Welcomgroup Climbs Up On Green Graph

Updated: Aug 25 2002, 05:30am hrs
It may not be labelled a green hotel group, but in spirit, it certainly is. ITC Hotels Limited faithfully follows the parent ITC groups philosophy that since enterprises arise out of society, they must return something to it, says S S H Rehman, managing director of the hotel group. While ITCs initiatives include setting up of the Sangeet Research Academy, promoting sports and establishing e-chaupals, ITC Hotels Limited has undertaken initiatives like WelcomEnviron, WelcomJawan, WelcomTheatre, WelcomArt, WelcomHeritage and WelcomCuisine. Its so because the parent company only enunciates the principles, while the group companies fashion their own initiatives in keeping with their competencies and resources, explains Mr Rehman.

WelcomEnviron is a multi-faceted programme, which not only spreads eco-awareness amongst employees, suppliers and guests, but also saves and recycles resources, reduces wasteful consumption and maintains high standards of hygiene and safety.

Beginning with the monitoring of safety standards with respect to food, water and air quality, the programme gathered momentum with the adoption of eco-friendly practices in all areas of hotel operationsfrom guest rooms to gardens.

ITC Hotel Maurya Sheraton & Towers in New Delhi took the lead based on the three Rsreduce, recycle and reuse, recollects Mr Rehman. The waste water from the hotels kitchen and laundry is recycled for use in its gardens with the help of an effluent treatment plant. The next step comprised installing automatic flushing devices in public toilets and electronic sensors for switching off power in unoccupied guest rooms. Guests were also encouraged to use recycled stationery, herbal toiletries and linen laundry bags instead of plastic bags. Voice mail facilities in rooms helped guests save on paper.

The initiative did not go unnoticed by industry watchers. In 1999, the hotel became the first hotel in Asia to be awarded the ISO 14001 for environmental management. The certificate followed numerous other green awards. The hotel won the Green Hotelier award in 1997, which is instituted by American Express and the International Hotel Association. In 1993, the hotel was awarded the Diploma of Excellence by American Express and the International Hotel Association for its contribution to environment.

ITC Hotel Maurya Sheraton & Towers in New Delhi is not the only group hotel to be felicitated for its green initiatives. ITC Hotel Park Sheraton & Towers, Chennai, was the co-winner of the Green Hotelier award in 1997. Welcomgroup Bay Island in the Andamans, which is known for its water conservation in the face of limited fresh water supplies, won the British Airways Tourism For Tomorrow award in 1993. And Welcomgroup Mughal Sheraton in Agra, which is a model for using recycled water to produce fresh vegetables and flowers for the hotels use, also bagged the Aga Khan Award for Architectural Excellence way back in 1980.

The WelcomEnviron initiatives have monetary spin-offs, too. There has been energy saving of 15-18 per cent in all Welcomgroup units. The initiatives have also resulted in 30 per cent water saving in all the units. Besides, used cooking oil is converted into soap, and unused fruits are recycled into preserves, candied peel and natural beauty aids. In addition to these initiatives, 10 lakh vehicles have been checked by WelcomEnvirons pollution checking mobile vans.

An extension of these projects has been that the group hotels are actively involved in community afforestation projects and promotion of environmental awareness in schools, involving 25 million children, says Mr Rehman.

While WelcomEnviron may be the most visible of the hotel groups responsible initiatives, other initiatives, too, have had far-reaching consequences. For example, says Mr Rehman, WelcomJawan trains ex-servicemen for a career in the hotel industry and also assists them in re-employmentin the group and outside. The initiative is particularly close to the heart of Mr Rehman, who is a former major of the Mahar Regiment.

He elaborates, Every year, 60,000 men retire from the armed forces. We run courses across the country for jawans and non-commissioned officers in hospitality so as to enable them to be employed. These are free 90-day courses in kitchen stewarding, housekeeping and bartending. Officers are trained in hospitality management and club secretarial jobs. Apart from absorbing some of them in our own group, the rest are available for hiring by other corporates. Besides, ex-officers are helped in getting placement as engineers and human resource managers. This opens avenues for them in addition to the regular security services, he adds. WelcomJawan also provides service officers wives an opportunity to train for a career in the hotel industry.

Other initiatives may not have immediate tangible results, but they are equally important for the hotel group. Explains Mr Rehman, WelcomTheatre aims to use theatre to make people aware of topical issues and their responsibilities. Memorable plays like 50 Day War, Legend of RamPrince Of India, and Sare Jahan Se Acha have been staged under this banner.

Mr Rehman adds, Similarly, WelcomArt aims to encourage the creativity of young artists and the propagation of the values of Mother Nature and mankind. He says, There is a tremendous gap between what is appreciated abroad and what goes unnoticed here. The idea is to focus global attention on our art.

Other initiatives like WelcomHeritage and WelcomCuisine are very well integrated with the core competency of the hotel group. Mr Rehman elaborates, WelcomHeritage is for preserving palaces, forts and fortresses. We provide assistance to them so that these assets can be put to productive use.

Similarly, WelcomCuisine is not only helping preserve varied Indian cuisines, but its also helping small time chefs grow into entrepreneurs. Mr Rehman says, Indian cuisine is unparalleled in terms of its range, depth and evolution. We need to appreciate it. We are commercialising it in a way that it draws in the future entrepreneurs. So you have Indian chefs going abroad to set up eateries.

All these initiatives are high on the hotel majors priority because they are top driven. Explains Mr Rehman, The philosophy works top down. It depends upon how you enthuse your own people. He adds, In any case, environmental awareness has increased by leaps and bounds today. There is a quantum leap in the realisation that there is a very large underprivileged class that needs to be supported and that planetary resources should not be tampered with unnecessarily.