En route to the Taj

In honour of my forthcoming trip to Mumbai in India this week for the World HRD Congress, where I will be presenting on CSR for HR, and attending the World CSR Day ceremonies as a panellist on the subject of CSR – The Way Forward, chaired by Dr Baskhar Chatterjee, the Director General and CEO of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, I thought I would take a look at the Sustainability Report of the Taj Hotels, as I will be staying at the Taj Lands End. (I have fond memories of staying at the Taj Mahal Palace several years ago, so I have high expectations! – the Taj Mahal, as you may recall, made headlines in 2008 as the site of a brutal terrorist attack in which 175 people lost their lives, and the staff was subsequently commended for outstanding service beyond the call of duty, protecting guests and remaining loyal to their employer. Following the terror attack, the India Hotels Company set up the Taj Public Service Welfare Trust to assist the families affected.)

The Taj Hotel Group recently released its eighth Sustainability Report, entitled Beyond the Numbers. It is a way of expressing, for the Indian Hotels Company, owner of the Taj Hotel and other hotel brands, that doing business with CSR at the core is what defines the company as an organisation and shapes its journey in responsible tourism by influencing every life that it touches.

"Beyond the Numbers"

The report is GRI Application Level A+, 88 pages long, with a clever design and a personal, inviting style. Each section begins with an anecdote or almost poetic story, such as how the turtle retreats to its shell for safety, as an introduction to the safety section, or the way workers spent hours fuelling a furnace or 12 hours bending over a conveyor in former times, as the backdrop to the section on how India Hotels is a great workplace, dating back to 1912 when the Tata Group introduced 8-hour shifts, the precursor to a productive work-life balance approach for employees.

This is a thorough report covering governance, compliance and risk management, with a discussion of key risks. The report covers stakeholder engagement and offers a list of priority issues, such as optimising revenues and ensuring environmental excellence.

The Indian Hotels Company places a strong focus on environmental protection and records energy, GHG emissions and water consumption per hotel room per night. It is interesting to note the gap between the luxury segment (with 202 kg CO2e emissions per night) and the lower-cost hotel options (18 kg CO2e emissions at the lower end). 23 hotels are ISO 14001 certified. The group maintains a “War on Waste” with 16% of hotel organic waste being composted, and much of other types of waste are recycled. 3% of the company’s energy needs are met through renewable sources and 25% of water consumption is recycled water, with several hotels achieving zero water discharge.

Oddly, one thing I might have expected to read in this report does not gain air time: the whole question of human rights, child labour, human trafficking, prostitution and child sex exploitation. Just recently I caught a headline “Sex racket out of star hotels in Tamil Nadu busted”, referring to arrests of pimps using local hotels to conduct their dealings. An internet report states that there are “estimated to be over 900,000 sex workers in India. 30% are believed to be children and that the number of children involved in prostitution is increasing at an estimated 8 to 10% per annum.”

One thing a responsible tourism player in India could do would be to become a signatory of The Code.org and establish a specific ethical code and policy regarding commercial exploitation of children, institute other measures to prevent such issues and report fully about the procedures in place. While the hotel and tourism industry may not be responsible for these issues, they certainly can be part of a solution which raises awareness, educates and ensures there is no degree of complicity in any of their activities.

An article by Elaine Cohen. Read the original version here.

Elaine Cohen is a CSR consultant, Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional and author of CSR for HR: A Necessary Partnership for Advancing Responsible Business Practices. Find out more about Cohen’s work via her website.

Buy CSR for HR direct from Greenleaf Publishing and receive a 30% discount. Use voucher code csrhr222 at checkout.


One thought on “En route to the Taj

  1. Nice Article. Elaine.
    A precise use of words with facts, figures and reference.
    Exceedingly superb…

    Sumit Soni
    CSR & Development Sector Banking Professional
    New Delhi

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