Hotels and human rights

Providing clean water for children

Providing clean water for children

On Human Rights Day what are hotel groups doing to improve the lives of their employees and communities?

Human Rights are a key pillar of the International Tourism Partnership’s work with its 16 member global hotel groups, combining both our work on human trafficking and our labour rights issues.

Here are some examples of how hotels around the world are working to improve the lives of their employees, guests and the communities in which they’re based.


Starwood recently celebrated the 10 year anniversary of the Starwood Associate Relief Fund (SARF), a grant programme that helps employees (associates) and their families after a natural disaster or hardship. The company is justly proud of the programme’s tenure and its $4.33 million assistance to associates.

Late August marked the 10 year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina which caused mass devastation in parts of the US that can still be felt today. During Katrina, Dan King, General Manager of The Sheraton New Orleans at the time, and the hotel’s associates maintained their posts, serving guests and taking in first responders and some residents who were forced from their homes. The associates kept the hotel safe, dry, clean and free of illness in the days following the storm until they could safely evacuate guests.

Hotels around the world often respond during storms, and disasters like this and Starwood wanted to do something to give back to its associates. Katrina became the impetus for Starwood to create the Starwood Associate Relief Fund, a registered charitable corporation that has granted $4.33 million to 3,350 associates worldwide at owned, managed and franchised properties since launching in the Spring of 2006.

Most recently, SARF granted more than $1.2 million to associates negatively affected by the earthquakes in Nepal. While Starwood doesn’t yet operate hotels in Nepal, properties around the world employ Nepalese associates whose families were devastated by the natural disaster. In 2014, SARF responded to associates in need after Hurricane Odile hit Cabo San Lucas.

To put this into context, in the years since Katrina, while aggregate corporate giving to disaster relief has decreased by 52%, Starwood Hotels & Resorts was among the 25% of companies that actually increased giving to disasters, according to CECP. SARF received donations from the public including associate donations, money from Starwood Hotels & Resorts and from the Starwood Hotels & Resorts Foundation.

Money Raised for the Fund

  • Money raised by public donations since 2006, includes associates: $4.28 million
  • Total Starwood and Starwood Foundation match since 2006: $1.69 million
  • Total donations to the fund: $5.966m

Money Granted from the Fund to Associates

  • Money granted to associates since 2006: $4.3 million
  • Number of people served by grants: 3,350

Additionally, Check Out for Children, launched in 1995, is a partnership between UNICEF and Starwood Hotels and Resorts. The partnership supports UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) projects in Africa and the Middle East.

Check Out for Children is one of UNICEF’s longest standing partnerships. Guests at Starwood Hotels are invited to add $1 (or the equivalent in local currency) to their bill upon checkout as a donation to UNICEF.

While Check Out for Children is the foundation of the partnership, Starwood Hotels and Resorts also support UNICEF through their Road to Awareness employee fundraising campaign and their Make a Green Choice sustainability initiative.

In 2015, UNICEF and Starwood Hotels and Resorts are celebrating 20 years of partnership and saying thank you to guests and employees who together have raised over $35 million to help UNICEF improve the lives of more than 4.5 million children in over 40 countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Between 2015 and 2017, all funds raised through the partnership will help UNICEF provide clean drinking water and proper sanitation facilities for children and families in Africa and the Middle East.


InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), recently announced it earned a perfect score of 100 percent on the 2016 Corporate Equality Index (CEI), a national benchmarking survey and report on corporate policies and practices related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) workplace equality, administered by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation. This is the second consecutive year that IHG has received top marks and has been named a Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality.

Elie Maalouf, Chief Executive Officer, The Americas, IHG said, “At IHG, we are delighted to be honoured for our inclusive policies and recognised as a champion of diversity. Our top marks underscore our commitment to promote a culture of inclusion for our guests and employees and encourage us to continually strive to be a supportive force within the communities in which we operate.”

The CEI evaluates LGBT-related policies and practices including non-discrimination policies, employment benefits, LGBT competency programmes, public commitment to LGBT equality and responsible citizenship. IHG earned the designation as a “Best Place to Work for LGBT Equality” as a result of its efforts in satisfying all of the CEI’s criteria.

Deena Fidas, Workplace Equality Programme Director, HRC Foundation said, “In this 2016 Corporate Equality Index, hundreds of major businesses responded to our new standards for workplace equality with exceptional leadership. IHG not only meets these standards, it goes above and beyond the call of duty, making commitment to equality a fundamental aspect of its corporate values."

IHG has a history of supporting LGBT equality, including marriage equality, the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), as well as the campaign to enact the Employee Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), which codifies in U.S. law a set of policies that IHG currently abides by as a company. With its U.S. headquarters based in Atlanta, IHG has also been dedicated to the advancement of the LGBT community on a local level by sponsoring Atlanta Pride and supporting the Atlanta Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.


Earlier this year Hilton Worldwide announced parental leave policies that will be the best offered by any major global hospitality company in the United States and Puerto Rico.

The benefits will be available to Team Members at owned and managed hotels and corporate offices with one year of service or greater. Beginning on January 1, 2016, the benefits will include:

All new parents - including fathers and adoptive parents - will receive two weeks of fully paid parental leave.

New mothers who give birth will receive an additional eight weeks of maternity leave, for a total of 10 weeks of fully paid leave.

Christopher J. Nassetta, President & CEO, Hilton Worldwide said, "Our Team Members are at the heart of delivering exceptional experiences to our guests. That's why we are committed to providing them with industry-leading benefits and a culture that supports balancing work and family. As a family-friendly company, we know that parental leave is one of the most important benefits for any working parent."

Matt Schuyler, Chief Human Resources Officer, Hilton Worldwide said, "This is part of a series of actions that we are planning to implement in order to continue to recruit and retain the best talent and be a great place to work. We are proud to be at the forefront of driving significant change in our industry by introducing parental leave policies that reflect our strong support for our Team Members and their growing families."

Hilton's parental leave benefits will cover approximately 40,000 Team Members in the United States across the company's owned and managed hotels and corporate offices.

This is just a snapshot of some of the recent actions taken by ITP members to improve labour rights for employees and address global issues. For more information on the action ITP is taking, visit our website.

Several of our members participate in the Youth Career Initiative which works with hotels and local non profit partners to identify disadvantaged young people around the world and provide them with opportunities to improve their lives and prospects via a six month training course in hotels with study and mentorship. The scheme also helps survivors of human trafficking to get their lives back on track, offering them hope for the future.

In addition you can see recent stories about Carlson Rezidor and Marriott’s work to tackle these issues on Green Hotelier.

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