In case you missed it, Hilton Worldwide recently announced Meet with Purpose, a concept designed to make it easier for meeting professionals to reduce waste and incorporate health and wellness into meetings and events. Inspired by Hilton’s corporate responsibility strategy, Travel with Purpose, Hilton gathered feedback from customers and Sales Team members to identify the most pressing sustainability issues for meetings and events. To meet these needs, Hilton created Meet with Purpose, supported by two focus areas: Mindful Eating, which encourages meeting professionals to reexamine event dining to minimize food waste and encourage healthy choices; and Mindful Meeting, which encourages meeting professionals to consider meeting practices that are less resource-intensive.
I interviewed Andrew Flack, Vice President, B2B Marketing and Customer Insights, Hilton Worldwide, to learn more about Meet with Purpose. Below are my questions and his answers.
Did Hilton previously have a similar, formalized offering of green meeting initiatives prior to the launch of Meet with Purpose? If so, what was its name?
While the Meet with Purpose offering is new, sustainability has been a part of our broader strategy, Travel with Purpose, which launched in 2011. In 2010 the company also launched LightStay, our proprietary system developed to calculate and analyze sustainability performance. It measures multiple utility and operational metrics like energy, water, carbon, housekeeping, paper product usage, waste, chemical storage, air quality and transportation.
LightStay also provides social networking tools that allow properties to communicate and share information, and features a “meeting impact calculator” element that calculates the sustainability impact of any meeting or conference held at a property. We were the first major multi-brand company in the hospitality industry to make sustainability measurement and improvement a brand standard and it’s something that we are very proud of.
What was the main driver behind the formalization of such a program? Was it customer demand? Another driver or drivers?
Our Sales Team has established deep connections with our customers and regularly connects with them to discuss issues or concerns that are top-of-mind. From these conversations, we learned that customers were looking for sustainability expertise and support when planning meetings and events. Even more so, sustainability is a growing trend and we know that event attendees are becoming more aware of their impact on the environment.
We wanted to develop an offering for meeting professionals that would address their feedback, as well as the growing sustainability trend. We knew many of our properties already worked with customers to help implement responsible practices.
Our first step was to pull data from LightStay. We found that many properties and meeting customers were actively using the tool. Next, we looked at the industry and uncovered that hoteliers did not provide a compressive offering specific for meeting professionals.
This led us to create Meet with Purpose with the goal of offering meeting and event professionals easy tips and best practices to turn their event into a responsible one.
Do you have any sense of what percentage of Hilton’s customers are asking what resources are available to help them “green” their meetings?
Today more people are paying attention to how their actions affect the environment—and we know this from our close relationships with customers and from our industry insights and research.
Our Sales Team originally called attention to this growing trend and wanted to approach the subject at an earlier point in the sales conversation. We’ve noticed that many meeting professionals are including sustainability asks at the start of the planning process in their request for proposals. Now that we’ve rolled out Meet with Purpose we anticipate an even greater amount of customers asking for ways to make their meetings sustainable and healthy, and our team is prepared to incorporate responsible meeting suggestions at the start of the planning process as well.
In the press release about Meet with Purpose, there is mention of an event at the Hilton San Francisco Union Square. The company having the meeting was able to source approximately 30 percent of energy from renewable sources. Please explain more about this. Was this some sort of carbon offset purchase? Or, some other mechanism? Is this something that is offered at all Hilton properties now—the option of utilizing renewable energy?
The Hilton San Francisco Union Square was able to source approximately 30 percent of energy from renewable sources by using hydropower.
Our San Francisco property is an exemplary property when it comes to sustainable practices, and we are excited to showcase their success to demonstrate how other properties can lead by their example. With the launch of Meet with Purpose we are looking to align an even greater number of our properties globally, empowering them to implement responsible practices and offerings.
Hotels throughout the portfolio are able to track their carbon footprint through Hilton’s LightStay Meeting Impact Calculator, which measures the environmental impact of any meeting or conference held at a Hilton property. This enables meeting planners and corporate travel managers to consider the environmental impact of hotel stays and meetings when making purchasing decisions. In addition, it provides corporate customers with the opportunity to include meeting impact data in their own sustainability reporting.
Can you give an example of a team-building/volunteer type activity that took place during a meeting at a hotel offering Meet with Purpose options?
After identifying that many solo travelers are looking for reasons to connect in-person with others, The Palmer House Hilton Hotel in Chicago invited a group of their business travelers to participate in a special volunteer activity. The hotel e-mailed guests prior to their upcoming stay, asking if they’d like to help pack meals for Stop Hunger Now, an organization whose mission is to end hunger by providing food and life-saving aid to those in need.
This activity received a great response—90 guests participated in packing meals one evening during their stay in Chicago. The activity provided a great opportunity for guests to meet and network with each other, as well as support Stop Hunger Now.
This initiative—originally started by Hilton San Francisco Union Square—was so successful that our Sales Team implemented it at several other hotels throughout last year. This is just one of the many examples of our hotels bringing Meet with Purpose to life by creating memorable experiences for all those involved.
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