Katie Taylor, Four Seasons

Position - President and Chief Executive Officer

Background

Katie Taylor, Four Seasons' top executive, began her illustrious career with the company in 1989, having completed a law degree and MBA. Working up through corporate planning and development, she became President, Worldwide Business Operations in 1999, and was made President and Chief Operating Officer in 2007, one of her proudest professional achievements, along with jump-starting Four Seasons into the Asian market. In August 2010, Katie was appointed President and CEO, heading up the Four Seasons portfolio of more than 80 hotels and resorts, with 50 new properties in development. She is director of the Royal Bank of Canada and chairs many community projects, including hospitals for sick children. Katie is married with three children.

Katie discusses Four Seasons

To celebrate our important 50th birthday, we wanted to honour the values that have been the foundation of our success. Four Seasons has always striven to have a long, lasting and positive influence on the communities where we operate, and the people we employ and serve around the world.

This philosophy has been carried throughout our journey from a single motor hotel in Toronto to more than 80 properties in 34 countries. It is expressed consistently by our employees through actions in our three areas of focus: supporting sustainability, building communities and advancing cancer research.

Although Four Seasons’ commitment to our values is the oldest part of our story, it’s one that has never really been told. That’s why we decided to build a new website called Living Values. Through the site, we’re showing how our more than 35,000 dedicated and passionate employees are giving back to our communities.

For Four Seasons, being a good corporate citizen is more than a policy or programme. It defines who we are and the decisions we make. We have always been guided by the golden rule—to treat others as we’d like to be treated. This philosophy inspires every interaction with our guests, employees and business partners, and with each other.

Giving back to the community is something that Four Seasons employees have always done. Guided by our shared values, each hotel has the ability to develop initiatives and activities that demonstrate their commitment to these values in a way that makes sense locally. There are countless examples of this on the Living Values site, and many efforts were born or continued through the economic downturn.
For example, the Haiti earthquake of January 2010 occurred at what some might call the height of the economic crisis. Still, our employees worldwide raised more than CDN $319,000 for earthquake victims. And our contribution to Doctors Without Borders was the largest single donation ever received from a Canadian company. Life doesn’t stop to wait for the economy to catch up, and neither do we. Working individually, as a company, and as a partner, we’ve made a tremendous impact.

When you operate a multinational company, the world becomes a lot smaller. Events across the globe suddenly feel like they are happening in your backyard. The recent earthquake and tsunami in Japan hit particularly close to home because of our properties in Tokyo and our countless Japanese colleagues and loyal guests. But just as we reacted to the crisis in Haiti, employees are rallying together to raise money for relief efforts. Donations have been pouring in from our hotels around the world, and will be directed to the Red Cross.

The activities in which we express our values have evolved more over the 50 years than our commitment itself. As we enter new regions and cultures, we are presented with different opportunities to give back. Education is a big focus for us and is a common thread throughout our activities. In Mumbai, for example, we launched an apprenticeship programme to provide local youth with more career opportunities. We have a similar scheme in the Maldives, too.

Four Seasons also supports the International Business Leaders Forum’s Youth Career Initiative, which provides young participants with life and vocational skills in the hospitality industry in 11 countries worldwide. Some of the graduates from the programme in Jordan were hired to work at our hotel in Amman.

In addition, more and more of our properties are offering guests the opportunity to give back to the local community. For example, at our resort in Costa Rica, guests can paint schools, sponsor a family or donate backpacks to schoolchildren. In Golden Triangle, Thailand, our guests can adopt rescued elephants and help support those who care for them. We are building on these opportunities and we’ll be launching a special programme in the summer.

And what about the next 50 years? Well, we have plans in the works that will keep us busy over the next few years—to say the least. On Earth Day, Four Seasons launched a new initiative called 10 Million Trees. As its name suggests, we are making a long-term commitment to plant 10 million trees. This is our biggest sustainability initiative to date, and one in which all our employees will be involved. For 50 years our logo has depicted the annual cycle of a tree and now its symbolism will translate into concrete action. This will have a lasting and positive impact for generations to come.

 

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