This month’s Rising Star, Carmen Ng, sustainability manager at Langham Hospitality Group, explains how she’s helping to remake the hospitality template so that sustainability and luxury can go hand in hand.
What is your professional background?
I have been working in the environmental professional field for the past 15 years. My previous jobs were primarily with consultancy services to local government and private companies on environmental management and sustainability reporting. This is my first job in the hospitality industry.
I came across many best practices from the industries, but never really had a chance to implement these initiatives throughout all the stages. I decided my next professional move should be to work for a corporation to develop and implement a systematic, yet tailored approach on managing sustainability issues.
Striking the balance between sustainability and luxury has been my biggest professional challenge.
What is the project you feel has made your mark on the industry?
The development of Langham Hospitality Group’s corporate annual sustainability report, which I initiated in 2011. Not many hospitality groups, particularly at our size, publish annual sustainability reports to consolidate their past initiatives and reveal their corporate social responsibility plan for the future.
What would you say is the most time-consuming project you’re working on right now?
We are developing the tool kit for our hotels to implement the management system for EarthCheck certification. This began in 2013 and is just nearing completion. It required the gathering of nearly 100 document templates from our EarthCheck-certified hotels around the world, which allows them to share their experience with our newer hotels that have not yet been certified.
Click here to read our roundtable discussion with EarthCheck’s CEO Stewart Moore, Fiona Jeffery of Just a Drop, and PATA’s Chi Lo.
What has been your biggest professional challenge so far and how did you navigate it?
Striking the balance between sustainability and luxury has been my biggest professional challenge so far. People normally put an equal sign between luxury and waste.
Before I joined Langham I agreed with that. However, I found out that there are so many great environmental initiatives that have been carried out by colleagues at our hotels, most of which take place back of house and are not obviously visible to our guests.
Sustainability is becoming more well-received by the general public, including within the luxury sector. I believe that luxury can also be sustainable by incorporating good design, as exemplified by the car brand Tesla.
At Langham, for example, we hesitated in putting separation bins for waste and recyclables in our guest rooms as we believed that we should do that on their behalf – that is what is expected at a luxury hotel. However, our guests are so used to separating their own waste at home and at their offices that recycling has become a habit of their everyday life. As a result, we have integrated in-room waste segregation bins into some of our hotels with a very positive reception by guests.
Who has been your biggest professional influence so far?
Outside of our company, I find both Bill Gates and Richard Branson very inspiring. I am inspired by their innovative and practical vision of sustainability in their business models as well as in their personal lives.
What advice would you give to young hospitality graduates who are just starting their careers?
Now would be a good time for young professionals to focus on sustainability. It makes sense to practice sustainable behavior and think about the potential evolution of this portion of the industry, especially as guests become more and more knowledgeable on the topic.
What’s the next goal you’d like to achieve professionally?
I would like to continue to create a sustainable business model that is viable and balanced among the three Ps – plant, people and profit. That’s a good model for life in general, actually.
Discover what works — and what doesn’t — in sustainable tourism from Randy Durband, CEO of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council.