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Hilton, WWF take on unsustainable seafood and water use

One of the world's largest hotel and resort chains is partnering with the massive NGO to dig into water conservation, supply chain and other issues.

A new partnership between Hilton Hotels and the World Wildlife Fund marks the joining of two juggernauts.

Hilton is one of the world’s largest hotel chains, operating some 4,300 properties. WWF,  meanwhile, is supported by more than 1 million members in the U.S. and nearly 5 million globally, comfortably positioned as one of the world’s biggest environmental NGOs.

“The WWF can understand the depth and breadth of our work, and has a similar size and organizational structure,” said Jennifer Silberman, Hilton Worldwide International’s VP of corporate responsibility and chief of staff for the office of the president and CEO.

Fairmont SF lobby 2007

For its part, the WWF sees an opportunity to better an industry that has a significant impact on environmental resources. Sheri Turnbow, senior director of private sector engagement for the WWF, notes that in the U.S. alone, the $162 billion hotel industry comprises more than 50,000 properties that all use energy and water and source a multitude of commodities such as seafood, beef, paper, cotton and wood.

“It's an industry with scale and great potential for impact, so it's highly relevant to us,” she said.

Fishing for food and water solutions

WWF has a history of partnering with hotels to bolster sustainability efforts.

The organization previously collaborated with Hyatt Hotels Corporation to ensure that at least 50 percent of the hotel chain’s global seafood will be responsibly sourced by 2018, and worked with Fairmont Hotels and Resorts to reduce its operation carbon footprint as part of the Climate Savers program.

The WWF’s experience and insights, said Silberman, should help Hilton “dig into several issues.” Chief among these? Water stewardship — an area of particular importance in light of global issues such as California’s severe drought.

Existing water-conservation efforts at Hilton hotels include sustainable housekeeping products and water-efficient showers that reduce the amount of water used by up to 30 percent, as well as sustainable laundry technology that reduces water use by up to 45 percent.

Using the WWF as a resource, Silberman said the hotel chain wants to build upon these and other measures “to reduce water consumption by developing a multi-year water stewardship strategy.” In particular, the hotel chain will focus on how food waste is connected to water usage.

Tianjin Hilton dining room
It also will integrate all learnings into LightStay, its proprietary environmental performance measurement and reporting platform that measures water usage and progress. Building on the foundation of LightStay, Turnbow said the WWF will help Hilton “look at supply chain inputs, property locations, and geographies with high water risk.”

Sustainable seafood efforts additionally will be top of mind.

Last year, the WWF provided third-party support when Hilton banned shark fin at all its Asia Pacific properties, and the hotel chain hopes to do more in this arena.

“We have just an amazing amount of F&B [food and beverage] operations, and want to learn how to better source seafood in a sustainable way while also meeting the needs of our guests,” Silberman said. The WWF’s reach in the Asia Pacific market, she added, will serve as a particularly valuable asset on this front.

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