Name: Theresa van Greunen
Title: Assistant Vice President, Corporate Communications
Company: Aqua-Aston Hospitality
Years in Current Position: Two (with Aqua-Aston since 2015)
Primary Responsibilities: “I play a unique role. The company has allowed me to carve out my own initiatives. I often partner with the operations team. I have been able to create new initiatives. Strategy is a big part of my job and keeping my ear to the ground and knowing what we can make positive change around.”
Organization’s most significant accomplishment in global corporate responsibility: “Developing the corporate social responsibility program, Advocate with Aqua-Aston, and most notably, the #ForOurReef campaign.”
Organization’s most significant challenge moving forward in global corporate responsibility: “I think it is a long-term thing. Continuing the #ForOurReef program and extending it to going plastics free. We have the opportunity to broaden our perspective in other areas—supporting local, smaller businesses for example.”
HONOLULU—Making a positive difference every day and helping to create forever memories for guests. These are two of the most important things Theresa van Greunen likes about her job as Assistant Vice President, Corporate Communications for Aqua-Aston Hospitality. Honolulu-based Aqua-Aston Hospitality manages more than 40 properties—from full-service resorts and stylish boutique hotels to condominium retreats and affordable lodging—in Hawaii, Florida and Costa Rica.
While helping to lighten her company’s environmental footprint, Theresa has helped her company take giant steps in corporate social responsibility. Since joining Aqua-Aston Hospitality in 2015, Theresa has launched #ShareTheAloha, Advocate with Aqua-Aston, and #ForOurReef.
#ShareTheAloha is a pay-it-forward campaign providing a platform for Hawaii’s community leaders and nonprofit organizations who are doing good by sharing Hawaii’s unique culture; promoting the principles of tolerance, diversity and equality; and being environmental stewards.
Advocate with Aqua-Aston is the company’s corporate social responsibility program. “We have a long legacy of CSR,” Theresa says. “It is a legacy from supporting nonprofits. Advocate with Aqua Aston was created with legacy programs in mind.”
Advocate for Reef Protection
#ForOurReef is the company’s campaign credited with influencing the new law that bans reef-damaging sunscreens in Hawaii (Senate Bill 2571). #ForOurReef elevated awareness about the sunscreen issue, increased consumer demand for reef-safe sunscreen, and increased the availability of reef-safe sunscreen for purchase. The initiative’s tremendous success ultimately resulted in the first-ever World Reef Day in June 2019. Since launching the campaign in 2018, Aqua-Aston has distributed more than 100,000 reef-safe sunscreen samples with educational information to hotel guests and the community at more than 50 events throughout Hawaii.
Theresa’s success spearheading Advocate with Aqua-Aston and the#ForOurReef campaign led to Aqua-Aston’s recognition by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) as a leader in corporate social responsibility, and her honor as one of the “Top 25 Extraordinary Minds” in 2019.
New Cleaning Protocols
Theresa, who moved to Hawaii in 2014 after having lived in South Africa, is helping Aqua-Aston Hospitality transform as a business in light of the current pandemic. The company has a clean team, for example, has instituted new cleaning protocols, and is following protocols put in place by companies like Hilton and Marriott at properties branded by them. “Part of my role is to help leadership make sure our company is transforming positively,” Theresa says. “I am helping to finalize our new operational strategies. We are going the extra mile to take care of our customers.”
In addition to stepping up cleaning, Theresa is helping Aqua-Aston Hospitality with other initiatives including supporting the arts, local businesses, and reducing waste.
“We are strong supporters of Hawaii’s culture—the film festival, for example,” Theresa says. “This year we rolled out new uniforms with a coral-themed design. We worked with a local company on those. We use social media to support local businesses.”
Water Bottles Provided to Guests
To reduce plastic waste, Aqua-Aston Hospitality is installing bulk dispensers in guestrooms and providing non-plastic shopping bags and water bottles to guests.
“I am proud of all of it,” Theresa says. “Everyone can do a small thing to make a positive change.”
As part of its effort to tell its green story, Aqua-Aston Hospitality participates in various green certification programs. “We have become certified eight different times through the Hawaii Green Business Program,” Theresa says.
Theresa says her time spent in Africa changed her perspective on the world. “That experience really showed me how much we have in America and how little others have,” she says. “When I moved back to the United States, it was more apparent how wasteful we can be.”
Glenn Hasek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.