From food production to manufacturing and distribution, many industries have become responsible for global food waste. As the future of food security becomes bleak and uncertain, some organizations have taken to heart their active role in combating this alarming concern.
In the hotel and tourism sector, SM Hotels and Conventions Corporation (SMHCC) took decisive leadership to mitigate global food waste and environmental concerns by implementing sustainable initiatives across all its properties in the Philippines. SMHCC is the hotel and convention centers arm of SM Prime Holdings, Inc. (SM Prime), one of Southeast Asia’s largest property companies and known for its integrated and responsible developments. SM Prime’s hotel developments have been paving the way for eco-tourism with its sustainability initiatives.
“SM Hotels doesn’t just develop properties solely for leisure and entertainment. We ensure to embed all our sustainability efforts and campaigns at every step of our operations,” said SMHCC Vice President for Sustainability and Food and Beverage Leah Magallanes.
The beginning of the sustainability journey
Established in April 2008, SMHCC had the primary purpose of developing and managing the hotel and convention properties of its holding company, SM Prime Holdings, Inc. Currently, SMHCC operates nine world-class properties situated in key areas across the archipelago. These include Taal Vista Hotel in Tagaytay City, Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club and Pico Sands Hotel in Batangas, Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu, Conrad Manila in Pasay City, and Park Inn by Park Inn by Radisson hotels in North Edsa, Clark, Davao, Iloilo and, Bacolod.
A decade later, SMHCC rewrote its mission and vision by navigating the path towards a sustainability journey, where its efforts are anchored on its Seven Green Goals (7Gs) based on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG). These are Gender Equality, Energy and Water, Sustainable Tourism, Consumption and Diversion, and Greenhouse Gas (GHG).
A commitment to responsible consumption and diversion
As VP of Sustainability and F&B at SMHCC, Leah Magallanes, fondly called “Chef Leah by colleagues, shared the group’s sustainable initiatives to help them realize the Consumption and Diversion goal.
“Our efforts are driven by the principles of ‘Refuse, Reuse, and Recycle.’ Our key initiatives include World Wide Fund for Nature’s Sustainable Diner, composting efforts, eco-labeling and, phasing out of single-use plastics,” Chef Leah said.
SMHCC partnered with WWF to carry out the latter’s Sustainable Diner project across all its hotel and convention properties. The project aims to transform and help the food service sector minimize its impact on the environment and the world’s future food security through a multi-sectoral awareness and adoption of healthy and environment-friendly practices.
Sustainable Diner at SMHCC is executed mainly across the group’s Back of House (BOH) or its internal operation and service to the customers. These are considered quite effective as they helped management significantly change and improve the food waste concern, such as reducing food waste per cover to less than an average of 250 grams.
According to Chef Leah, Back of the House is where SMHCC’s Sustainable Diner begins because it covers all properties’ complete journey of food. It starts with (1) local sourcing, (2) receiving that follows strict food safety and hygiene protocols, (3) teaching the chefs mindful production to avoid wastage, (4) cooking and plating without using unnecessary garnishes, and, lastly, (5) composting of food waste to divert it from landfill.
“It’s a long process but our team is just happy to achieve significant changes. Our local sourcing practice empowers our partner farms and builds trust with guests on the freshness of the food served to them,” Chef Leah shared.
The BOH journey at SMHCC is a multi-dimensional program. Not only does the rigorous process help fulfill its sustainable initiatives but it also saves internal costs for the organization. An example of this is the composting efforts of Taal Vista Hotel and Pico Sands Hotel. They have successfully created a circular economy that benefited their F&B operations. Their own compost pits were reported to produce over 1,000 kilos of vegetables last year.
Partnerships with a shared mission and values play an important role in SMHCC’s sustainability journey. It is currently working on recycling its condemned linens and turning them into totes and facemasks in partnership with various entities. Conrad Manila and Park Inn by Radisson Clark, on the other hand, pursued an initiative with ‘Rise Against Hunger’ and Diversey called Soap for Hope, which is to salvage soap slivers and turn them into new soap bars.
Conrad Manila reported that it was able to donate used soap (38 kg.) from guest rooms to its partner community in Taguig. This benefit doubled as it, in turn, led to the provision of livelihood for the women in the community and helped amplify the importance of sanitation and hygiene.
Raising awareness through eco-labeling and phasing out single-use plastics
Eco-labelling is another effective initiative practiced across all SMHCC properties. Its continuous promotion of sustainable consumption and production policy raises awareness among guests, and, ultimately, reverberates the effort to the public with changed mindsets.
Last October 2021, Pico Restaurant and Sun Coral Café, the restaurants in Pico de Loro Beach and Country Club and Pico Sands Hotel, received the National Ecolabelling Programme-Green Choice Philippines (NELP-GCP) Awards Certification. NELP-GCP is one of the country’s programs aimed at ensuring that the fundamentals of sustainable development are faithfully practiced in operations, including the production and distribution of environment friendly products. This gives them the license to use the Green Choice Philippines Seal of Approval and assures guests of the properties’ strict compliance in protecting the environment.
More importantly, SMHCC promptly addressed one of the environment’s biggest concerns: single-use plastics (SUPs) and amenities. It fully supported the United Nations Environment Program’s (UNEP) project to phase out SUPs such as plastic straws, plastic utensils, cups and glasses and takeout containers. Aside from these, properties started eliminating plastic water bottles in guest rooms and plastic amenity containers in bathrooms . In 2019, the group achieved its milestone and eliminated SUPs by the thousands.
Pico Sands Hotel, for example, successfully diverted 130,000 pieces of plastic straws to paper straws and 46,000 pieces of plastic bags to brown bags. Together with Taal Vista Hotel, they have also replaced their single-use amenities with refillable bottles, as well as microwavable plastic containers with biodegradable take-out packaging.
SMHCC has several efforts and partners to fully realize its Seven Green Goals. But to ensure all properties practice responsible procurement, it spearheaded an annual online seminar and awareness program called Green Procurement. This program anchors on ‘greener’ ways to procure goods and focuses on its performance via reports on waste, plastic, production and consumption. The event also introduces new projects, partners, and suppliers to make the journey a success.
SMHCC’s milestones are stimuli to spark its growing efforts toward green procurement and advocacy of eco-tourism. It continues to step up its exciting journey with the profound mission of elevating consumers’ mindsets for responsible consumption, contributing to the wellness of people, and nurturing the environment.