Exploring Marriott International's Sustainable practices: An interview with Sandeep Walia, COO, Middle East, Marriott International


Sandeep Walia, Chief Operating Officer, Middle East, Marriott International discusses Marriott’s Sustainability initiatives in the Middle East.


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January 23, 2024
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Exploring Marriott International's Sustainable practices: An interview with Sandeep Walia, COO, Middle East, Marriott International

Marriott International has been actively working on sustainability initiatives across its global hotel portfolio. Be it implementing various measures to reduce its environmental impact, focussing on green building standards, 

community engagement, ensuring a sustainable supply chain, recycling or employee training: Marriott has always taken the lead in going sustainable and adopting a responsible approach to the planet’s scarce resources. 

In this section, we speak to Mr. Sandeep Walia,  Chief Operating Officer, Middle East, Marriott International to discuss Marriott’s Sustainability initiatives in the Middle East. 

Tell us about Marriott International’s vision on sustainability.
At Marriott International, we have a responsibility and vested interest in helping to address some of the world’s most pressing social, environmental and economic issues. With our size and global scale, we are well positioned to be part of the solution. As we move forward in this rapidly evolving world, Marriott continues to serve our world by supporting the communities in which we operate. 

Our sustainability and social impact platform, Serve 360 entails doing good in every direction, which puts our core value, Serve Our World, into action, and provides a framework to guide our efforts through 2025. Aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Serve 360 is delivering positive results through four priority areas: Nurture Our World, Sustain Responsible Operations, Empower Through Opportunity and Welcome All and Advance Human Rights, each with its own set of 2025 goals

In September 2021, Marriott International announced that it was committed to a net-zero future: reducing all our carbon emissions across every element of our operation by no later than 2050. Across our 8,000+ properties, we aim to

  • Water: Reduce water intensity by 15% 
  • Carbon: Reduce carbon intensity by 30% 
  • Waste: Reduce waste to landfill by 45% 
  • Food waste: Reduce by 50% 
  • Renewable energy: Achieve a minimum of 30% renewable electricity use
  • Produce: Responsibly source 95% of our food (in our top 10 categories)
  • Local sourcing: 50% of all produce by spend

Achieving our challenging net-zero target will mean partnering with our employees as well as our hotel owners and franchisees. We will continue the journey we’ve been on to reduce our carbon footprint through a variety of efforts such as renewable energy, solid waste and food waste reduction efforts, natural capital restoration including reforestation and coral and mangrove plantings, and plastic free initiatives. 

Our guests – leisure as well as corporate –are passionate about this and we are getting more and more questions about what we are doing, what changes we are making.   We know that our corporate customers are also focused on reducing their carbon footprint, with several already having made their own ambitious climate commitments. 

What initiatives have you taken towards sustainability in the Middle East?
Our 2023 Marriott Bonvoy Travel Trends Research study for the UAE and Saudi Arabia highlights:

  • Sustainability is now a key factor when it comes to travel plans, with 85% in the UAE and 80% in KSA saying environmental considerations now have some impact on their arrangements.  
  • 43% in the UAE say environmental considerations define their travel plans and they will only spend money with companies that have a positive environmental impact, whilst the figure is 38% in KSA  

*Research conducted amongst 2,033 adults from the UAE and 2,007 adults from Saudi Arabia. Nationally representative

Examples of Middle East Initiatives:

Plastic-free/ Water initiatives

    • The launch of the on-site bottling solution located at Destination Mina Seyahi will serve W Dubai – Mina Seyahi, Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Waterpark and The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina. The collaboration with BE WTR is a big step towards their commitment to go single-use plastic free by the end of 2023. The bottling plant will provide all our guests, across rooms and restaurants, with fresh, filtered, bottle-on-site, still and sparkling water. They estimate that they will remove 1,500,000 plastic bottles (1,000 tonnes of plastic) from their operation annually.  It is capable of producing water for 1,500 bottles an hour.
    • As part of The Abu Dhabi EDITION’s drive to reduce plastic waste, the hotel invested in a glass water bottling plant in 2022. With the capacity to produce 500 bottles of sparkling and still water a day at 500ml and 1,000ml capacities, the plant has seen the hotel eliminate the carbon footprint of transportation of plastic bottles via road and created jobs for two people. Beginning at the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company, water is passed through the Reverse Osmosis (RO) system to remove chemical and microbial impurities before being re-mineralised to the standards of the Abu Dhabi Agriculture and Food Safety Authority. The final step will see a tamper-proof reusable seal and delivered to our guests in their bedrooms.
  • The Delta Dubai Investment Park is working with a company to turn the humidity in the air around them into pure drinking water for guests. The AirOWater system project started in January 2023 and will generate 500- 1000 liters of water a day. The hotel currently has two AirOWater's Atmospheric Water Generators, enough to cover all the property's water needs across its operations. All guest rooms and restaurants in the hotel have refillable glass water bottles, highlighting the filtration and generator system of AirOWater. 

Renewable Energy

  • Riyadh Marriott Hotel has a Solar Panel project designed to supply usable solar power, reducing its CO2 emissions annually by 99%. 
  • Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah installed banks of solar panels which they use to heat the water in  guest rooms and their spa, with any extra boost provided by a heat pump, which means they can also create chilled water as a bi-product which is used for the air conditioning. 
  • Marriott and Sheraton hotels in Jordan are fully powered by solar energy plants built in 2017, resulting in a total co2 of only 4k kgs. Thermal solar panels were installed in Dead Sea Marriott in 2007 and Amman Marriott in 2014. The total area of the plant is 405,000 square meters (100 acres) with 35,302 panels. Total yearly reduced CO2 emission is 3,939,778 Kg equivalent to 157,591 trees.
  • The Westin & Le Meridien City Centre Bahrain completed the installation of wind turbines in 2022, marking the first two hotels in Bahrain to do so. The hotels installed 20 wind turbines, which generate 3kw of electricity per turbine, in addition to 96 electric, solar panels. Electricity generated from these ten turbines is enough to light up all public areas of both hotels.

Food Initiatives (Including Food Waste) 

  • In May 2022 Ritz-Carlton Dubai, JBR opened a hyper-local on-site hydroponic farm, one of the first-ever vertical farms in the city.  It is approximately 40 square meters in size and completely sealed to ensure it is pesticide and herbicide-free. The dynamic farm grows crops year–round with daily harvests of up to ten kilograms of produce.  The hydroponic technique employed by the resort eliminates the need for soil to grow crops and reduces the amount of water needed by close to 90 percent when compared with traditional farming techniques.
  • The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal also created an on-site vertical farm. The farm's produce will be used in the property's restaurants and bars, as part of its attempt to cut its carbon footprint. They are hoping to produce 12 kilograms of produce per day.
  • The Ritz-Carlton Al Wadi Desert composts approx 181kg of food scraps each month and uses the fresh compost in the on-property chef’s garden. They established an herb garden within the resort to grow their own herbs and vegetables. Most of the salad dishes served in the all-day dining restaurant Kaheela are prepared using the vegetables from the garden and the herbs play a vital role in marinating meats in the restaurant's outlets.
  • Al Manara, Luxury Collection partners with the Sarah Forest Project Jordan to use their vegetables and produce in the new menu. At the Sahara project, they grow food that is almost 100% organic, they don’t use pesticides and they desalinate the water from the Red Sea.
  • The St. Regis Istanbul has installed a compost water tank. They bought grinders for wastewater and transformed leftovers and other food waste into ‘fertilizing water’ to grow vegetables or flowers. 

Environmental/ Community Initiatives 

  • Etihad Airways and Marriott International have planted 12,000 mangrove trees in Abu Dhabi to create the Etihad Marriott Mangrove Forest. Spread across more than 150 sq km on Jubail Island’s coastline, the Etihad Marriott Mangrove Forest now makes up part of the only evergreen forest in the GCC region providing a natural habitat for marine and terrestrial species. Mangroves store four times more CO2 than Trees and by planting this forest, we will conserve 6.4 billion tonnes of CO2 while engaging our associates across the region.
  • The Red Sea will be fully powered by sunlight, day and night and Red Sea Global is currently creating the largest battery storage facility for their onsite solar panel farm.  They are also developing the largest nursery in the Middle East at one million square meters. The aim is to grow more than 30 million plants by 2030. Other initiatives also include coral regeneration and coral propagation with the aid of AI technology.   Our properties within the Red Sea will be aligned with the initiatives of the destination:
    • The St. Regis Red Sea Resort 
      • Will source food with a local first approach working with local farms and fishermen.
      • Guests will be transported through the destination in ‘clean’ vehicles, hydrogen-powered seaplanes and electric cars (Lucid).
      • The interior design has been developed in accordance with guidelines for LEED platinum certification.
      • We are building a plastic-free environment on the island – no plastic bottles or straws. 
      • It is anticipated that we will have a water treatment and bottling plant with reusable glass bottles.