Peninsula’s vision for sustainable luxury
Natalie Chan has been the Director of Corporate
Responsibility and Sustainability at The Hong Kong and Shanghai Hotels, Limited
since 2011. She leads the Group’s global strategy on corporate responsibility
and sustainability. With a passion for corporate responsibility and
sustainability issues, she drives the Group’s long term vision for sustainable
EarthCheck sat down with Natalie and discussed the publication of
the Group’s Sustainability Report and their Sustainable Luxury Vision 2020. We
investigated Peninsula’s unique approach to combining sustainability and
luxury, as well as sustainability choices, such as their 2011 decision to ban
shark fin from all its properties globally.
EarthCheck (EC): Sustainability means different things to
different people. What does it mean to Peninsula?
Natalie Chan (NC): Our philosophy towards sustainability
really centres on business sustainability. Our approach itself is encapsulated
in our vision statement for Sustainable Luxury in 2020. We aspire to deliver
the highest standard of luxury in a sustainable way, and we aspire to grow
responsibly and sustainably.
We want to integrate our sustainability principles and
practices into every aspect of our operations. That is why our vision for 2020
covers a range of topics, from guest experience to governance and management.
They are all aspects of how we run a business.
EC: In terms of how that approach is integrated across your
business, what are the key sustainability initiatives for the Peninsula group?
NC: In our
sustainability report we have highlighted the different initiatives that we
have been undertaking. The report covers many areas and the actions discussed
will help integrate sustainability into our daily work.
For instance, Governance and management is an important area
that lays the foundation of our work. The Group takes great care in planning
for sustainability. Our initiatives are not after thoughts. As part of
governance and management, we have a corporate responsibility budget planner
that helps all operations to include sustainability programmes in the annual
budgetary process. This way, we make sure that the right budget is put in
There are lots of individual initiatives. For instance, The
Peninsula Tokyo has managed to use silica particles from volcanic rock that are
found in Japan in their water filtration system. In a year, they saved around
5,000 bathtubs of water.
EC: Another of your initiatives is called ‘Ambassadors for
Good’. Could you tell us more about it?
NC: The Ambassadors for Good program is a training program
designed to engage staff. To deliver our vision for 2020 we need everyone in
the organisation to understand the challenges that sustainability presents for
our company, for the community and for the planet. The objective of Ambassadors
for Good is to ensure that staff can act sustainably within their own sphere of
influence. That is, within their work, community and home.
EC: Natalie, we know that in 2011 the Group made a decision
to ban shark fin. How do you approach ethical sourcing and interactions with
your supply chain?
NC: Well, we are aware that our procurement decisions have a
direct impact on the environment and the communities where our products
originate. An example of how we influence supply chain is our decision to
switch all paper products used in our operations to certified sustainable
sources, such as FSC, by 2017. This is to ensure that we work with suppliers
who share our values in conserving the world’s forest and forest biodiversity.
In the major room renovation at The Peninsula Hong Kong, we
partnered with contractors who were certified by ISO 14001 and OHSAS 18001
because these contractors share our values of environmental management, and
health and safety management.
Another example is responsible sourcing on products. In
November 2011, we were the first international hotel chain to put a ban on
shark fin. We enforced this policy from January 2012.
EC: Considering your food and beverage clientele, that was a
very early move. What was the key driver for the change?
NC: We had been looking at this issue for a long time. There
was already enough awareness and desire within our organisation to act on this
issue. But because we are in the service industry, we had to ensure that guests
shared the sentiment. With our sustainability team acted as facilitators, we
engaged external organisations and analysed the trend. Then, thanks to our
management team, a definitive decision was made. The positive response to this
move was overwhelmingly.
EC: In terms of sustainable sourcing and your supply chain,
I noticed in your sustainability report that you introduced a new collection of
bathroom amenities. Are you passionate about introducing these sustainable
NC: I could go on and on about our operation teams’ great
work in introducing sustainable products! The one you mentioned, our new
bathroom amenities were produced in partnership with Oscar de la Renta launched
last September. It is a bespoke product that really embodies the Peninsula
spirit of thoughtfulness towards every single detail. It’s carefully crafted to
contain no sodium lauryl sulphate which is a chemical found to promote hair
loss. We also made sure that the packaging was not only beautiful but also
recyclable and FSC-certified.
EC: We get a sense of leadership from Peninsula; you are
very committed to sustainability. How do you think that reflects on other
NC: I can’t speak for other organisations. But, for
Peninsula, sustainability is a way of life going forwards. We don’t look at
luxury and sustainability separately; rather we strive to create a new paradigm
of sustainable luxury. We want to deliver luxurious experiences to our guests
in sustainable ways.
You can see the commitment to this vision in our report.
Last year we launched the commitment that 100% of paper used had to come from
certified sources. All our teams worked hard to see this through and, by the
end of 2013, more than 50% of our products are switched over.
EC: Do you think there is one topic in sustainability that
people tend to focus on?
NC: I think that, in terms of macro-trends, climate change,
population growth and water stress are recognised as global challenges. I don’t
think that one issue is more important than another; they are all very
significant and interrelated.
EC: You have many destinations across the globe. When you
visit these regions, do you notice a generic theme? Are people talking in the
same language about the same topics?
NC: While we might expect different regions would focus on
different concerns, we have found that there are much commonality among them.
Many of these sustainability challenges are global. They transcend continents
and economies. The only variations are to do with areas where one issue is
taking precedence. For instance, California is experiencing water stress here
and now. It isn’t a future problem for them.
Within the framework of our Sustainable Luxury Vision 2020
we are educating our staff around the world about sustainability issues that
will resonate with them. By working on these issues collectively, we aim to
build long term good practice and to help contribute to the long term
sustainability of the local communities we are living within.
EC: Natalie, Peninsula is a prestigious brand with the
ability to work with a variety of certification groups. Why did you decide to
partner with EarthCheck?
NC: Our Sustainable Luxury Vision 2020 and EarthCheck have
closely aligned values and missions. EarthCheck is a holistic program that
complements our work.
EarthCheck complements our internal management and
governance process by ensuring that we have systems in place to manage
You provide the benchmarking report that allows us to
measure ourselves against our peers, while our internal reporting process
benchmarks our individual hotel’s performance within the HSH Group. Your
benchmarking gives us a reference for where we can improve. EarthCheck provides
valuable resources to support our commitment to sustainable practices.
EC: Was it easy to go through the EarthCheck process?
NC: Nothing is easy! The level of luxury service we deliver
is not easy. It is through determination and looking at ways to making things
happen that we achieve.
EC: How does Peninsula approach guest engagement? Will you
make compromise for sustainability concerns?
NC: For us at The Peninsula, it’s not about compromising or
making a display for our guests, but about serving our guests. We are here to
offer the highest standard of luxury experience to our guests, but we see it as
our responsibility to continually look for better ways – the most sustainable
ways possible – to do so. We see helping our guests take care of their
sustainability impact as part of the luxury experience that we bring to our
EC: One thing we are starting to see is the recognition of
community and neighbourhood experience, as well as hotel experience. Do you see
guest engagement destinations as a focus?
NC: Our guests come to experience our hotels and the iconic
cities where we are based. That’s why we put a lot of effort into the local
heritage and local culture. Part of the Vision 2020 is engaging guests in terms
of preserving the local heritage. We use the Peninsula Academy programs to
raise awareness of local traditional practice and culture.
EC: One last question, Natalie. How do you feel about the
future? Do you feel hope for sustainability?
NC: I think that we are facing a lot of challenging issues.
Yet, we look into the future and we feel hopeful, because of the commitment we
have and the support of our management board and staff all around the world.
This is hugely encouraging. In the last few years, as we have put in different
frameworks and initiatives, we have seen changing attitudes. People are
embracing the concept of sustainable luxury.
We are very positive about going into the future where we
will embrace sustainable luxury and raise the bar for our environmental, social
and economic performance.