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Symbolised by its ‘Namaste’ logo, ITC Hotels integrated India’s tradition of hospitality with globally benchmarked services. With a string of firsts to its credit, ITC Hotels pioneered the concepts of branded accommodation, branded cuisine, environment and guest safety.
The company is considered an exemplar in sustainable hospitality with all its premium hotels being LEED® Platinum certified. Their brand tagline is ‘Responsible luxury’. They take their corporate responsibility seriously and as one of India’s leading corporations, ITC Hotels seeks to fulfil a larger role by growing its contribution to society. The trusteeship role relating to social and environmental resources, aligned with its economic objectives, is the cornerstone of its Environment, Health & Safety philosophy for which it has won many awards and accolades. Green Hotelier interviewed Mr. Anand about ITC’s commitment to sustainability.
GH: Why is sustainability important to you and ITC hotels?
NA: ITC is the only company in the world of its size to have accomplished and sustained the environmental achievements of being carbon positive (seven years), water positive (ten years) and solid waste recycling positive (five years).
Our achievements in the environmental and social dimensions of the triple bottom line have been remarkable, garnering us global recognition like the ‘World Business and Development Award 2012’ at the Rio+20 United Nations summit.
So for ITC Hotels, integrating sustainable and ethical practices came naturally as it was embedded in our DNA; our lineage demanded a triple bottom line(economic, social and environmental) approach to business.
GH: Do you feel it’s especially important in India? In what ways do you feel sustainability is viewed differently in India from other countries?
NA: Sustainability is a global agenda, and the global footprint is far too large to be ignored. All stakeholders need to join forces to ensure a planet positive approach and learning must be shared on a global platform.
In the case of India alone, we’ve made a lot of progress. We’re the world’s 5th largest wind power producer (5th largest installed capacity – 21136.3 mw) which is a formidable achievement considering that we started generating wind power only in the 1990s.
If you look at the ITC Hotels' journey, it’s been over five years now since we installed the world’s first solar paraboloid concentrator atop ITC Maurya in New Delhi. It was our first initiative towards bio mimicry (mimicking the sunflower) resulting in savings of 13 litres of diesel per hour for eight hours, ten months a year (since we are a sun drenched country). As a result of this we’ve eliminated the mining of coal, transportation, and reduced water consumption.
So yes, I would say India has indeed come a long way.
GH: Have you noticed a greater trend to sustainability in the hospitality sector in India? What would you like to see people do more of?
NA: India is setting the trend in many ways. ITC Hotels has demonstrated that with the largest number of LEED Platinum certified hotels in the world (ten properties) and this is just one of the manifestations of our ‘responsible luxury’ approach to our business.
Use of all natural resources has to be reduced and for that to happen we need to have a collaborative approach.
GH: What are the biggest sustainability challenges facing the sector at the moment?
NA: To me, the water crisis is staring us in the face. Catchment areas are not receiving adequate rain and in times of crisis the worst hit are hotels. Just in Mumbai alone there has been a 30% reduction in supply to hotels by the municipal corporation.
Having said that, at ITC Hotels we’ve reduced our water consumption by 55% over the last 5 years and in continuation of our responsible luxury endeavours, set-up our own bottling plant as a pilot project in New Delhi at the ITC Maurya. This water is herb infused and caters to the different needs of our guests – so there is water that’s served as an aperitif, a digestive, a sleep inducer, a wake me up….
We need to live off the interest - sunshine and biological richness - of our natural resources, rather than the capital - fossil fuels and bio diversity.
GH: What initiatives will you be looking to implement at ITC going forward?
NA: One of our focus areas is greater engagement with all stakeholders – internal and external.
GH: Which initiatives do you think have had the biggest sustainability impact at ITC?
NA: I think on the crucial fronts of energy, water and waste reduction our initiatives have garnered significant traction. That we’ve been able to take sustainable practises beyond our products to our services and associates has been another area where we think that our efforts have had impact.
GH: If you could change anything within the sustainability field or debate, what would it be? What change would make your life easier?
NA: We have over the years at ITC Hotels been working to move from a linear production system to a circular production system – cradle to cradle approach e.g. our plastic bottles are sent to a company in Rajasthan that recycles these bottles into garments.
GH: What sustainability initiatives that you’ve made are you most proud of and why?
NA: I think leading the global green building movement is something we’re extremely proud of not just as an organisation but as a nation too. Of the 11 LEED Platinum green buildings in the world, 10 are in India.
GH: Can you tell me a bit more about the traffic light system you use for seafood in your restaurants?
NA: As part of the responsible luxury approach to business, we are constantly looking at ways to deliver luxury experiences that have sustainable practises embedded in them. Endangered species of fish are sold in restaurants the world over. We tried to look at how we could co-engage with our guests and facilitate an opportunity for them to ‘make a choice’. So we’ve highlighted the endangered species as red, the likely to be endangered as orange, and the safe to consume as green – leaving the choice to our guests.
GH: Is there anything, looking back, that you would do differently?
NA: I wish we could have started this journey sooner than we did. There is so much ground to cover.
GH: If you could look into the future, what would you most like to see?
NA: Over time, the quality of our lives and our consumption patterns would veer towards an environment of luxury for more and more people. In doing so, I would like to see both people and organisations adapt ‘responsible luxury’ as a philosophy to ensure that we don’t compromise on our planet and its natural resources. We need to live off the interest (sunshine and biological richness) of our natural resources; rather than the capital (fossil fuels and bio diversity).
GH: Is it ever difficult to convince people of the worth of what you’re doing? What’s the best way to demonstrate the value?
NA: I think the concept is a little ahead of its time and it is a paradigm shift. Typically luxury is associated with indulgence and here we are exemplifying that luxury can mandate sustainability at its core.
The best way to demonstrate value is to substantiate the benefits of endorsing the philosophy of ‘responsible luxury’, and the best way is to lead by example.
GH: What advice would you give to any hotel starting out on their own sustainability journey?
Start with four or five key areas to begin with - humble beginnings – and then move on to a larger canvas.
As part of our co-creation initiatives, we’ve put together an eco toolkit and details on how to create a sustainable environment, including the ‘universal building design’ on our website which is easily downloadable and implementable.