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Hilton extends its hospitality to youth, the environment, and the community

Hilton team members participating in a house- building activity in Cambodia during the organisation's Global Month of Service initiative.


HILTON Worldwide got rid of their Corporate Responsibility Department about five years ago. But it's not because they don't believe in it. Rather, it's now "entrenched in the organisation's DNA, and makes up the fibre of what we do here", says Martin Rinck, president (Asia-Pacific) of Hilton Worldwide.

The American hospitality group, started in 1919 by Conrad Hilton, is one of about 60 founding members of the Company of Good initiative, which was launched by the National Volunteer and Philanthropy Centre (NVPC) earlier this year.

"To be a Company of Good," said Mr Rinck, "you have to be a business that plays a role in giving back to the community." And being a founding member requires even more. He explained: "We consider our job as being a trailblazer and championing the concept of corporate giving in and around Singapore."

During the conceptualisation of this programme, Hilton was one of the organisations involved in focus groups conducted by the NVPC, and though it was a collaboration they readily agreed to, it was more of an acknowledgment of what they'd already been doing instead of an impetus to start doing more.

Hilton Worldwide, which has more than 4,500 properties, has been operating under a corporate responsibility scheme called "Travel with Purpose," which designates the three issues on which the organisation will focus when partaking in these activities. These are youth opportunity, environmental stewardship, and community resiliency.

In 2013, the International Labour Organization (ILO) estimated that more than 74 million youths around the world were unemployed. To uphold their first pillar, Hilton Worldwide took a pledge to impact at least a million young people by 2019.

Mr Rinck, 52, said: "We created an internal programme called Careers@ HiltonLive: Youth in Hospitality Month. It encompasses a series of job fairs, career guidance talks, and job shadowing to raise the awareness of careers in hospitality and to connect more young people to opportunities."

Over 750 such events were held in 2015, and attendance figures numbered around 90,000 in total. "It's not just about connecting with unemployed youths, but about being able to connect them to the workforce," Mr Rinck added.

Another youth-related initiative Hilton is involved in is Room to Read, a global NGO that supports girls' education around the world. Mr Rinck, who has two daughters, met founder John Wood over a casual dinner and agreed with the NGO's principles.

He said: "Choosing which causes to support is more about a meeting of minds, and this cause struck me particularly as I've always admired Nelson Mandela's philosophy that everyone should be provided an education, no matter who they are." In 2015, the partnership between Hilton and Room to Read was renewed, with the former spearheading a job shadowing programmes for 300 girls in India and Sri Lanka to offer them the skills and guidance needed to complete their secondary school education.

With regard to environmental stewardship, all of Hilton's properties around the world have been certified ISO 50001 for energy management. This is mostly because of an in- house-developed energy management system called LightStay.

Mr Rinck said: "Since its inception in 2009, along with reducing energy usage 14.5 per cent from 2009 to 2014, the system has saved our company US$550 million, which is a nice side effect of being sustainable."

Like all the other initiatives, the Hilton's community outreach programme has also grown since its inception. Originally called the Global Week of Service, it is now known as the Global Month of Service "because our team members felt that a week wasn't a sufficient amount of time to take part in the activities we wanted to", which include house-building efforts in countries like Cambodia and Thailand.

Mr Rinck said: "What we've managed to achieve in the last 4-5 years in particular is really heartwarming, and it fills me with enormous pride."

  • This is part of a series of stories on impactful corporate giving under the Company of Good programme led by the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). The Business Times is supporting the initiative as media partner.