The InterContinental Hotel Group’s Forward-Thinking Environmental Initiatives

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Chef Marcelo Pinheiro, InterContinental São Paulo
Chef Marcelo Pinheiro, InterContinental São Paulo

Chef Marcelo Pinheiro makes the hike to InterContinental São Paulo’s Rooftop Green Garden just about every day. The rooftop marks the spot where all of the herbs used in Tarsila Restaurant’s French-Brazilian cuisines are grown and harvested. And although it’s not a particularly long or arduous journey for Pinheiro, it’s one that is making large strides in corporate social responsibility.

The garden is just one way that the InterContinental Hotel Group (IHG) is walking the talk on sustainability. Last year, more than 16,000 green solutions were implemented across 4,500 hotels globally—serving food and drink with china plates, cups and glasses, harnessing natural light in meeting spaces and using occupancy sensors in restrooms are some of the smaller gestures that are already reaping big rewards.

Between 2012 and 2013, IHG reduced their overall carbon imprint and water use by 2.4 and 4.6 percent, respectively, per occupied room. They’re on track to reach a 12 percent reduction in both categories by 2017. Research shows 70 percent of frequent travelers prefer to stay at hotels that are engaged with their environment, making these stats an impressive feat.

“We view CSR as a mandate and a duty,” remarks Paula Casas, IHG’s marketing manager for Mexico, Latin America & Caribbean. “It’s a combination of avoiding the unnecessary use of resources, coupled with maximizing the process of reusing and recycling materials—especially in parts of the world where the environmental process is newer.”

Casas says the Sãn Paulo hotel is launching an ambitious food composting program this year to further offset environmental impact. The initiative gives momentum to Green Engage, which corrals over 2,600 of IHG’s hotels into a singular sustainable mindset. IHG is currently the only hotel to launch such a comprehensive environmental management system for their hotels—more than this, it’s working.

Overall hotel and resort energy consumption has dropped 25 percent since launching Green Engage. It goes way beyond recycling, reusing table linens and menu planning into a world of forward-thinking design initiatives that assess suitable building sites and biodiversity risks. Perfectly on cue, technology is also helping to propel the sustainability message forward.

In InterContinental Sãn Paulo’s lobby and just outside its meeting rooms, screens are relaying event schedules in dynamic, earth-friendly ways. Before getting down to business, planners can calculate the carbon footprint of their meetings with IHG’s greenhouse gas emission calculator.

“The reality that we need to help preserve our environment is not a theory, it is a cold reality,” asserts Casas. “Sustainability is as much about working to not generate more waste as it is about ideas of what to do once the waste is created.”

Sustainability is also facilitated through connections that are built between people and their environments. With IHG’s Insider Collection, groups are plunged into insider locations, speakers, community projects and interactions and breaks throughout the worlds. Whether dining in Winston Churchill’s war time bunker, learning how to prepare the famed Brazilian dessert Brigadeiro, cleaning up the River Thames or entering the shadowy world of British espionage during an in-depth tour of the top spy places, it’s easy for planners to get in sync with IHG’s mission.

“We can’t continue to do things the way they have been done in the past,” Casas says. “We are way past viewing sustainability as a trend.”

Thankfully, getting in stride with going green is easy enough:

If at first you don’t succeed, try composting. 

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