The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, a company with 150 years of history committed to delivering the highest standards of luxury, puts sustainability at the heart of the company’s business model and brand with its Sustainable Luxury Vision 2020. We asked Peter Borer, Chief Operating Officer of The Peninsula Hotels for his thoughts on sustainability and how he ‘walks the talk’.
Do travellers care about sustainability?
In general, we believe travellers want to be associated with companies that do the right thing. In our experience, they definitely care about sustainability and this is expressed in a variety of concerns – for example energy/water savings, caring for the community, and safe and responsible sourcing. Throughout our long history of more than 150 years, we have had a strong commitment to doing the responsible thing for the environment, and our communities.
Is the hotel industry really serious about addressing sustainability?
I believe so. Our hotels and properties have been hard at work implementing our commitment to sustainability through our Sustainable Luxury Vision 2020. It represents our ambitious plan to create a new vision for sustainable luxury, and ensures that our Company will continue to succeed and have a positive influence on our guests, our staff and our local communities for decades to come. We realize that we need to work in collaboration with the industry if we are to have real and lasting impact. For example, we are a member of the International Tourism Partnership, which is brings together some of the hotel industry players seeking to work collaboratively on sustainability issues such as environmental and social issues.
What do you see as the leading trends in sustainability for the hotel industry?
As I said earlier, collaboration has been a trend we’ve seen in the past few years in the hotel industry. We cannot solve sustainability issues as one company on its own. For example, we’ve seen more benchmarking and sharing of best practices and ideas amongst different hotel companies. We are learning from and with each other which I hope means we can avoid earlier pitfalls and lead to more successes on the sustainability front.
What bothers you most within the sustainability discussion?
Sustainability as a concept is not easily understood and yet it touches our lives on a daily basis and supports people’s quality of life not only for today but also for the future. There is a need for us to better articulate the concept of sustainability so that we can all work together to find effective solutions. Everyone will need to play their part.
What do you see as the biggest urgency for the planet?
The impacts of a changing climate and the sustainable use of natural resources (water, energy, etc.) are urgent issues. On climate change, we are already aware of the changing climate – whether it is through heat waves or unusual flooding or rainfall. We have seen governments collaborating on an international scale and we welcome their leadership and policy direction on this issue. It is important that businesses, like ours find ways to do our part, whether it is through reducing our energy use, and such. As well as working on the resilience and protection of our assets on these events. As for natural resources, we already know that nature cannot replenish itself as quickly as we take from it, and therefore, we need to be mindful on how we use these resources so that we are able to have enough not only for today but for future generations to come.
What legacy would you like to leave behind from your leadership?
I am very proud of the success that our company has met over the past few decades and it is not about one person but the totality of the achievement. I hope that along the way I have been able to inspire some of the energetic young people who I have had the pleasure of seeing grow up with the company. This is the most gratifying part of my job.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
My family has been engaged in the hotel business for many years and so from an early age I was surrounded in this exciting world of hospitality- so I am probably one of the few people that can say that I grew up to be what I wished for as a child!
Which is your favourite hotel, apart from your own, and why?
I recently had the pleasure of staying at The Royal Malewane in South Africa. I found the experience very humbling to be in an environment where you are sharing the space with animals in a very natural way. It certainly puts human nature in perspective. In addition, due to their unique location they have had to adapt their operation to be almost completely sustainable and I was most impressed with some of the initiatives they have undertaken to achieve this.
Give us an example of how you, in your personal life, walk the talk?
I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that life has afforded me. Unfortunately, we live in a turbulent world and those of us who do not need to worry about where we will sleep each night or where our next meal will come from must be eternally grateful as there are innumerable people in the world who do not have this sense of security. Each of us who has the security of these basic human needs must do a part, no matter how small, to help.
The Peninsula Hotels in Chicago, Tokyo, Hong Kong, Bangkok, New York and Paris achieved EarthCheck Silver Certified status in 2015.
A dedicated team at each hotel worked together with EarthCheck to provide data and information on its practices in order to be benchmarked against EarthCheck’s standards which addressed a range of issues, including environmental impact, occupational health and safety, risk management and corporate social reporting. EarthCheck is an environmental management and advisory company which operates in over 70 countries across 32 industry sectors and their three-tiered rating of Bronze, Silver and Gold status is premised on the belief that effective benchmarking over time puts rigor and transparency into business processes, benefitting all stakeholders for the long term.