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by Sarah J.F. Braley | May 28, 2014

Andrew MoffettMost hotel companies these days have people who spearhead their sustainability efforts. At Marriott International, one of those people is Andrew Moffett, right, whose all-encompassing title (Global Discipline Leader, Event Management) doesn't reflect all the "green" pies he has his hands in: helping to develop Marriott's green-meetings philosophy; developing programs with partners and vendors to provide greener solutions; coming up with ways technology can further the sustainability efforts, both internal and external, and more. I recently had the chance to chat with the 19-year Marriott veteran.

Which Marriott initiative are you most proud of?
Our technology efforts. Technology has shifted how we as business owners and meeting attendees work with the hotel. It's a no-brainer solution to eliminate paper waste. About a year ago, we launched the Meetings Services App, a web-based app, at our North American properties. The planner receives a dedicated URL three days before their event, giving them one person on property with direct access to that meeting planner at the hotel. The app really is a request center for the meeting planner, to request more coffee, add more chairs, etc. We are launching it globally currently; started to deploy in Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Europe, and giving JW and Renaissance hotels their own branded solutions. We feel we have an opportunity to build more into the app now, such as bill review, and we are looking at adding documentation like group-room pickup. We want to build more paperless solutions in. All of these requests sent through by the meeting planner, we'll keep in the database for 120 days after the event. So if the planner has a question about the bill, or forgot what they ordered, the report can be run within the app, without the need to print out the details.

How else are you helping meeting planners further their sustainability efforts?
Meeting planners don't have to come to us and ask for the basics anymore; they expect us to do it, and we have standards in place to have our hotels follow these practices. For instance, in 2007 we launched a green-meetings program, and as the years have progressed, our hotels have dialed up the level. We don't even talk to you about what we use for pads and pens anymore, because we have products that are made from post-consumer waste. We would love to get away from putting a pad at every place setting; we're considering putting them at the back of the room, so they're there when a person needs it, but people who don't need it can't doodle on them, forcing us to discard the pads at the end of the session.

We call out to our vendors, looking to our partners to make sure they have a green story as well. We want to work with vendors who also care about the environment. We began working with a company called Southern Aluminum in Magnolia, Ark., about 6 or 7 years ago, to co-develop linenless buffet tables. You think of all those skirts and plastic clips, all waste. Now our hotels can purchase tables with changeable legs for receptions, coffee breaks, depending on the height they need. Southern also has a line of linenless meeting tables, and a lot of our hotels have started using them. This has been a real paradigm shift. One of our newest hotels, the 1,175-room Washington Marriott Marquis in D.C., with 105,000 square feet of meeting space, is completely linenless.

You got into hospitality as a chef. Have you had a hand in Marriott's sustainable catering efforts?
This is a fun one for me. With food, whether you're entertaining at home or hosting an event, we've seen a growing trend of attendees wanting to know what's going on the table, from either a carbon-footprint standpoint or locally sourced. Local sourcing still is a focus, and many of our talented chefs are planting gardens on property. They are finding space that is uninhabited or dead space and working to turn it into space to cultivate. Some hotels generate their own honey [the 1,196-room Chicago Marriott Downtown Magnificent Mile serves its own Roof Top Honey Wheat beer, produced by Brickstone Brewery using honey from the hotel's rooftop bee hives]. The JW Orlando Grand Lakes started with a small garden about 10 years ago for Melissa Kelly's Primo restaurant, and now they have a farm on the acreage, Whisper Creek Farm, which can even be used for event space for about 250 people seated outdoors. The chefs on property are not being told to do this; they want to do it; they care about the carbon footprint of what they're producing.

What is the company's next sustainability goal?
Overall, reducing the carbon footprint is still our opportunity. We want to redesign our event space, rewriting our standards around how we build event space through our designers, architecture and event teams, so we can host more virtual or hybrid meetings. We know that companies can't send all of their employees to a hotel. Are we building our space to accommodate a company that can only send a portion of their team to the meeting? And how is the rest of the company getting their message? Over the past year as we've been designing these new standards, this is a big undertaking. We have to build the space without adding a lot of cost. We have to do it in a smart way. We want to be great advisers to meeting planners.

We have also developed a certification on our intranet for Marriott International green-meetings associates, making sure they are conversant in three areas: Do they know the green-meetings vocabulary? The products and services we offer? How the vendors are helping? Overall, it's a general environmental platform that gets our frontline associates knowledgable about having the green conversation with the customer.

What do you bring to this job personally?
I have a lot of passion for our business. When you look at how big we are and the impact we can make on a positive platform, that passion is going to come through. There are many, many initiatives that I work on, but there's an underlying tone of "is it right for our hotels and will it have an impact on the environment, negative or positive?" It's my opportunity always to have that green lens on, whether we're working on a program for a particular brand, like the JW wellness brand, or something for the overall company. And we need to be socially responsible.