April ‘15
Insight Interview

April ‘15
Carlson Rezidor Group
Carlson Rezidor Group


A Brand of Ethics and Distinguished History

How did your journey in the business begin?

My journey in Responsible Business began nine years ago with Toyota Motor Europe, where I was hired to be the head of CSR. Then four years ago I joined Carlson Rezidor. During this period, I knew how fantastic it is to be in hospitality and engage in people's business.

How can you describe this journey?

A very exciting one'¦ when I started, we were still feeling the aftermaths of the financial crisis, and there was a need to revamp Responsible Business. Since 1989, we were the first hotel company to have an environmental policy for a long time, but we needed to put Responsible Business at the forefront of our activities. That's why we created the program's three pillars: Think Planet, Think People and Think Together, and for each of those we have several targets. For instance for Think Planet we have a target to save 25% of our energy in five years and we are now at 11%! It's a really engaging journey and we are living it in our Radisson Blue and Park Inn by Radisson Hotels every day.

Talk to us more about the program's three pillars.

Think Planet is everything we do to minimize the environmental footprint of the hotels. The hotel business is a 24/7 operation; there's a lot of waste generated by our food and drink activities and all products used in the hotel. What we do is we set targets for energy, and also set targets for water use. We succeeded to reduce our water consumption by 27%. Three quarter of our hotels are eco labeled as well. Think People is everything to do with the health and safety of our guests and our employees. Health and safety is a big topic in many countries around the world. Big corporate clients need to know they are safe when they come to us. And we want them to meet employees who are happy and safe as well. With Think People we consider human rights and respecting diversity. We have a program for Women in Leadership. Today we are doing quiet well in the sense that the chairman of our board is a woman and we have a 50/50 equation in the board women and men. That's, quiet good, but amongst our general managers there are still more men than women, and we still want to create the circumstances for ladies to grow in the general manager position. In this conference for example, we are having a workgroup specifically for Women in Leadership. Think Together is everything we do for the community, giving back to the community in terms of donations and volunteering time and business ethics. We are an ethical company, we want do our business in the right way and in that field we have been named one of the world's most ethical companies for six years in a row now.

What were the highlights of this year's meeting?

This meeting is what we call our annual business conference. This year we are organizing this conference for the Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa and that also includes Turkey. Our general managers, area leadership team and central support office in Brussels meet to kick off the year and give the key messages involving topics like Revenue Management, Women in Leadership and Responsible Business. This gives us an input on the direction of the company, the strategy and the year to come.

Why did you choose Radisson Blu Cairo to host the meeting?

There are a couple of reasons why this hotel was chosen. First in the internal level the region is growing for us. We are one of the most dynamic hotel companies in the world so we are constantly increasing the number of our hotels. Today we have about 60 hotels in Middle East and Sub-Saharan Africa, and we are growing to 80 / 85 hotels in the next year. Internally we split our Middle East and Sub Saharan Africa area into two regions. We wanted to locate our conference in a place that embodies both Africa and the Middle East. Also because the prospects for business in Egypt are picking up especially with the investment conference you had recently in Sharm El Sheikh. We want to show our continual support to the country with the new hotel developments we are going to have. For example, there has been a contract signed for a new hotel to the Radisson Blu chain in Nasr City.

Let's move to the Box Appeal, what can you tell me about this initiative?

It's a wonderful initiative that started at Radisson Blu Dubai Media City by two employees who thought it was a great idea to fill shoeboxes with items to give people in need. That activity started seven years ago and grew from one hotel with just a couple of hundred boxes to now a whole of six countries with 20,000 boxes last year, with a value of 20 Euros for each box, and that's an impressive donation.

How do you plan to make this project grow?

It has become bigger and bigger, we have involved Egypt for five years, we have our hopes to cover other countries in our group for example in South Africa. I hope we can do this project for the whole of Egypt as well, that's the mid-term plan. For the moment we have come in seven years from a couple of hundred to 20,000 boxes, which is already a huge growth.

What are your upcoming RB projects for this year?

We are continuing in Think Planet, we are continuing our energy savings, which we plan to do by the end of next year. In water we are very active. Carlson Rezidor has taken the lead on what we call Water Stewardship, which is a concept defined by the United Nations and we have signed the UN-CEO Water Mandate. It's actually a group of companies who say they want to work on reducing water use in their operations but also using water in a fair and equitable way. We have signed this last year and we'll be working very intensely on Water Stewardship this year by reducing water in our operations and working together with partners, suppliers to be mindful of where and how the water is used. Women in Leadership is a very big topic for us as well, our target is to reach 33% of women in leadership positions. Furthermore, we will continue to grow the participation in RB action month, which is September. Every September all our hotels mobilize for the local community, last year we donated 7080,000 Euros to the local community. Our goal is to increase that amount and get all our hotels involved in organizing activities for their local communities.

By Rania Ihab