Name: Carmen Baker
Title: Vice President of Responsible Business
Organization: Carlson Hotels Worldwide
My primary responsibilities: “My primary responsibilities include overseeing our business ethics, culture, community and environmental programs.”
What keeps me motivated each day: “It feels really good to have this job. There is an ROI associated with it. It is a lot of fun for me.”
My biggest challenge: “The environmental piece is the biggest challenge. There is so much communication around the environment that it is difficult to read through what is real. Another challenge is staying focused on infrastructure strategy.”
MINNETONKA, MINN.—Carmen Baker, who took on the role of vice president of responsible business at Carlson Hotels Worldwide earlier this year, knows that her company has a lot of work to do from an environmental standpoint. Fortunately for her, and for Carlson, the Brussels, Belgium-based Rezidor Hotel Group has been implementing green practices since the 1990s. Carlson is partial owner of Rezidor, and it can easily tap into Rezidor’s experience and expertise.
Before accepting her new position with Carlson, Baker worked as director of diversity for the company. Her first job with Carlson was as general manager of reservations back in 2001. Baker sees her oversight of Carlson’s environmental programs as a logical extension of her diversity, community relations, business ethics, and charitable giving responsibilities.
“The issues of responsible business and the environment touch every part of the organization,” Baker says.
In a statement issued to the media regarding Baker’s appointment, Jay Witzel, president and CEO of Carlson Hotels Worldwide, said, “As we strive to build respected brands and admired reputation with all of our stakeholders, this appointment reflects the importance of responsible business initiatives in achieving this goal. Such areas as environmental responsibility have become a top priority in today’s travel industry and consumer marketplace.”
Testing the Waters
Baker says Carlson sent a 13-question survey to its Regent, Radisson, Park Plaza, Park Inn, and Country Inn & Suites properties to determine the extent of their environmental programs.
“We have established an environmental policy focusing on recycling and solid waste, indoor air quality, energy and water,” says Baker, in regard to those properties.
For its own corporate office, Carlson is in the process of analyzing the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Energy’s Energy Star rating system.
For Baker, a typical day includes a lot of reading and concentration on efforts to raise the level of environmental awareness and education within the Carlson organization.
“When I got into the diversity field, it was kind of by accident but it turned into a full-time role for me,” Baker says. “It is natural for me now.”
Diversity, community involvement, environmental responsibility and ethics are at the core of Carlson’s business strategy. The Curtis L. Carlson Family Foundation has been distributing charitable contributions since 1959 and the company supports charities such as the World Childhood Foundation and United Way. Carlson’s creation of a V.P.-level position dedicated to responsible business is proof of its commitment.
“The fact that we have a dedicated position and resources committed to [corporate social responsibility] is an accomplishment,” Baker says. “We are not in business just to be in business.”
Baker says it was her early upbringing that helped guide her toward working for diversity and other worthwhile causes.
“My father did a lot of work with diversity and affirmative action in the Air Force,” she says. “I come from a family where that was part of my family’s history as well. We grew up around a lot of different cultures. My parents taught us that what matters is who you are as an individual. The more people can be who they are, the better they can contribute.”
Go to Carlson Hotels Worldwide.
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.