IHG pledges $1million to Oxford University to support innovation behind conservation
IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group), the world’s largest hotel company, and the University of Oxford have joined forces to accelerate vital and innovative research into conservation, with IHG pledging up to $1million over a five year period to help Oxford increase its research capability. IHG will use this research to inform its future hotel design and operations.
Working with communities and scientists, Oxford’s research will help to pinpoint and publicise areas of the planet - small in some cases - that have the greatest concentration of rare and threatened plants, any of which could be useful to all of us one day.
IHG is using its Priority Club Rewards (PCR) programme to fund the donation by asking members to switch from paper to online statements. There are over 44 million PCR members worldwide making it the world’s largest hotel loyalty programme and this simple change will have a huge financial and environmental benefit. Switching to online statements will save up to $400,000 every year and the hotel group will donate half of these savings directly to the Department of Plant Sciences at Oxford University.
David Jerome, IHG’s senior vice president for corporate responsibility, said:
“We’re committed to finding innovative solutions to the environmental, social and economic effects of travel and to ensure we’re developing and operating hotels in a responsible way. Oxford University is the perfect partner to help us better understand conservation, address environmental concerns and ultimately safeguard the world’s favourite tourist destinations for generations to come.”
Professor Jane Langdale, Head of Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences, said:
"Recognising and conserving plant biodiversity is crucial if we are to save fragile ecosystems and pave the way for sustainable economic development. IHG’s generous support will enable us to significantly expand our efforts to gather detailed information about plant biodiversity hot spots around the world, and to make this information available to those working nearby to conserve plant species.
“It will also help us to answer fundamental questions such as why biodiversity is distributed globally in the way that it is, and how biodiversity hot spots may respond to the impacts of climate change and human activity.”
PCR members can support the programme, and receive 500 bonus points, by signing up to receive online statements at www.priorityclub.com/OxfordPlants. From October, members will also be able to track the progress of the research project and speak to the scientists directly on this site. Here are just a few examples of the Oxford research and how IHG support will help:
* Peru & Bolivia: Working with regional botanists, recent fieldwork by Oxford University scientists in the Andes, one of the world’s hottest regions of plant diversity, has uncovered over 100 plants new to science during the last decade. These include a entirely new genus named Maraniona, related to the familiar peas and beans, lurking in the Marañon Valley in Peru; and the Charango tree, Aspidosperma resonans used to make traditional musical instruments in Bolivia. Support from IHG will help discover and describe many more new plant species and make a major contribution to the mammoth task of assembling a complete catalogue of the world’s plants
* Ghana: Using rapid botanical survey techniques developed at Oxford, Ghana’s extensive forests have been evaluated and areas with high concentrations of globally rare species pinpointed. 28 areas, prioritised for special protection, have now been set aside within a matrix of productive forest. West Africa is an important target area for future IHG-supported research
* Trinidad and Tobago: A three-year survey in Trinidad and Tobago by Oxford and regional botanists has assembled detailed records based on two centuries of historical botanical collecting. Some 50 plant species are known nowhere else and many more are globally rare. The IHG funded research will help us document and understand plant diversity more widely in the Caribbean region
* Brazil: The Oxford team will, with IHG support, continue to develop specialized biodiversity information technology crucial for managing and disseminating very large volumes of botanical data. For example, using the BRAHMS database system developed at Oxford, research institutions in Brazil have been steadily gathering information over the last decade to reveal the botanical wealth of the Amazon basin.
Current web developments are revolutionising the way we view and manage plant resources in the 21st century and Oxford aims to continue to be at the forefront of this innovation. A central objective of the IHG funded work is the development of improved online hot spot maps linked to the data that defines them. These will reveal hot spots at all scales including small areas in otherwise ‘cold’ regions, which are generally neglected by conservation agencies. Conversely this will also identify extensive ‘cold spots’ in hot spot regions, which might be highlighted as places more suitable for sustainable forest use and economic development. The aim will be not always to say ‘protect this, protect that’, but rather to recommend ‘protect this, use that’.
Corporate responsibility is central to IHG’s business strategy and the hotel group’s two major priorities are to support local economies and to work towards making a night with IHG more carbon efficient. In 2009 IHG launched Green Engage, an online tool to help IHG hotels manage their impact on the environment and recommend ways to build and operate more responsible hotels. To date almost 800 hotels have signed up to Green Engage and through the system the average hotel can save up to 25 per cent on its energy costs and deliver significant environmental benefits.
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