Q&A: Helping to Build Sustainable Communities

Name: Jo Licata

Title: Community Projects Manager

Organization: Hilton San Francisco Union Square

Tell me about Hilton Hotels’ overall efforts in CSR and sustainability.

I have been at this for almost 30 years, and I’ve had the great pleasure of seeing Hilton’s CSR and sustainability efforts multiply and expand dramatically, especially over the last 15 years. A lot of hotels have contributed to the overall corporate efforts. Hilton has had the vision of seeking out the best practices at their properties all over the world and providing the company with a great vision in Travel with Purpose and Meet with Purpose [initiatives]. Community involvement and sustainable practices are simply a way business is done every day.

Has much progress has been made? What challenges remain?

I can never say, “Job done.” Progress has been made, but so much remains to be done. Challenges??!!
Well, where does one start? Believe me, people want to help. People want to make a difference—especially now, with the way our country is in such pain. People often ask what they can do. I can only suggest that we start where we are. We need to do the best and as much as we can for our neighborhood, and then let our outreach expand. I said our country is in pain…but so is our world. Global warming is an issue that impacts all of us. With all this swirling around, I’m grateful I work for a company, and live in a city and community, that cares about these issues as much as we do.

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In what other ways are you helping your local community?

Our work with youth groups and job training programs is extremely important for our future. We do our best to engage young people about careers and opportunities in hospitality and community involvement. We strongly support arts in education programs. Each month, our director of human resources works with nonprofit job applicants and provides aspirational tours of our hotel, and encourages them to apply for positions in the industry.

MoreHow to Choose the Right CSR Activity for Your Group

Have you helped to get meeting groups involved in community activities?

This is one of the most rewarding areas of my work—working with our incoming groups and conventions in assisting them with finding the right nonprofit partner to volunteer for, or to assist in some other way. Right now, I’m working with three incoming groups to help them find meaningful CSR projects for their attendees. A couple of these are city-wide conferences and one is in our hotel. Most conferences are now very savvy when it comes to sustainable practices. That wasn’t the case about 10 years ago. Now, conferences want to know what we do to be sustainable. We give them our green practices and encourage them to pass these along to attendees. We can provide the conference or meeting with a report on their carbon emissions, if they like.

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