Travel companies have for years focused on green, sustainable
tourism programs and social responsibility, not just because they were
considered the right things to focus on but because they make good business
sense. But increasingly, those same qualities are also seen as key to
recruiting both guests and employees, particularly millennials.
A key bit of evidence could be found in Hilton's
announcement last week of an aggressive new program to follow the Paris
Agreement by cutting its environmental footprint in half. It also pledged to
double its social impact investments by 2030.
The program underscores the importance Hilton places on
corporate social responsibility in recruiting and retaining millennial
"Today's labor pool is a challenging labor pool,"
said Max Verstraete, Hilton's vice president of corporate responsibility. At
present, he said, half of Hilton's 380,000 workers around the globe are
"These younger generations, they want their employers
to do the right thing," Verstraete said.
"They are more likely to stay with a company that is
doing the right thing. They are more likely to stay and to be engaged. This is
a very important business reason for doing these things."
A number of recent research reports underscore just how
important corporate social responsibility is in the minds of young workers.
The 2016 Cone Communications Millennial Employee Engagement
Study found that 76% of millennials consider a company's social and
environmental commitments when deciding where to work. Nearly two-thirds, or
64%, said they would not take a job with a company that lacks strong corporate
social responsibility programs.
And the just-released seventh annual Millennial Survey from
Deloitte suggests those feelings are only growing stronger, finding that
millennials have become more skeptical overall of the motivations and ethical
practices of the business world.
Deloitte global CEO Punit Renjen said the results should "be
a wake-up call to leaders everywhere. These cohorts feel business leaders have
placed too high a premium on their companies' agendas without considering their
contributions to society at large. Businesses need to identify ways in which
they can positively impact the communities they work in and focus on issues
like diversity, inclusion and flexibility if they want to earn the trust and
loyalty of millennial and Gen Z workers."
In unveiling its plan, Hilton said it will become the first
major hotel chain to release science-based targets for reducing carbon
emissions. At the same time, it will double its investment in global
initiatives such as sourcing from local and minority-owned suppliers and
programs to empower women and young people.
The company also set targets for banning plastic straws and
water bottles and sending zero soap to landfills.
As part of the announcement, Hilton released results of a
May survey of 72,000 Hilton guests that found social, environmental and ethical
considerations are central to their buying preferences, particularly among
travelers under 25.
Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said, "For nearly 100
years, Hilton has been driven by our mission to have a positive impact on the
communities surrounding our hotels. In this golden age of travel, we are taking
a leadership role to ensure that the destinations where travelers work, relax,
learn and explore are vibrant and resilient for generations of adventurers yet
Hilton's program, called 2030 Commitments, follows a call in
April by Nassetta as chairman of the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) to
commit to following the Paris Climate Agreement and incorporate its objectives
into actionable science-based targets.
Since President Trump last year announced the U.S.
withdrawal from the accord, more than 2,700 governments, companies and groups
have signed on to a "We are Still in Movement," committing to the
Paris Agreement despite the official withdrawal.
The list of signatories is impressive and includes a number
of global companies. But other than Lindblad Expeditions, Vail Resorts and
several smaller ski companies and resorts, the travel industry, including
Hilton, is largely absent.
Still, Nassetta was applauded for standing behind his
commitment at WTTC to lead by example.
"The World Tourism Organization
(UNWTO) commends Hilton's focus on sustainability, which is
in line with our overall commitment as the U.N.'s agency that is dedicated to
promoting sustainable tourism for development worldwide," said Zurab
Pololikashvili, secretary-general of the
UNWTO. "Hilton has been our partner in this endeavor,
raising awareness among customers with examples of best practices for the
Sheila Bonini, senior vice president for private-sector
engagement at the World Wildlife Fund, said companies "play an integral
role in solving our climate crisis. By committing to significant-intensity
emissions reductions based on science, Hilton is setting in motion a plan that
will have ripple effects across the hospitality industry while providing more
sustainable options for travelers."
Hilton didn't put a price tag on the initiative, although
Verstraete said the company's current investment in the social programs alone
is in the tens of millions of dollars.
As for energy-saving programs, he said hotel owners long ago
learned they were well worth the return on investment, revealing that Hilton
estimates that cumulative energy, water and waste efficiency programs have
saved the hotels and the company more than $1 billion since 2008