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Sandals® Resorts, An Influential Voice On ESG Across The Region

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Sandals Resorts’ stance on Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) programmes continues to be a big ethos for the leading hotel brand.

Also fundamental on the organization’s agenda is being the voice championing regional partnerships between governments and the private sector and the benchmark for a corporate ESG framework.

Recently, Sandals Resort’s Chief Experience Officer Jessica Shannon along with a panel of change makers spoke impressively on the topic, Transforming from the inside for the outside: The future of ESG reporting and governance at the Island Innovation hosted, and Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) sponsored, Island Finance Forum 2023: Investment for Sustainable Development.

Joining Shannon in the vital and timely conversation were fellow panellists Cheryl Senhouse, Finance Innovation Director at Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator, Tisha Marajh, Senior Manager and Group Sustainability Officer, Republic Bank and Gillian Charles-Gollop, Executive Director, Corporate Banking and Sustainable Finance at CIBC First Caribbean.

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The panel was ably moderated by Ronaele Dathorne-Bayrd, Partner Regional Tax and Legal Services Leader, PwC East Caribbean and Lisa Kadirulla, Corporate Services Senior Manager, PwC, East Caribbean.

The discussion, according to Dathorne-Bayrd is a very important topic for private organizations and plays a major part in being the driving force of their impact in the business community.

Shannon in her delivery shared that Sandals has been non-traditional in its approach, “our founder Gordon ‘Butch’ Stewart was a visionary who recognized that any sustainable model required ESG. This has been key for the organization and we have the benefit of tremendous support from our leaders. We know that any risk to the framework is a major issue for our (business) and any business overall.”

Since inception, Sandals has displayed care and concern for the sustainability of the region.

In the early 90’s, Sandals received its first certification from EarthCheck, the world’s leading science-based environmental certification and benchmarking program for the travel and tourism industry.

To date, all Sandals and Beaches resorts are EarthCheck certified with some already attaining Platinum and even Master Status, the highest accolade awarded by EarthCheck.

Furthering the focus on ESG, was the successful implementation of key entities such as the Sandals Foundation, the resort chain’s philanthropic arm which continues to make a significant difference in the Caribbean by funding impactful and meaningful initiatives in education, community and the environment.

Capacity building of the company’s team members is also vital, shared Shannon, and this has seen huge business advantages, “in 2012 the company launched the Sandals Corporate University giving team members ongoing access to learning with some 34000 certifications issued in the last 11 years,” she voiced.

Sandals has positioned itself as the centre of excellence by leading on the global stage on the significance of ESG.  “We recognize the importance of partnerships and we are looking forward to more collaboration.”

Shannon further elaborated on this, “our Executive Chairman (EC), Adam Stewart is the chair of the Tourism Linkages Council in Jamaica. The Council is comprised of key public and private sector partners who oversee the coordination and implementation of effective and sustainable strategies which strengthen and facilitate linkages across productive sectors of the economy.”

In providing some key advice to organizations starting their ESG journey, Shannon had this to say “make sure you have all your stakeholders on board. This will be a culture shift and you need to pick the things that are important and align with company strategies.” She continued to share that reporting is also paramount “being able to measure performance and properly report it is important. Make sure it is seen as a business imperative and not something ‘nice-to-have’. Committing to the ESG framework makes good business sense.”

SOURCE: Sandals Resorts. Headline photo: Sandals Resort’s Chief Experience Officer Jessica Shannon.

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  1. The recently concluded Island Finance Forum 2023: Investment for Sustainable Development, hosted by Island Innovation and sponsored by Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC), has highlighted significant issues around labor practices and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) reporting. One standout participant, Jessica Shannon of Sandals, spoke eloquently on the topic, “Transforming from the inside for the outside: The future of ESG reporting and governance.”

    However, there is a gap between her presentation and Sandals’ reality on the ground. Questions have been raised regarding the company’s labor practices, particularly its purported importation of labor from Columbia.

    However, there are allegations that Sandals is exploiting imported Columbian laborers by making them work long hours under strenuous conditions. This does not align with a human rights approach. Furthermore, the subcontracting scheme with Project Development Services, Inc. (PDSI), which is predominantly white with little diversity, further exacerbates these concerns.

    Jessica Shannon, given her fiduciary role at Sandals, cannot claim ignorance about these practices, especially since Adam Stewart, a senior executive, was reportedly on-site during the week when the labor instructions to work from 5am to 10pm were issued.

    Moreover, the forum’s all-female panel stood in stark contrast to the reality on Sandals’ construction sites, where men work grueling 17-hour shifts exposed to paint fumes, mud, and grinding dust. It was pointed out that while the panel celebrated female participation, there was a notable absence of women undertaking the manual labor at Sandals.

    The forum made notable emphasis of the fact that Sandals is EarthCheck certified, however in light of these issues, there is an urgent call to assess the assurance framework of EarthCheck and identify the gaps that have allowed such practices to go unreported.

    As the conversation around ESG continues to evolve, it’s clear that more scrutiny is needed to ensure corporations are genuinely adopting sustainable and ethical practices rather than merely paying lip service to the concept.


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