The voice for environmental & social responsibility in the hospitality industry


The International Tourism Partnership drives the responsible tourism business agenda

The International Tourism Partnership (ITP) brings together the world’s leading international hotel companies to provide a voice for environmental and social responsibility in the industry. We work to demonstrate in a very practical way that environmental and social responsibility makes good business sense. ITP does this by highlighting best practice, offering a range of practical products and programmes and tackling emerging sustainability issues through its collaborative working groups.

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Carlson Rezidor

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Diamond Resorts International

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Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

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Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts

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Hilton Worldwide

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The Hongkong & Shanghai Hotels Ltd

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InterContinental Hotels Group

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Jumeirah Group

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Kempinski Hotels

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Marriott International

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NH Hotels

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Starwood Hotels & Resorts

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Whitbread Plc

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Wyndham Worldwide

International Tourism Partnership brings hotel industry leaders and stakeholders together to discuss Labour Standards and Water Consumption

The International Tourism Partnership (ITP) led an industry first in early November bringing together some of the world’s largest hotel companies and not-for-profit organisations and specialists for a Stakeholder Dialogue Day.

The day was divided between two issues that stakeholders viewed as particular challenges for the industry – water consumption and labour standards. The discussion will help inform the future activity of the International Tourism Partnership and identify solutions as, with its members, ITP continues to lead the responsible business agenda in the hotel industry.

The event on November 6th, held at World Travel Market, was the result of over six months’ worth of stakeholder engagement including surveys sent to over 200 internal and external stakeholders to determine key issues and establish an initial materiality matrix. This led to follow up interviews with stakeholders and specialists to determine how the industry can make further progress on these issues and why. When issues were mapped in terms of stakeholder importance, Water Consumption and Labour Standards were second only to Health and Safety.

Stephen Farrant, Director of the International Tourism Partnership comments: "This event was a very successful first for ITP and for the hotel industry as a whole. It demonstrated the willingness of both the industry and its stakeholders to learn from and collaborate with each other, and also underlined the importance of ITP’s unique convening and facilitating abilities as we work with the industry to strive for continual improvement."

The Stakeholder Dialogue Day followed the Chatham House Rule to ensure an open and productive conversation. No presentations, no panels, no press; just open and honest facilitated discussion to identify solutions and establish how the industry can move collectively forward.

Alongside the International Tourism Partnership and the majority of its members, the following organisations were present on the day: Ethical Trading Initiative, Manchester Metropolitan University, Institute for Human Rights & Business, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, International Labor Orgaization, Kuoni, People 1st, Recruitment & Employment Confederation, Roundtable on Human Rights in Tourism/ Tourism Watch, Tourism Concern, TUI Travel, Unite (the union), CDP, Griffith University, Just a Drop, Kuoni, Overseas Development Institute, Responsible Tourism Partnership, Sealed Air, Tourism Concern, Trucost, Waterscan, WWF.

For more information go to International Tourism Partnership or see more articles about ITP on Green Hotelier

Stephen Farrant's GHN "On My Mind" column

ITP Director Stephen Farrant talks about YCI and the work of the International Tourism Partnership in the Global Hotel Network’s “On My Mind” column. Stephen explains how ITP drives positive change by going beyond “business as usual”.

The original article can be found here.

It is often said that unusual situations require unusual solutions. And it is a well-rehearsed argument that tackling major societal challenges requires unique forms of collaboration and innovation. Well, the business community certainly faces some uniquely challenging and complex issues over the coming years, as the realisation grows that “business as usual” will be insufficient to deal with what some describe as a perfect storm of social inequality, resource constraints and an increasingly unstable climate, all brought into sharp focus by growing media, consumer and regulatory pressure for business to be seen to “do the right thing.”

Core Business

The International Tourism Partnership (ITP) has been actively engaging the global hotel sector for over 20 years precisely to bring about positive change on both environmental and social impact. Our driving beliefs as a non-profit organisation are that collaboration is key to success, and that, far from making a choice between running a sustainable business and running a profitable business, the two go hand in hand and reinforce each other. ITP’s approach is to harness the energy, creativity and problem-solving capabilities of major companies who otherwise act as commercial competitors. Our focus is on the core business; sustainability has to be about how companies make their money, not how they give it away.

The Problem

A world in which, according to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), there are 73 million young people without work is certainly (and to say the very least) an “unusual situation,” one which brings with it major social and economic challenges that hamper growth and de-stabilise the customer base, supply chains and indeed the very destinations upon which the travel and tourism industry depends. Further, the ILO reminds us that young people are three times more likely to be out of work than adults, and warns of a “scarred generation.” The longer young people stay out of work, the greater the downward spiral and the harder it will be for them to find a job. But it is not as simple as just too many young people chasing too few jobs; often there is a real skills gap between what businesses need and what local candidates can offer. And yet, if there is good news to come from this alarming outlook, it is that the global hospitality industry is uniquely well placed to play a strong role in addressing youth unemployment and up-skilling young people in a wide range of dynamic, entry-level customer-service roles with good prospects for career progression. Leading hoteliers have their sights firmly fixed on aggressive expansion in many of the developing markets with the most pressing need for job creation and skills development.

The Solution

But as an industry we can do more than simply create entry level opportunities; we can transform lives for some of the most marginalised and vulnerable in society, and in so doing create a strong pipeline of new talent to power future growth, as well as engaging the existing workforce in a highly motivational and practical developmental opportunity that aids staff retention and job satisfaction. One great example of how this is already done within the industry is the Youth Career Initiative (YCI), a programme that ITP is proud to run in partnership with the hotel sector in 12 countries worldwide.

YCI is a six-month education programme that provides disadvantaged young people with life and work skills. The purpose is to empower young participants to make informed career choices and realise the options available to them, enabling them to improve their employability and enhance their long-term social and economic opportunities. Starting the programme with no realistic opportunity for legitimate employment, education or training, 85% of YCI graduates successfully enter the job market or move on into further training. On average, each graduate has an indirect positive impact on a further 4 family members.

YCI is made possible thanks to a unique partnership model, whereby participating full-service properties provide the human, operational and training resources to deliver the programme, and a local NGO partner identifies deserving candidates who can benefit from the programme, as well as helping to adapt the model to the context of the local market. Eligible candidates are typically aged between 18-21 years-old, have recently finished high school, are able to make a full-time commitment to the programme, and are considered to be at-risk of exploitation.

For example, meet Hadit from a conflict-ridden neighbourhood of San José, Costa Rica. Hadit’s parents divorced when she was 2 years old, she lost her sight in one eye when she was 12 and then became pregnant as a teenager. Now, thanks to YCI, she has been empowered to make her own positive career choices leading to financial security for her and her family.

Or Marius, who was born in prison in Romania where his mother was serving a custodial sentence, and whose early years were spent in the care of the child protection services and at an orphanage. Having graduated from YCI in 2007, Marius was immediately offered a job as a bar tender at the JW Marriott in Bucharest. “YCI was the most beautiful part of my life. For me, the programme was like a window that opened to society. It convinced me that you can realise whatever you want.”

Scaling Up

In 2013 YCI provided this type of transformational, life-changing opportunity for some 500 young people through its managed programmes. And yet it is abundantly clear that we can, and have to, do so much more. We cannot wait for Government schemes or the educational system to solve the problem. The business need and the societal need has never been greater, and the YCI model is highly scale-able. Which is why ITP has set about creating a new model to support the faster growth of the YCI programme in more locations around the world. Essentially a “franchised model,” we are currently testing this new approach (whereby YCI licences the brand to eligible hotel properties and provides the necessary toolkits for local delivery) in three locations. It is exciting to see our first ever franchised location go live in Dakar, Senegal, and we are planning launches in Atlanta and Budapest in the coming weeks. We will then review what has worked well, and improve and fine-tune what worked less well, before moving to a global roll-out.


How specifically do hotels benefit? Very simply, in three ways; by building a pipeline of highly motivated young people to work in the business, by improved staff retention and job satisfaction from the supervisors and teams who mentor the young participants, and by an enhanced “licence to operate” through one of the most tangible and effective demonstrations of a hotel’s positive impact on its local community. As Christopher Pike (GM of the Radisson Blu in Addis Ababa) says, “YCI perfectly dovetails with our Responsible Business programme. [The initiative] is a win-win for everyone: the trainees are offered a great future career opportunity and our hotel and Rezidor get access to dynamic new young talent.” Meanwhile, Peter Simson (Cluster General Manager of Hilton Hanoi Opera and Hilton Garden Inn Hanoi) says: “We fully support the Youth Career Initiative in creating employability for the country’s youth and we are honoured to be a part of this important project in Vietnam.” Sentiments echoed by Oussama Massoud, GM of the Crowne Plaza Amman, and Regional Manager for IHG: “We believe that it does not matter what your background is or what your perceived limitations are. As long as you have the drive, passion and dedication, you will do whatever it takes to achieve your goals and make your dream a reality. That’s why we are enthusiastic to be part of this great initiative that gives our youth the opportunity to learn and be members of the hospitality industry.”

So what are the magic ingredients that make the formula work? Fundamental are the passion, energy and leadership of the people involved, from the GM down, and a genuine desire to inspire the next generation. Equally important is a network that can help a hotel access deserving young people in your immediate vicinity. So if you have the will and the leadership to get involved, we have the expertise, the networks and the toolkits to help, and we would love to hear from you.

Unusual situations and unusual solutions; ITP continues to drive progress across the responsible business and sustainability agendas for the industry, whether on carbon measurement, supply chain, human trafficking or youth employment. And we are proud to partner with leaders in the global hotel sector, as we always have done, to turn good ideas into reality.

International Tourism Partnership: the hotels that are shaping the future of tourism

Take a look at ITP Director Stephen Farrant's latest interview with Blue & Green Tomorrow in advance of his participation in the eighth Responsible Tourism in Destinations (RTD8) conference in Manchester later this week. The original article can be found here.

There are thousands of them in every corner of the world and they are visited by hundreds of millions of people each year. Alex Blackburne speaks with Stephen Farrant, director of Business in the Community’s International Tourism Partnership, about making hotels agents of sustainable change.

After the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Brazil, the original Rio Earth Summit, a new initiative was launched to help hotels understand environmental issues. The International Hotels Environment Initiative, as it was called, soon became the International Tourism Partnership (ITP).

Twenty-two years on, it has 18 corporate members – including Hilton Worldwide, Four Seasons and Marriott – who collectively have over 23,500 hotels with more than 3.4m rooms in over 100 countries. It would be fair to say the partnership has come a long way.

The ITP forms part of the charity Business in the Community (BITC), which took over ownership of the initiative from the now-defunct International Business Leaders Forum in 2013.

For Stephen Farrant, who joined the ITP in 2009, the transition to BITC means the not-for-profit initiative now has a platform from which to grow and expand. As the environmental and socially responsible voice for the global hospitality industry (Farrant accepts the ITP’s name is a slight misnomer; it’s aimed specifically at hotels and not the wider tourism industry), its mission is to bring about practical collective action programmes and to advance conversations about sustainability.

A veteran of the travel and tourism industry for over two decades, Farrant has held senior roles at British Airways, VisitBritain and thinktank the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce). He explains that the ITP’s work is focused around highlighting and encouraging best practice in three main ways.

We take the premise that if we took the best-in-class and made it the norm tomorrow, we’d be half way there. So how can we take those great examples of innovation and best practice and get them out there and replicated? That’s the first strand of our work”, he says.

The second strand is looking at how members can actually ‘walk the talk’ through practical programmes that the industry can embed. And then the third area of our work is about shaping the sustainability agenda – putting things into the agenda that may not otherwise be there, creating a space within which our members initially and their stakeholders ultimately can start to build solutions where there are no solutions currently available.”

Farrant says that the majority of global hotel companies have their own sustainability programmes and initiatives. The cliché is the sign in the bathroom asking guests to “help save the planet” by making it clear their towels didn’t need washing. This particular practice even spawned the term ‘greenwash’  – now used to describe any green initiative that strikes more of marketing than genuine environmental responsibility, but initially used by the researcher Jay Westerveld in a 1986 essay about hotels doing exactly that.

What the ITP aims to do, however, is to lay out to its hotel members the benefits of collective action and collaboration. Farrant acknowledges that many customers may see the towel reuse sign and be left wondering whether that was the full extent of a hotel’s sustainability programme.

But three years ago, he says that the ITP and its members spotted something interesting about corporate customers and what they wanted from their stays.

Corporate customers are increasingly looking for credible and comparable information from the hotel sector around its environmental footprint, most specifically on carbon.The gap was that each hotel company was speaking a different language, measuring its carbon impact in a different way, and so the corporate customer was then comparing apples and oranges”, he explains.

We brought together 23 global hotel companies to create what we called the Hotel Carbon Measurement Initiative (HCMI). This was really a way of saying we need to standardise how these companies measure what your particular carbon impact is as a customer.

The HCMI is co-ordinated by the ITP jointly with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC). Over 17,000 hotels globally have so far adopted its methodology – which Farrant describes as a “significant achievement”.

Carbon is clearly just one aspect and Farrant lists many more – including what major hotel groups are doing on youth employment. He also says, for example, how many hotels based in Asia are moving to ban shark fin soup from their menus, which despite having significant cultural value in certain countries, brings with it serious animal welfare and ecological concerns.

But more than just being a sustainable industry that is aware of its environmental and social footprint, the global hotel world has the potential to significantly change consumer behaviour.

Farrant says, “If your activities when you’re in a hotel are not dissimilar from when you’re at home in terms of the range of things that you’re doing, it’s about how you can positively educate and influence customers.”

He picks out the example of Sheraton – part of the Starwood group – which rewards guests with $5 vouchers to use in its facilities for each night they decline housekeeping services. It also encourages people to cut their resource usage, stating that the 37.2 gallons of water a guest uses on an average night is enough “for one person to drink almost two cups per day for a year”.

That said, part of the difficulty, and something most of us have been guilty of, is people exploiting the facilities when they’re staying in hotels – leaving lights on, running lots of water, and so on. While a budget hotel may have a case for their customer acting in a more environmentally sustainable way, it becomes more difficult when the hotel in question has four or five stars. Farrant says that in this situation, rather than limiting customers’ options, hotels are keener to do more behind the scenes.

At an event in Manchester later this week, the eighth Responsible Tourism in Destinations (RTD8) conference, Farrant is taking part in a panel discussion on how to effectively respond to key sustainability challenges. He is optimistic about the future of the hotel industry and sustainable tourism more generally.

He concludes, “We’re actively engaged with the hospitality sector to try and take some concrete, positive steps forward. We’re getting commercial competitors to choose to collaborate on social and environmental issues. That is a very powerful driving force for change, because they don’t want to be outside of that group. They want to be engaged, they want to be ahead of the pack and they want to be demonstrating that they’re among the best in shaping the future of the industry.”

For the full agenda at RTD8 (April 3-5) and more information on how to attend this essential event, see here.

Green fatigue: How the sustainability agenda needs a makeover

It’s time, says ITP Director Stephen Farrant, for the hospitality industry to re-think, reformulate and re-energize the message we send the world about our sustainability efforts. In the future, we must move away from our current "compliance mentality" and argue why more risk-taking and innovation are justified. Read on for Stephen's article in the latest edition of the Hotel Yearbook.

Call it what you like Call it what you like: corporate responsibility, sustainability, the green economy or responsible business; has the overall movement reached a crossroads? Have claims of “green” and corporate responsibility reports become so commonplace as to leave you, whether as an industry professional or as a consumer, feeling somewhat underwhelmed? If so, you are probably not alone, even if, like me, you sign up to its fundamental importance for our shared futures. Is the prevailing risk management culture across all sectors stifling the very creativity and innovation needed to step outside of “business as usual” (which we all know won’t meet the
challenges of the future) and develop new business models? Rather than every organization having a risk management policy, do we need to start developing risk-taking policies? So where next for this agenda, both within hospitality and across the business community more generally?

The CEOs have spoken

A recent report published by the UN Global Compact and Accenture, based on the views of over a thousand CEOs on sustainability, made tough reading for many. The report pointed to a growing belief that business was not currently structured in a way that was able to meet the immensity of the development challenges (from environmental sustainability to labour standards and human rights), and that greater government leadership was required. The CEOs also highlighted the need for increased collaboration and innovation in order to make faster progress on the responsible business agenda. And yet the trend within many businesses over recent
years has been to embed the sustainability and “corporate responsibility” agendas to such a degree that the focus has tended to shift from that of change agent towards internal compliance and risk management. At its best, the green movement should be a relentless, innovative force for continual improvement. This becomes all the more important as the world struggles to reach new global agreements on climate change (to replace the Kyoto treaty) and also the so-called “post 2015” UN-led development goals.

As we look ahead to an increasingly resource-constrained world, the business case will become as much about business continuity as “license to operate” or simply the right thing to do. Critically, there is clear evidence that the market for more responsible products and services is a growing one. This is where language becomes so important; if “green,” “responsible” and “sustainable” can be more clearly linked to well-established notions of quality, they would chime in with the prevailing consumer Zeitgeist and appeal more directly to the needs and aspirations of Generation Y. So the pitch needs to be made to both head and heart; no numbers without stories, and no stories without numbers, because the new generation of environmentally aware and ethically conscious consumers buy solutions to problems, not simply isolated

What does this mean for hospitality?

Hospitality certainly has a good story to tell on local economic development and job creation, crucial in a time of global youth unemployment. The sector has a great opportunity to help bridge the skills gap that is stopping more young people from entering the workforce. At a time when the global business community is struggling to find sustainable growth, job opportunities for young people and better resource utilization, it is worth noting that the travel and tourism industry is expected to grow an average of 4% annually over the next ten years, according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC), and that by 2022, the industry will account for 1 in every 10 jobs on the planet. A more responsible travel and tourism sector will mean a more sustainable world for the future.

But we can’t focus exclusively on this

To some extent the hotel industry has been “under the radar” in terms of some of the big issues of the day. Airlines have been in the front line on carbon, banks have been under the spotlight for bonuses and their social purpose, household names such as Amazon and Starbucks have taken the flak on taxation. But in the year ahead, the hotel sector needs to argue its case more coherently against any suggestions that it is in any way a discretionary activity. In a heavily resource and carbon-constrained world, would governments prioritize energy and food production over hotels and tourism? It is likely that increasing extreme weather events (witness, in recent months alone, bushfires in Australia, Hurricane Sandy in North America, Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines) will continue to influence consumer sentiment. In any case, regulation is coming. For example, from October 2013 the new UK Companies Act requires corporations to report not just on social impacts but also to outline the environmental impacts of a company’s business, including disclosure on greenhouse gas emissions. Other jurisdictions are expected to follow.
So, as an industry, we need a more coherent narrative on resource utilization and energy efficiency, alongside the well-rehearsed arguments on employment.

So where will this take us next?

The opportunity to drive real competitive advantage is there for us all to seize. And yet, within that competitive space, the whole industry has a collective interest in ensuring that “green” and “sustainable” become aspirational for customers, as well as drivers of continual improvement for business. Over time, that is likely to take the leaders in the industry to shift the focus from incremental reduction targets to describing “net positive impact,” from low-carbon to carbon-positive hotels, from water efficiency to water stewardship, from entry level jobs to career paths of choice, from community engagement to measurable social value.
Embedding the movement within “business as usual” compliance or risk management functions won’t get us there; creativity, innovation, risk-taking – and anticipating the needs of tomorrow’s marketplace – most certainly will.



Environmental Management for Hotels

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Youth Career Initiative

A six-month education programme that provides disadvantaged young people with life and work skills.