ESG is the buzzword of the moment because it ticks all the boxes, good for people, the planet, and if done correctly, the bottom line. There is increasing pressure from investors, consumers, and government regulations for companies to implement effective sustainability programs instead of just "greenwashing." That is why we are eager to talk with Red Roof Chief Marketing Officer, Marina MacDonald, about Purpose With Heart, Red Roof's newly revamped environmental, social, and governance program.
What is the Red Roof legacy with ESG?
Our legacy with ESG started with our Purpose with Heart campaign, which was our corporate social responsibility program. We identify causes that are important to our consumer base, our team members, and our communities. Every year we select different organizations that we partner with—from Canine Companions to United Way, United for Ukraine, the American Cancer Society to St. Jude Children's Hospital. After identifying these organizations, we give our guests an opportunity to stay with us at a discount and we donate 5% of the proceeds back to these associations.
Why have you revamped the program now?
We have evolved our corporate social responsibility program into an umbrella ESG program that brings all the different categories together. We are committed to doing well by doing good.,
Tell us about the new program, how is it different?
We have revamped the program around three main pillars to impact areas we care most about, making a difference.
Heart for the Planet is our environmental pillar. We will focus programs and practices on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, energy consumption, and waste, as well as stewardship of natural resources.
Room in Your Heart is our social/societal pillar. It is our legacy social responsibility program and our vehicle to participate in community-based social initiatives as well as commitments related to industry-wide problems like human trafficking. Our Women’s Forum, which we have been doing for seven years now also falls into this category.
Lead with Heart is our governance pillar. This is Red Roof’s governance initiatives, referring to transparency, leadership, and management.
As the saying goes, what gets measured gets done! Do you feel that by creating Purpose with Heart with transparency, it will improve accountability?
Yes, we are putting measurements in place now. For example, with the Heart of the Planet, we are removing our small bottles, and this is being tracked. For many years, we have had our Red Go Green program to reduce water waste, and we are working on ways to track that now. More broadly, our Purpose with Heart initiatives will move us to higher standards of operation so that we are a better company, better operators, better team members, better stewards of the planet, and have a better presence in our communities. It is a long-term commitment to improve the way we work and to create a lasting ethos as an example for our people, our partners, and the communities we serve. We see it as an evolving program through which we will find continuous improvement as a place of hospitality to our millions of Red Roof guests.
In terms of Room in Your Heart, the social and societal programs, can you share an example of what that looks like in practice?
With Room in Your Heart, we are supporting a range of charitable organizations and causes from human trafficking and female entrepreneurship to food pantries and even canine companions. For example, we run an annual campaign in February with Canine Companions. It is a charity that transforms the lives of children, adults, and veterans with disabilities by providing expertly trained service dogs that assist with practical tasks, as well as provide unconditional love and acceptance—free of charge. For people with disabilities, it is a powerful relationship that leads to increased independence, self-esteem, and inclusion. Last year we raised $50,000 and named a service dog, Redi. This year, by donating five percent of all rooms booked with a special promo code that saved consumers 15%, we actually raised $60,000 which will provide another deserving person with a trained service dog. That is one example of how the program works in practice, not only do guests benefit and get involved, but we also are able to support a great cause.
Another issue you address as part of Room in Your Heart is putting an end to human trafficking. Have you seen progress?
Yes, ending human trafficking is a top priority and we condemn it in all forms. We are highly involved with AHLA’s “No Room for Trafficking” program which includes training, guides, support, and AHLA’s recently created survivor fund. Training is mandatory. It is a brand standard.
What a comprehensive and inspiring program you have created, for other hoteliers looking to enhance their ESG efforts, what lessons can you share?
1. Focus on areas where you can move the needle. ESG is such a big expansive topic that we have to remind ourselves we cannot boil the ocean. While there are so many things that we want to do, focus is important. Identify where you can make a difference and hone in on that.
2. Have a committee. Create a group that is committed, with depth and breadth. Draw from a wide range within your organization and get as many different departments involved as possible. You will be surprised by how many passionate people there are! Also, you need to have C-suite sponsorship and high-level executives who can make and execute decisions. Ultimately you must have a serious committee with established criteria, vision, and policies to be effective.
3. Track your progress. We said this before, but just to reiterate, the most meaningful way to make change is to measure from where you start and to what you accomplish. This also allows you to continually tweak your efforts to make the most impact.
Thank you, Marina! Wishing you and Red Roof success with Purpose with Heart!