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Tue 11 Nov 2008 04:00 AM

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Green and lean

Hyatt Hotels' Birgitta Witts on how putting eco-friendly initiatives in place can make good business sense.

Arabian Travel News talks to Hyatt Hotels global vice president of environmental affairs Brigitta Witts about how putting eco-friendly initiatives in place can make good business sense.

How does Hyatt try to stay green as a company?

We do it in a lot of ways - we try to minimise the use of natural resources and reduce waste and we also look at our supply base. We try to use paper and soap products that are more environmentally-friendly as well.

Environmental awareness is definitely picking up.

I think the biggest area we work on though is educating our employees. We want to educate them to the point where sustainable behaviour becomes natural behaviour, so that they can incorporate this perspective into their day without even having to think about it.

What initiatives do you encourage guests to follow?

I think that over the past few years, guests have been one of the biggest change agents directing Hyatt towards becoming more environmentally responsible. Five years ago guests wouldn't be worrying about this kind of thing but it is a major factor now and any guest enquires about what we offer in this sector, we can now show them.

Every single large corporate customer we have makes enquiries about our environmental policy so we're pleased to be able to show them that with Hyatt, a luxury experience can also be an environmentally-aware one too.

Who do you consult about these issues?

We work with a sustainability company that advises us on ecologically-aware advances that we can implement and we try to fit this into the infrastructure of our properties. Hyatt has said all along that it wants to do these things, so we're well ahead of the trend on green issues.We started it because we felt it was the responsible thing to do and it's great that it's picking up elsewhere in the industry now too.

Can you provide some specific recent examples of green Hyatt initiatives?

Okay, in Chile we have just partnered with a company and built a recycling plant; in Russia there is no formal recycling infrastructure, but Hyatt in Moscow has become the first hotel to recycle so we're implementing initiatives worldwide.

What about projects in the Middle East?

The Middle East is still probably a bit behind Europe and the US for eco-awareness but I'm proud to say the Grand Hyatt in Dubai is probably at the forefront of environmental awareness in the region.

The property has solar panels installed that can power all of its water heating - this has a tremendous impact on the property's carbon impact and in just over three years it will have made its ROI (Return on Investment) which proves that these initiatives can be sound business proposals as well.

So what's next?

From an industry perspective, all of our competitors are working and thinking about the same things. Environmental awareness is definitely picking up. We'll talk with them and get ideas for any new innovations, but we're very committed to going as far as we can.

I think the next phase will be how we build our properties in the future. We are working on making the work more eco-aware right from the beginning; that will be a very exciting project to work on.

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