Telum Talks To... Elaine Chan, Director of Marketing Communications & Sustainability, PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay, Singapore
Telum caught up with Elaine Chan, Director of Marketing Communications & Sustainability at PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay, Singapore to discuss the importance of championing green messaging in the hospitality industry.
Tell us about your sustainability journey with PARKROYAL COLLECTION Marina Bay, Singapore.
Food waste, water consumption, garbage generation and energy usage are both intrinsic to the hotel industry and major contributors to carbon emissions. They are also responsible for about 21 per cent of the tourism industry’s environmental footprint globally.
Our hotel’s sustainability journey started two years ago, when the PARKROYAL COLLECTION brand was created to champion sustainability. I joined the hotel shortly after and have been having lots of fun discovering and communicating our green messaging ever since.
Our hotel takes a holistic approach towards green goals to encompass energy, water, waste, food waste, plastic waste and carbon management, which is evident in the integrated eco-friendly practices that have been implemented across all of our hotel’s operations. This includes the installation of solar panels that enable us to save about 1.4 per cent of electrical consumption, a filtered water system in all guest rooms that enable us to eliminate 360,000 single-use plastic bottles a year, as well as an Urban Farm which contributes to food supply resilience by providing about 20 per cent of our hotel’s requirements.
It is more about the commitment and dedication to combat climate change than who the first movers are or who have contributed more, as the sustainability journey never ends.
What role do communications teams play to help organisations achieve their sustainability agendas?
As communications professionals, we must consistently focus on creating narratives that communicate our business’ long-term vision, and reinforce our market differentiation.
Sustainability is no longer a fashionable buzzword. It has moved beyond a business trend and it is now a cultural shift on many levels that empathetically redefines the business practices and paradigms that we know. Sustainability marketing and communications is about delivering greater value to consumers and ensuring that our brand remains viable, visible, relevant, and influences thought leadership around sustainability in the hospitality industry. We need to work on, and apply strategies from this new context and we must demonstrate to our consumers the commitment and responsibility espoused by our brand.
To this end, communications professionals lead the charge and can become the bridge between organisations and consumers by championing the green messaging.
How do you ensure your sustainability journey stands out while avoiding the slippery slope of "greenwashing"?
Not only do we communicate our hotel’s green innovations across a diverse set of channels and platforms, we attach great importance in educating our guests as well as the young on how sustainability is practised in the hospitality industry. In order to facilitate this awareness, our hotel launched our sustainable hotel building tour in May 2022, which is available upon request for schools and hotel guests.
We have hosted numerous schools and corporate guests on these sustainable hotel building tours to date, but we did not expect our reputation would travel beyond Singapore, where we receive requests from overseas universities as well, including the University of Hawaii, and the Southern Cross Hotel School from Australia. It is evident that our communications efforts have been effective and successful.
Greenwashing takes place when communications professionals do not have the resources or data to substantiate their claims. We should embrace the principle of open communications, transparency, accountability, record-keeping and tracking across all relevant stakeholders. Having necessary data available and open to audit by regulators, will improve the company’s credibility and image. Outgoing communications should be in alignment, and be able to withstand public scrutiny.
What are some of the challenges of implementing sustainability efforts and initiatives in Singapore?
It is commonly perceived that implementing sustainability in a business attracts a significant financial outlay. That is not necessarily always true. For example, our hotel’s investment in the solar panels will take about 4.5 years to recoup, and after which, (a useful lifespan of 25 to 30 years for these panels), our hotel is able to reduce electricity expenses otherwise incurred by drawing grid-based power, where these savings can be channelled into funding the implementation of other green initiatives. Our hotel saves on the procurement of 360,000 single-use plastic bottles every year, and that is just by installing filtered water taps in our guest rooms.
Other challenges include, but are not limited to, a lack of funding, lack of time, resistance from stakeholders and employees etc., but these constraints can be managed effectively with the right strategy and approach.
How does going green help businesses gain an edge on their competition?
In a very competitive hospitality world, products and services offered by hotels are highly commoditised. To achieve brand differentiation amongst competing offers in the industry, and support the brand’s market positioning, it is imperative to foster a strong and positive brand image, itself the key determinant that influences consumer choice and their perception of the brand, as well as the hotel industry in general. Beyond functional benefits in the offering, consumers are also looking for a ‘reason’ to book, and make purchase decisions based upon emotional appeals from the brand.
We conducted a survey in early 2022 which was completed by 153 respondents. This survey affirmed a positive correlation between the use of green innovations in hotels and favourable sentiments towards those hotels.
When asked whether every hotel should have green innovations on their agenda, 92 per cent respondents said yes. When asked if they would be more likely to recommend hotels that have eco-friendly features to friends and family members, 70 per cent said yes. When asked whether they expect hotels to have already embraced sustainability in their long-term business strategy, 83 per cent said yes.
When consumers develop attachment to a responsible brand, which is also known as green attachment, they are more likely to continue purchasing from that brand. In the hotel industry, for which brand image plays an outsized role in consumer decision-making, this is even more critical.
Do you have any tips for organisations looking to kick-start their sustainability journey?
In early 2022, the Singapore Hotel Association, Singapore Tourism Board and Enterprise Singapore launched the Singapore Hotel Sustainability Roadmap, where hotels are to track emissions by 2023, 60 per cent of Singapore’s hotel room stock to attain international hotel sustainability certifications by 2025, and reduce emission by 2030.
Accessing sustainability in daily life is simple, and can be adapted to the organisational context. For example, embrace the reduction in usage of single-use plastics, opt to recycle, upcycle or reuse to extend the lifespan of products. If you are growing plants, grow edibles to support and enhance food resilience. Choose to buy local to reduce carbon footprint and support local businesses. Every little effort helps.
Plan ahead, develop a framework of focuses, strategise, and forge ahead.