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SPOTLIGHT ON Arlene Coke, Director Accounting, Treasure & Strategic Relationship, Club Med

By Sharon Hirschowitz, Global Head of Media & Communications for The International Luxury Hotel Association
12 July 2020
4 min read
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Sustainability is more than a trend, it’s a way of life that the luxury hospitality industry is investing both its time and resources into towards a better future for the next generation and our planet. Arlene tells us about Club Med’s sustainability initiatives, their challenges, and the importance of having the right partners who also want to do the right thing.

Can you tell us about a couple of sustainability initiatives Club Med has been working on this year?
This year, Club Med has really increased our corporate social responsibility initiatives. We have a global program we are working on – called Happy to Care – that is launching across all of our business units, from Europe to Asia and the Americas. Specifically for us here in the North American business unit, we have enacted several efforts, including: opening our first eco-chic resort in November, Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda, which will feature a plethora of sustainability initiatives and has been constructed with strict environmental regulations and will also operate under Green Globe; we have developed a new uniform for our staff that is created out of recycled plastic materials; we have enacted in-resort educational programs to teach guests about the environment and the importance of recycling; our resorts continue to operate under Green Globe certifications to ensure the highest standard of sustainable tourism; and we also have enforced our “Bye Bye Plastic” program to eliminate single-use plastics from our resorts. We also have a Club Med Foundation program that supports the surrounding communities for each of our resorts.

What have been your biggest challenges balancing the desire to do the right thing with the practicalities of running luxury property?
Fortunately, we’ve found through our clientele and industry research that the luxury market has been moving more toward becoming a sustainable business. While there is still a lot of work to be done, travelers today expect the resort they stay in to be sustainable and environmentally friendly. Affluent clientele, specifically, look for luxury properties that can provide them their comforts while still having an environmentally friendly mission behind them. Because of this, our newest resort in the Exclusive Collection (which is our luxury line of resorts), Club Med Miches Playa Esmeralda, is focused on being what we call “eco-chic,” which means it’s environmentally friendly while still providing all the comforts of a luxury experience.

Have you had feedback from your guests? How invested are they in more environmentally friendly practices?
Our guests continually share with us that they appreciate all of the different elements our resorts have enacted to be more environmentally friendly. By sharing information in our resorts about our Green Globe operations and the sustainability efforts of our company globally, guests tend to feel more comfortable and are proud to share that their choice stay for their vacation is positively impacting the community. We also find parents love the educational elements and programs we provide to children to inspire them to take better care of their environment.

How has this changed your relationships with your partners/suppliers?
Club Med has been continually operating in a way that positively impacts our surrounding environments for years, so it is of no surprise to our partners that we continue to demand services that meet or exceed the requirements set forth by the Green Globe organization. As we continue to elevate our CSR initiatives, we continually look for new partners, suppliers and vendors who can comfortably take on the challenge to create products and services that meet sustainable standards, from reusable plastic ware to bamboo straws and boxed water, etc.

How do you get your staff involved?
We have a committee in each of our regional offices that is dedicated to serving both our community and CSR efforts. Between G.Os in Action, our internal group dedicated to serving the community, and the Club Med Foundation, our team members have plenty of options and choices to get involved and stay active. We encourage them to participate and even plan events outside of work for all of us to volunteer together.