Singapore launched the national Green Plan 2030 this year to tackle climate change — this includes how the hospitality industry is run.
Here is where Noémie Danthine, the sustainability director of EHL Group, comes in. EHL stands for Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne, one of the leading schools of hospitality in the world.
With the pandemic giving us ample time to reflect, it’s also given Danthine and her team time to think about EHL’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
Across EHL’s three campuses around the globe, they’ve launched initiatives such as supporting local communities, plus integrating sustainability and digital learning into school life. EHL’s recently launched campus in Singapore also features carbon-neutral floors.
Below we speak to Danthine to learn more about EHL’s move towards sustainable hospitality education:
Where did your interest in English, French and philosophy come from?
I grew up with a love of reading and in a family that enjoys debating at the dinner table. I have also always liked reflecting on issues relating to ethics and society. So, when it was time to choose my studies, I pursued my passions: literature and philosophy.
What made you choose to get your EMBA?
As EHL Group started to give me more and more projects related to sustainability, I felt the need to upskill and expand my knowledge on this particular topic. This wasn’t included during my studies.
With the support of EHL Group’s management, I started a Diploma of Advanced Studies (DAS) in CSR in Switzerland. This gave me the necessary tools and techniques to start working on EHL Group’s first Sustainability Strategy.
It was such a fun and creative period of my life that I decided to continue after my DAS and to get a full EMBA at the University of Geneva.
Walk us through your career trajectory.
I started at EHL Group in 2012 as a Project Manager (heavily involved in the change management) and was tasked with many different types of projects. Most had important components relating to staff members and student satisfaction.
Sustainability in our institution started out as a project but quickly moved to a Strategic Axis for the whole group. As I was in charge of this initial project, my switch from project manager to head of sustainability was quite organic and natural.
In the beginning, EHL Group had many different sustainability initiatives that were disorganised and not really linked to a strategy. The work that began in 2017 was to organise these initiatives without stopping the motivation and creativity of students, staff and faculty members.
We wanted a clear vision and path so a big focus was put on metrics and performance indicators. Another key aspect was to be very honest and transparent in our communication: sustainability is a journey and we want to make sure our students know where we are, where we are going and how much progress we still want to make.
Having a sustainability strategy within the hospitality industry is about contributing beyond education and aiming to give back to society by driving sustainable change. At EHL, we’re committed to reducing carbon footprint by 30% by 2023 in line with the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
This includes, integrating sustainability in education (programmes embedded into the curriculum), Care for our People (ensuring the health, safety and wellbeing of our students, staff, and faculty), contributing to our communities (job hiring, economic growth and providing resources), and respecting our environment (improvement approach around our buildings).
It’s true that the hospitality industry is known to be an important producer of CO2 emissions and waste. It’s imperative for the hospitality industry to do its part to ensure sustainability and fight climate change.
Millennials consider social responsibility and environmental friendliness when making purchases, a trend which encourages other players in the hospitality industry to switch to greener practices.
Can you give us some examples of what EHL’s sustainability initiatives?
There are many main sustainable initiatives across EHL Group and its three campuses.
The EHL Lausanne Campus has been designed and built as a green campus with new and refurbished low-energy consumption buildings. It’s equipped with geothermal probes that will harvest heat from a depth of 800 metres and a novel wastewater heat recovery system.
The new campus will soon have photovoltaic solar panels covering a surface equivalent to three Olympic-sized swimming pools. At EHL Campus Passugg, we have reduced the use of single-use plastic and we encourage low-carbon mobility (through hybrid business cars and electric bikes).
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There is also the Food Save app, an important source of inspiration for students in food waste management for culinary students. This provides the optimisation of kitchen processes, design of offerings and most importantly, the recycling of leftover food.
The newly established EHL Campus (Singapore) is designed with sustainability in mind. As mentioned before, it has carbon neutral floors. The EHL Singapore team works with local caterers to curate responsible menus as well.
Additionally, EHL Group has implemented the Alaya platform (available at all three campuses) that helps students find the right activities for giving back to their communities and provide volunteering initiatives.
Most recently, EHL Campus (Singapore) hosted Environmental Awareness Week where they organised trivia sessions to raise awareness on the campus’ sustainability efforts. They also partnered with Books Beyond Borders, a social business dedicated to expanding educational opportunities in the developing world.
How does the EHL curricula include sustainability?
At EHL Group, we integrate sustainability into our education model as we believe that our students should be nurtured into responsible leaders of the future, accountable for their actions both inside and outside of the classroom.
We, first, sensitise students about sustainability issues that are salient in the hospitality industry. This includes topics such as waste management, local and seasonal food, responsible consumption, packaging and recycling.
Students have the chance to attend field visits to hotels, restaurants, local producers and organic certified producers to learn about the supply chain and the connection between the hospitality industry and nature.
How do you use the knowledge and skills gained in your EMBA in your current job role?
The EMBA provided me with two important assets: theoretical knowledge and resources on sustainability and sustainability reporting which helped me outline EHL Group’s first sustainability strategy. The other was the network gave me access to other talents across many different industries and countries.
Was there anything you wish you had learned more during uni?
I wish my uni degree practice was embedded within the theory as well as the chance to work on motivating projects such as the BSc in International Hospitality Management at EHL. Studying humanities was fun because I was passionate about it but it was very limited to the theoretical side — it would have been great to take part in real-life projects.
Do you have any advice for international students who want to enrol in the hospitality industry?
Be involved in the side projects your school offers. It will teach you many things: project management, leadership and collaboration, and creativity.
I would also implore you to give your 100% in all the practical aspects of your studies. If you miss out on some theory work, you have your entire life to catch up. But the soft skills (customer service and people skills) are what will make a difference in your careers.
Where do you envision yourself in 10 years?
Now that I have discovered sustainability, there is no turning back. I’ve no idea where I’ll be in 10 years time but what I do know is that it will still be in that field. My goal is to have the most positive impact on society as possible.
Whatever gives me the opportunity to have that impact is the path I will follow. We are at a tipping point for the future of our planet and for our society. I believe that a shift in mindset on how we do business is essential.
I urge managers and leaders to embrace the human side of business because only a caring approach to people and nature can help us fight climate change.
Lastly, can you share three fun facts about yourself?
I love all kinds of sports and will never refuse an offer to try a new one. I love to cook Indian food and my spice drawer can prove it. I have a puppy and two bunnies and none of these three pets can safely stay in the same room without supervision — this means my house is a labyrinth of pet gates!