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September 18, 2009

Drinking Accor's Kool-AID

World Savers

by Dinda Elliott

I'm going to sound like I've drunk the Kool-Aid, or worse, that I'm on somebody's payroll, but I swear to you, Accor, whose Sofitel and Novotel hotels cater to business travelers, really gets the idea of sustainable development. This year, Accor won a Condé Nast Traveler World Savers AwardCondé Nast Traveler World Savers Award, which will be presented at the World Savers Congress World Savers Congress on September 21.

The company monitors and conserves water and energy consumption (setting transparent targets for reduction), but it won the award for the amazing work it is doing in fighting AIDS at its 4000 properties around the world. Accor's CEO, Gilles Pelisson, is a crusader for the idea that hotel companies can-and should-do good. I had a chat in New York's chic Novotel with Pelisson a few days ago, overlooking Times Square. The CEO, who lost some friends to AIDS, got emotional discussing what he sees as the hotel industry's responsibility to fight the plague. Accor has persuaded its employees to be tested for HIV/AIDS, a special challenge in Africa where Accor has 111 properties and AIDS still carries a crippling stigma. "If I admit that I am part of the problem, then I believe others will follow," Pelisson said. "I like to see us as doctors for businesspeople. We pamper them, then send them out into the world. But I can also see a dark side, prostitution and ugly things that can happen in hotels, and this is our responsibility. It's not easy to speak about it. But we must." Accor has provided AIDS training to all its employees and hangs anti—child sex trafficking posters prominently in its lobbies.

Pelisson is one of those rare CEOs who sees a larger mission in what he does. "I believe in solidarity at all levels of society," Pelisson told me. "Whether we are in Paris, North America or Africa, we are part of a community. Our hotels are part of people's lives. We must look at what good we are doing, wherever we operate. Through the families of our employees, through our suppliers, we have links and relationships. Whether we want it or not, we are responsible. If we don't care for the environment, and about social issues, then we are not doing our jobs."

Wouldn't it be great if every hotel company approached the world that way?


Further reading:
* Video: Mandy Moore introduces the World Savers Congress
* How can YOU help save the world when you travel? (Perrin Post)
* The program for Monday's World Savers Congress


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