Clearly, the Marina Bay Sands hotel and convention center in Singapore is a sustainability leadership story that couldn’t be more different from the small lodges often associated with sustainable hospitality. And while knowledge of remote ecolodges is sometimes limited to birdwatchers and other green travel connoisseurs, Marina Bay Sands is the landmark of Singapore and as such hard to miss.
At Marina Bay Sands, unless you really search for it, you won’t even notice its green credentials. Yet, the iconic five-star hotel, casino and convention center, which belongs to Las Vegas Sands Corporation, have been very actively pushing the sustainability agenda, with some impressive results.
Marina Bay Sands is the first MICE facility in South East Asia to obtain the ISO 20121 Sustainable Events Management System certification in February 2014. Also in May 2014, Marina Bay Sands was accorded the EarthCheck Silver Certification for their stewardship in sustainability.
We caught up with Kevin Teng, Executive Director of Sustainability at Marina Bay Sands. Engineer by training, on our tour he explains us many unique eco-efficiency features in and around the various facilities that are part of the integrated resort – among the largest in the world.
Marina Bay Sands includes a hotel with 2,561 rooms, a 120,000 square meter convention center, 74,000 square meters of retail space, a museum, two large theaters and over 60 restaurants and dining establishments.
Kevin, when and why did Marina Bay Sands decide to focus on sustainable hospitality?
At Marina Bay Sands, going green is more than just a concept. It is a philosophy that has been instilled in the integrated resort’s design and business operations even before our opening in 2010.
Marina Bay Sands takes an active and long term approach towards championing sustainability from the design of our property, the technology that helps us reduce our carbon footprint, to the ways in which we influence our stakeholders and clients to play their part in environmental protection.
Marina Bay Sands’ sustainability programme, Sands ECO360° is a global strategy spearheaded by our parent company in Las Vegas and has the objective to continuously improve the stewardship of our business, the environment and the community. It consists of four priorities: Green Building, Environmentally Responsible Operations, Green Meetings and Sustainability Education and Outreach.
Sustainability was built into the design and construction phases of Marina Bay Sands. Green materials were used and best practices in sustainable construction management were adhered to. We utilised recycled materials and products under Singapore’s Green Labelling Scheme, such as fire-rated doors, drainage cells, drywall partitions, and timber decking.
To conserve energy, the property installed an extensive glass facade that allows abundant natural daylight to illuminate indoor areas, displacing the need for energy-intensive lights.
Energy consumption is managed by an intelligent building management system, while food waste digesters help to convert food waste into water.
Our ongoing commitment differentiates us from others in the marketplace. Our efforts in reducing our carbon footprint have helped us earn trust with our stakeholders and further solidify our reputation as a leading sustainability company. Our stakeholders include Marina Bay Sands’ employees and executives, hotel and Meetings, Incentives, Conventions and Exhibitions (MICE) guests, vendors, suppliers and our media friends.
What are the most exciting sustainable initiatives at the hotel?
Marina Bay Sands has an array of on-going and new programmes internally and externally. Here are some exciting initiatives that we have.
Marina Bay Sands is the first MICE (meetings, incentives, conferencing, exhibitions) facility in South East Asia to obtain the ISO 20121 Sustainable Events Management System certification in February 2014. It is also the single largest building in Singapore to be conferred the Green Mark Gold Award by the Building and Construction Authority (BCA) in 2012. Here are a few specs of the Green Meetings program:
- Green Meeting Concierge, a dedicated service personnel who will help clients craft sustainable meetings using the Sands ECO360 Meetings Planning Tool.
- Sands ECO360 Event Impact Statement provides a post-event sustainability report that captures an event’s sustainability highlights and provides a comprehensive summary of energy and water
consumption at a glance.
- Harvest Menu offers locally sourced food and beverage options to reduce food miles and lower the emission of greenhouse gases during transportation.
- Sub-metering of MICE floors allows organisers to effectively track energy usage across specific areas.
- Waste management with recycling bins and sustainably disposing of leftover food and materials
We have a stringent sustainable purchasing policy that provides guidelines to our vendors, encouraging them to provide solutions, materials and goods that are eco-friendly.
Sourcing sustainable food and procuring of earth friendly packaging materials are also included in our sustainable purchasing policy.
Since October 2013, Marina Bay Sands no longer serves shark fin in the restaurants we own and operate. Shark fin dishes are also no longer served or offered at our MICE events at Sands Expo and Convention Centre.
What have been the main benefits of implementing these green initiatives?
We believe that green initiatives not only benefit the environment, but are also in the long run, critical for our guests and Team Members engagement. Furthermore, sustainability benefits our company by driving efficiency and productivity in our operations – “green business is good business”. The data we track and collect while implementing these initiatives also helps the company to identify gaps and opportunities, and it’s a great way of connecting with our Team Members. Implementing green initiatives also differentiates us from our competitors in the local hospitality industry and enables us to be a role model to positively influence other organisations and partners we work with.
As an integrated resort operating on such a large scale – with business that spans across hotel, entertainment, MICE, retail, F&B and more – we have the ability to drive economies of scale when it comes to sourcing of goods and services. As we adhere to our responsible procurement standards, we have the ability to motivate our suppliers to rethink their business models and adopt sustainable practices.
A good example is that of printing – our brochures and collaterals have to be printed on environmentally friendly materials, using soy-based inks. While this is available in the market, it is an expensive service and vendors may shy away from providing this option to customers. Now, our regular vendor has obtained the Forest Stewardship Council certification and provides environmentally friendly materials and processes to not just Marina Bay Sands, but also to other customers as well.
Any other green initiatives planned in the near future?
We have very strong support from the leadership team and have built upon the solid foundation of our global sustainability strategy to achieve what we have today. Going forward, we will continue to be focused on reducing our carbon footprint and water consumption, as well as driving further improvements with our sustainable supply chain practices and hotel guest engagement.
Your advice to hotels looking to do the same?
Going green is more than just installing fancy new technology or changing out a light bulb; it’s also critical to invest in changing mind-sets.
To achieve results, I advise a holistic approach to inspire behavioural change.
Secondly, going green needs long term commitment and organisations need to establish the governance and leadership structure to address sustainability on a broad and long-term basis.
Lastly, hotels should also take into consideration both internal and external stakeholders, as this is an integration to business and operations. All parties are important in order for green initiatives to be successfully executed.
Your view on Singapore’s commitment regarding sustainability and sustainable tourism?
In Singapore, sustainability is becoming more than just a buzz word. More businesses are actively adopting sustainable practices in daily operations and realising that such investment will bring about both short and long-term benefits. The Singapore government is also rolling out programmes and shifting policy to encourage this development.
The Singapore Tourism Board for instance, has launched the Sustainability Guidelines for the MICE industry to encourage event organisers to adopt sustainable events management practices.
In the area of waste management, Singapore’s National Environment Agency has made compulsory waste reporting by large commercial premises. An industry-wide reporting exercise would help build greater awareness among companies for improving their premises’ waste management systems.
In a more recent development, Singapore Exchange will also soon make sustainability reporting mandatory for all listed companies.
Overall, Singapore is certainly taking steps in the right direction in aspects of encouraging sustainability in businesses. We are very excited about this wave of change and look forward to playing a part in shaping sustainability in Singapore.
Thank you, Kevin.
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