Fifty Shades of Green: 10 Questions for Xenia

Xenia is our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) expert at Oetker Collection. She is the one behind the Oetker Collection’s CSR strategy, and we wanted to find out what inspires her. Read on to find out.

What made you want to pursue a green career?

Having grown up in the midst of the wood has given me a lifelong appreciation for the importance of nature in our lives. Not just the beauty and the regenerative effect it has on our health but also being in tune with seasons and the way all environmental systems interact and depend on each other-and ultimately us humans depending on them!

How do you define Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)?

To me it means ‘Responsible Business Management’- which means making your business competitive, solid and risk-proof for the next generation.

It is about integrating people, nature and making a business prosperous for all stakeholders.

How long have you been working on CSR for Oetker Collection?

My first meeting with Frank Marrenbach took place in 2013 and as the true visionary that he is, he immediately saw the importance of what we were doing and asked me to start working with the group’s first CSR responsible at the time Julie Poirot. She had already done a fantastic job at establishing the baseline and a strategy, from which we were then able to elaborate all the projects such as the Eco-Standards, the communication campaigns, the structures for the CSR Patrons to work with jointly.

Why is it important for global companies to engage in CSR today?

“We are in a climate crisis and our house is on fire”, which is the way the climate action hero Great Thunberg puts it, and I fear I agree with her. CSR is no longer a choice- it’s a must! And any business leader not taking on this challenge is avoiding his/her responsibilities as well as duties. We all need to make changes, governments, organisations, corporate businesses and citizens, as only a joint effort will be able to turn this crisis around.

Oetker Collection has officially banned single-use plastic in all of its hotels and properties—a bold and pioneering decision. What sorts of initiatives are to come?

Indeed a bold but necessary decision, however the operational processes are huge and implementing something like this in 9 hotels is actually a much bigger step than it seems from the outside. You need to change contracts with suppliers, get rid of stock and change certain daily routines, and make budgets to go with it too. It was great to see everyone get on board with this and I am enormously grateful to all the team efforts involved.

As for the next initiatives- we desperately need to start reducing our overall Co2 emisisons in order to achieve the global climate goals and in order to do that there will be a need for big collaborations with transport and supplier companies, adapting innovative new technologies.

We have already established a series of new standards, such as creating car-sharing schemes for staff, increasing local produce more and more, Carbon investment projects, working with charities to increase biodiversity and avoid the use of non-invasive species at all properties.

How does Oetker Collection engage with the local communities through CSR?

Every property works with at least one local charity to support communities in the locations they are based in.

Palacio Tangara works closely with an organization based at the Favela (shantytown) closest to the hotel and supports young people from those homes to get job opportunities within the hotel sector. Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc supports L’Espace Mer & Littoral’s work for the conservation of the Mediterranean Loggerhead Turtles. Le Bristol has been collaborating with a charity that collects funds for cancer research in France. The Brenner’s Park Hotel works with the local Red Cross Foundation for donations that go to refugees as well as supporting an organisation dedicated to the preservation of one of the main natural heritages in Baden-Baden: the Lichtenthaler Allee.

And there are many more charities as well as organisations that each and every Oetker Collection hotel is actively involved with, these are just a few examples.

What impact would you like to have personally on the future?

To actively continue to help companies make the necessary changes towards a sustainable and Carbon neutral future. To encourage business leaders as well as staff in hospitality business to be bold and courageous in their actions and decisions when it comes to combating climate issues. As we need big actions now, which quite rightly the future generations are demanding of us, because we are the one’s in positions to make those important decisions.

Some of these behavioral changes might take us out of our personal comfort zone, but if we all make them together it will be easier as well as more economical. Plus it only takes 30 days to shed a habit or take up a new one, so things like switching to a toothpaste out of a glass jar for example, is a bit unusual the first few days, but every time the sensation is uncomfortable, one just needs to remember there is one less tube of plastic ending up in the ocean, and suddenly it becomes more bearable until being the new normal. And then you can move on to the next item on your ‘bucket list of climate actions’.

Are there any good habits travellers can adopt to be greener as they move around the globe?

Here are my 10 golden rules for sustainable travel, maybe if we all start with three – we can all make a big difference:

. Chose destinations to which you can travel by train as this is the most climate neutral form of travel

. If you end up flying make sure you offset your airmiles through Carbon Investment projects (and not necessarily those offered directly by the airlines, as they do not always give you the traceability of where the money of your offsetting goes). Use websites such as https://www.southpole.com for corporate Carbon Offsetting, https://co2.myclimate.org/en/flight_calculators/new  or https://www.atmosfair.de/en/for your own  personal travel

. When choosing your accommodation/hotel ensure they have at least a sustainability policy or section on their website. Alternatively you can always ask them when booking what their activities in this areas are

. Always travel with your own water bottle- every airport now has water fountains or in Europe you can use tap water to fill up your bottles. Avoids costs and extra plastic waste

. When you finish your shampoos, shower gels, sun creams make sure you take the empty bottles back home as many holiday destinations to not have serious waste systems or recycling facilities

. Use Sunscreen without oxybenzone- as this contributes to the bleaching of corals

. When checking into a hotel make sure you tell the concierge or reception staff that you only want your towels/sheets changed every other or 3rdday, to ensure they also stick to their policy

. Eat as much local and seasonal food of the country you are in. Do not expect the dishes you get at home to be prepared for you in far-away countries as many products will have to be flow in

. Support local handicraft, made by local producers through buying souvenirs made in the country you are visiting and make sure they are not all produced in China

. Try to minimise your impact at all points, i.e. noise & waste minimisation, and always treat all cultural sites with respect

What do you think the planet will look like in 20 years?

I hope for and I dream of a planet where we are no longer losing precious species every year. Where the oceans are not choking in plastic, where we have stopped mass production of meat on an industrial level, where more people are happy to consume less meat and generally consume less new things but are excited about buying innovative up-cycled products and therefore participate in circular economy. I sincerely hope we will have reached a point in 20 years where all fossil fuels have been replaced with renewable energy sources, and I also believe that there will be a lot more collaborative businesses and initiatives, as we will need to work together a lot more to find solutions for a sustainable economy.

What are you most proud of today?

The incredible engagement we have seen from ALL members of the Oetker Collection. CSR has become totally integrated into every day operations, at all levels and in all departments with everyone being aware of our goals and main commitments.

And I am also enormously proud that as a company, at Considerate, we have such wonderful projects as the Oetker Collection’s CSR strategy to work on and that we have grown to become a team of 10, which is a great achievement considering we were two people when we started this journey in 2012!

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