Aspects of hotel group Hyatt’s latest report are refreshing and commendable. But those strengths need to be applied more comprehensively
At 40 pages, Hyatt’s second full corporate responsibility (CR) report is brief, yet it is supplemented by the company’s online CR platform – Thrive – which contains static, high-level descriptions of Hyatt’s CR initiatives, a video message from the chief executive and a full list of external recognition. The website also features an interactive global map linking to stories and case studies from Hyatt’s more than 450 owned, managed and franchised properties.
There is no grand storytelling in the document. Hyatt’s 2013-14 study is relatively straightforward, covering at a high level the key areas to be expected from a hotel industry CR report. The study is organised around three buckets of “material issues” – people, community, planet – which are introduced in a table in the overview section, and the business case is woven throughout.
Commendably, the report addresses with confidence the difficult but very relevant topic of human trafficking as part of its human rights section. Hyatt defines the scope of the problem in its business and explains its partnership with the Polaris Project, a non-profit initiative that works to combat modern-day slavery and human trafficking, to develop targeted colleague training. Where many companies are reluctant to address such a sensitive issue, Hyatt confronts human trafficking in a simple, matter-of-fact and effective way.
The report begins with letters from the company’s two key executives – the CEO and the vice-president for CR. The CEO speaks to the character of the company and its vision for “thoughtful growth”. The letter makes a clear linkage between CR and business resilience, mentioning colleague retention, community development and the preservation of beautiful, desirable places as important factors to business success.
The letter from the vice-president of CR picks up where the CEO letter has left off, discussing the two new strategic initiatives covered in the report – the launch of Hyatt’s new philanthropy programme focused on literacy and career readiness, Ready to Thrive, and the refresh of the company’s environmental strategy.
Evidently, Hyatt has engaged stakeholders and done a materiality analysis. However, the description of this process is brief and lacks specificity about the results, as well as the number and type of stakeholders engaged. The report includes a full-page overview of ongoing stakeholder engagement efforts, but it does not provide a clear description of the key insights gleaned from these initiatives.
The study presents the reader with is a list of material issues instead, without a clear indication of their relative importance to stakeholders and the business. This is a missed opportunity to prioritise issues and give the report a strong focus.
The brevity and directness of Hyatt’s report is refreshing, yet it also leaves some important questions unanswered. Notably, the report fails to discuss the role that Hyatt’s guests play in sustainability. While the study explains how Hyatt surveys its guests, its focus is on improving customer satisfaction through segmentation and service delivery, rather than on how or whether the customer-focused CR efforts are effective in driving sustainability results and satisfaction. There is an opportunity to improve here and to further link Hyatt’s strategic CR programmes with a clear customer-focused business case.
Extending the environmental goals
The highlight of the report is the environment chapter. Where the first two chapters lack specific goals and provide little context for the data points, the environment chapter clearly communicates progress and sets a vision for the future, based on the company’s refreshed 2020 goals.
On the whole, Hyatt’s 2020 environmental targets are aggressive, measurable and clear. The majority of the goals focus on resource use, which is a primary business concern for hotels. While Hyatt’s current targets focus largely on managed and owned properties, the 2020 goals suggest that the company is taking its first steps to extend their reach to its franchised properties, about 34% of Hyatt’s total portfolio. By 2016, all franchised hotels will track and report environmental performance data.
Hyatt is also establishing a fund to test and prove the business case for sustainability solutions. As the company endeavours to bring on board properties where it is not the primary owner, a clear business case will strengthen the pitch.
Overall, Hyatt’s 2013-14 report is a clear and concise overview of the company’s CR strategy and results. It could become a role model in the future if the quality of the environment chapter is replicated in the rest of the report.
- Follows GRI? G4 referenced
- Assurance? No
- Materiality analysis? Yes
- Goals? Some
- Targets? Some
- Stakeholder input? Yes, but no summary of insights
- Seeks feedback? Unclear
- Key strength: Brevity, environment chapter
- Chief weakness: Inconsistent goals and progress statements
- Pleasant surprise: Forthright about human trafficking