Chiva Som: focused on well-being for guests & environment

Chiva Som resort, Hua Hin, Thailand

Chiva Som resort, Hua Hin, Thailand

Chiva Som is a wellness resort in Hua Hin on the gulf of Thailand. With a commitment to health and wellbeing they like to become a ‘Haven of Life’ for guests, but their commitment also extends to the health of the environment and community in which they operate.

Sustainable Development Manager Brian Anderson explains more.

Green Hotelier: Why is sustainability important to Chiva Som?

Brian Anderson: “We believe that a strong commitment to sustainability is required to compete in today’s increasingly globalised world, and good CSR practices should not be about how a company donates funds to philanthropic efforts, but rather how it generates revenue through responsible and ethical business practices, policies and initiatives to help grow and sustain our business while providing direct benefit to our stakeholders.

“As we believe personal wellness goes hand in hand with environmental wellness, we are committed to nurturing a healthy, safe and vibrant community to help sustain our organisation and grow into the future with a socially responsible and environmentally conscious approach.”

GH: When did you begin your CR work?

BA: “Chiva-Som implemented our Policy on Environmental & Social Sustainability in 2008 to guide operation decision-making to minimise our impact on the environment and work toward business sustainability.

“The Chiva-Som Integrated Wellness Initiative is a multifaceted approach to integrated wellness of our value chain with primary focus on our stakeholders and preservation of our planet Earth. This includes personal wellness and development of our staff, our guests, the operation, facility, and conservation of energy and natural resources.”

“In 2013 we engaged with the Clinton Climate Initiative's Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program and from the energy audit we were advised to replace the lighting and air conditioning systems.”

GH: What aspects of sustainability does Chiva Som focus on?

BA: “We look at our greenhouse gas emissions; energy efficiency, conservation and management; management of freshwater resources; ecosystem conservation and management; management of social and cultural issues; land use planning and management; air quality protection and noise control; waste water management; waste minimisation, reuse and recycling; storage and use of environmentally harmful substances; community well-being; and continuing sustainability education.

Brian Anderson: “SKAL International gives awards in eight categories for Sustainable Development in Tourism. Chiva-Som's Integrated Wellness Initiative was awarded first place in the Urban Accommodation category, and our Mangrove Ecosystem Preservation & Science Education Centre (MEPSEC Hua Hin) received first place in the Coastal/Marine category. I went to the SKAL World Congress in Mexico City in October 2014 to receive the awards.

“Chiva-Som is preparing for LEED certification and is going to upgrade the facility for more efficient use of energy and natural resources, sustainable materials, and indoor environmental quality.”

Energy & Carbon:
BA: “We’re engaged with the Clinton Climate Initiative's Energy Efficiency Building Retrofit Program and reduced our electricity consumption and carbon footprint. Three hundred square meters of solar water heating panels are installed in the resort to heat water for the spa, accommodation, kitchens and laundry to reduce gas consumption by nearly 50%.

“We replaced over 2,600 inefficient light bulbs with all LED technology, and the original air-cooled chiller was replaced with a new energy efficient water-cooled chiller. The resort has continuously experienced a 26% reduction in monthly electricity consumption and a related 20% reduction in carbon footprint.”

BA: “Waste water and rainfall are collected and processed through tertiary treatment, and reused in the resort to maintain the lake level and irrigate the lush, green landscape, and also used to clean paved areas and sidewalks, as well as providing water for the chiller’s cooling tower.”

BA: “The resort operates on a low waste continuum and it is our policy to reduce, reuse and recycle to minimise any waste sent to landfill. Plastic, glass, metal, wood and paper products are separated and delivered to a recycling facility and perishable food items are distributed to the local livestock producers for animal feed. Plant waste from maintaining the landscape is collected and converted into nutrient-rich compost for existing plants without applying chemicals on the soil.

“In 2008, 130,000 plastic drinking water bottles supplied to our guests annually were eliminated from the operation when we installed reverse osmosis purification systems in various areas of the resort. Our guests are given personal stainless steel containers to refill during their stay and take home for future use. This initiative eliminated the carbon footprint and energy consumed for the production and transportation of plastic bottled water, as well as the plastic recycling process. Biodegradable plastic products are being investigated as an alternative to reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

Environment and community:
BA: “While growing many of our own fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers without the use of harmful chemicals, the Chiva-Som Organic Farm follows simple practices such as composting organic waste from the resort to produce nutrient-rich fertiliser. The fresh produce is used in our spa cuisine as well as some organic spa treatments.

“The staff has taught students to create organic gardens at two local schools and the produce is used in the schools’ kitchens to prepare meals for the students, teachers and staff.

“In terms of community engagement and inclusion, Chiva-Som remains an integral part of Hua Hin and partners with diverse stakeholder groups; namely the Hua Hin Municipality, local businesses, schools, and other like-minded organisations. With a focus to reduce the ecological footprint of Hua Hin’s growing population, Chiva-Som formed the Preserve Hua Hin Group as a community development organisation in 2004, and is under the Royal Patronage of HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn.

“Preserve Hua Hin organises events such as carbon-neutral, climate-positive outdoor music festivals, marathons, reforestation projects and beach clean-ups to promote environmental awareness and preservation, and to increase social interaction in the local community.

“Additionally, Preserve Hua Hin organises Mangrove Ecosystem Study Camps to help local students gain first-hand knowledge of the mangrove ecosystem and other environmental issues including climate change and environmental degradation caused by human activity and commercial development. Recognised as Junior Ambassadors, the students learn about the symbiotic relationship between plants, animals and water to help them understand both the stability and fragility of the ecosystem, and develop respect for nature.

“In our ongoing effort of environmental preservation and education, we are currently developing the Mangrove Ecosystem Preservation & Science Education Centre, or MEPSEC Hua Hin, in the last remaining urban mangrove in Hua Hin. MEPSEC Hua Hin is a collaboration with the scientists and academics of Silpakorn University, partnering corporate social responsibility with university social responsibility.

GH: What’s your message to other resorts operating in areas of natural beauty?

BA: “We believe that good CSR practices should not be about how a company donates funds on philanthropic efforts, but rather how it generates revenue through responsible and ethical business practices, policies and initiatives to help grow and sustain our business while providing direct benefit to our stakeholders.

“Annual benchmarking via Green Globe 21 indicators and continual process improvement helps Chiva-Som to achieve international “best practice” performance on all levels of operation. Our corporate social responsibility is paramount in developing our staff members and their families while reaching out with social welfare and education programmes in the local community.”

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