As part of our series of interviews, we were lucky enough to speak to Don Lau, Assistant Vice President of Global Group & Event Sales at The Shangri-La Group, to hear his thoughts on sustainability, the hospitality industry and future hotel trends.

Today, we’ll be talking about the Shangri-La group itself and what they’re doing to safeguard the world around them whilst maintaining a luxury, industry-leading product and experience.

Sustainability in the hospitality industry_safeguarding the world

you have properties in some of the most beautiful and pristine environments in the world, within the Shangri-La Group—what are you doing to protect biodiversity and safeguard the environment in these places?

Shangri-La is privileged to operate in some of the most beautiful and ecologically diverse regions of the world and we believe we have a responsibility to protect these pristine environments. Under our Sanctuary—Care for Nature programme, our hotels and resorts are working with local communities, governments, and non-governmental organizations to protect and conserve biodiversity and habitats in their destinations. As a Group, we have invested more than US$50,000 to protect more than 50 species that are at risk of extinction, planted 200 mangroves and corals, and placed more than 500 fish houses.  Alongside our signature Sanctuary programme, our hotels are also initiating many measures to protect the environment, such as organizing tree plantings, beach clean ups, and participating in events such as Earth Hour.

has it been difficult to implement sustainable measures whilst maintaining a luxury product?

It certainly requires more forethought, but we think our hotels prove that sustainability and luxury are not mutually exclusive. Shangri-La Asia Limited was the first hotel group to be recognised by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) Asia Pacific index component, and has been assigned the coveted “A” rating as a constituent of the Hang Seng Corporate Sustainability Index Series. We are also a signatory to the United Nations Global Compact. We have achieved all these sustainability accolades while continuing to provide luxury products and heartfelt Asian hospitality to our guests.

Sustainable practices and CSR activities_engaging with the local communities

what are Shangri-La Group’s sustainability goals, and at present, is the group on track to meet them?

Shangri-La is committed to operating in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable manner while balancing the interests of diverse stakeholders in order to make a positive impact on our local communities in every location. We strive to be leaders in corporate citizenship and sustainable development, holding ourselves accountable to international standards to serve as good stewards of society and the environment. Our Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Framework is underpinned by strong corporate governance, with emphasis on material topics for our business and our stakeholders organized into four pillars: Our Business, Our Communities, Our Environment and Our People. We are focusing on those significant aspects and get targets and KPIs for our departments to follow, the progress is going fine and on track.

have you experienced any challenges when implementing new sustainable practices?

The Shangri-La Group now manages over 100 hotels in 76 destinations. This means that when implementing new sustainable practices, we have to navigate a wide range of international and local laws and regulations while respecting local cultural practices and operational norms. Trying to find and implement new practices that are globally applicable and practical requires immense research and coordination. So we do have to allow some flexibility for some of our hotels to implement our measures in a manner that fits their particular situation. For example, we are beginning to implement in-room filtration taps to provide hot and cold water on demand or supply refillable water bottles in guest rooms. But not all our hotels have the ability to host the necessary water treatment facilities and technologies for this, so they have to find other solutions.

Implementing sustainable practices_care for the environment

are the new sustainability practices you’re implementing being well received?

In 2019, Shangri-La introduced a plastic reduction roadmap for eliminating unnecessary consumption of single-use plastic items in our hotels. While combating plastic waste continues to be a high priority for our ESG strategy, hygiene and safety considerations had to precede in 2020 in light of the risks posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic. Across the group, 14 properties have switched to serving in-room water in glass bottles and mugs rather than disposable plastic containers, with more than 20,000 plastic bottles and toiletry bottles saved per year.