the company has strived to guarantee supplier compliance, where all data is thoroughly integrated into a sustainability assessment, which forms part of the company’s supplier qualification programme.
“We have integrated sustainability criteria in our supplier’s audits which includes community contribution, environmental sustainability, the employees' management of those suppliers, their labour practices and their compliance, etc.
“This will help us cutting long term procurement costs, averting sustainability risks, reducing operating costs, building a marketable image of Rotana brand, benefitting to society and suppliers and minimising or reducing harm to the environment.
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Focusing on two key goals, poverty and hunger, Rotana has looked at ways to reduce food waste. Signing an agreement with Winnow Solutions, 26 hotels in the UAE will monitor all products by size and weight, enabling all hotels to adjust menus accordingly. It will also promote the hotels to reuse food waste as much as possible and reduce its impact on the environment.
“We're also doing a lot in terms of plastic reduction. From November, we're going to stop serving plastic straws in all Rotana facilities unless requested by guests and gradually replacing it with more eco straws. We are also stopping the use of plastic bottles in all our colleagues dining areas, collecting around 97,000 litres of frying oil and converting this to biodiesel” states Zeidan.
“Additionally, we are also working with Drinkable Air, where we challenged them to prepare a unit prototype producing drinkable water form air. We will be putting these in guest rooms at the end of this year with the aim of eliminating plastic water bottles.”
“Among other achievements, 20 of our UAE hotels are ISO 14001 certified on the environmental management system, accounting for approximately 45 % of Rotana’s total operating hotels, we have reduced our energy consumption (kwH/guest) by 8.5 % and water (cbm/guest) by 21.5% per guest from 2013 baseline, while in the kitchens we recycled 97,490 litres of cooking oil to biodiesel. Similarly, we have reduced general Waste (kg/guest) by 21 % from 2012.
“With workplace diversity and equal opportunities being among Rotana most integral values, it proudly employs 11,772 colleagues from 107 nationalities. “To date, our colleagues have participated in 1,352 community engagement activities since 2012, with 78,531 volunteering hours to the community. 2,740 colleagues have donated 812 litres of blood during 74 blood donations campaigns 64.4 % of our activities have supported health & well-being causes, 20.4 % environmental causes and 7 % supporting human rights issues.”
With several properties planned and new projects in the pipeline across the Middle East, Africa and Turkey, the business is on its way to becoming one of the most sustainable hospitality businesses worldwide.
Recently recognised as ‘Company of the Year’ at this year’s Gulf Business Awards, Rotana Hotels aims to further deepen and consolidate its leadership position, with its strategy to establish 100 properties by 2020 and double this to over 200 by 2030.
“As we expand into various cities and countries, we will ensure this is done responsibly. We want to make sure that the people in the region come to our hotels, that they will love it and respect our brand,” concludes Zeidan. “It's essential that companies realise the total true value of their business and focus not just solely on making a profit. That’s our understanding and belief at Rotana. We believe in the enforcement of creating value for our stakeholders and to society at large. It's really important as it will help us with our long-term strategies and maintain our sustainable vision.”