Kempinski Hotels is once again actively fighting infectious diseases with the foundation of BE, a legally independent, self-funding, non-profit organisation with one goal: to prevent the spread of HIV/Aids, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, which rank among the world’s most common infectious diseases.
BE’s name stands for the verb ‘to be’ – representing life and health as the basis for people to ‘be’. BE provides the basis and the access to information about health and its promotion. This is also interesting for other internationally-operating small and medium-seized companies, as it is often difficult for them to get support from official bodies, NGO’s and health organisations on site. Therefore, BE welcomes additional further members who would like to fulfil their social responsibility towards their employees, families and local communities, and who are convinced that the workplace is the ideal place to spread health. As both the Chairman of BE’s Advisory Board and Director of the Stop TB department of the World Health Organisation, Dr. Mario Raviglione supports the association with his expertise in health care, providing advice on project implementation. BE’s first project has just been launched in Thailand. Its primary focus is to educate people about Tuberculosis and HIV and to provide information about their prevention.
“Health is a shared value in our society and everyone has a right to health,” explains Markus Semer, Senior Vice President Corporate Affairs and Strategic Planning at Kempinski Hotels and responsible for the corporate social responsibility activities at Europe’s oldest luxury hotel group. Particularly with the continuing international expansion, the hotel group takes its social responsibility very seriously. Being an international employer and a globally operating company, Kempinski understands its corporate social responsibility towards its employees, their families and local communities. “We do not simply want to hand over a cheque catching the attention of the media, and watch the money being spent somewhere in administration,” says Semer. “We would like to be operationally active and make sure that appropriate action is actually taken.” Therefore, the company has been committed to actively combating Tuberculosis since 2008 through its involvement in the Stop TB Partnership, which operates worldwide. “With BE, we are now increasing our commitment to also fight against Malaria and HIV/Aids, whilst continuing to focus on spreading information and educating people,” Semer adds.
“In the so-called civilised Western world, health is often taken for granted, whereas it is real luxury in many economically-disadvantaged areas such as Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe,” explains Carine Wittwer, Managing Director of BE.
BE projects focus on spreading information about the diseases, their symptoms and the various ways of getting infected, with one clear objective – to share knowledge and information and change people’s behaviour in order to detect the diseases at an earlier stage and facilitate treatment. Semer and Wittwer are both convinced that health is contagious. “BE uses the workplace as a springboard to spread knowledge of health; first to the families of employees, then to local communities and to the entire region,” explains Carine Wittwer. Over the next few days, BE’s first project will start at the Siam Kempinski Hotel Bangkok. Carefully selected employees from the hotel undergo intense training and are informed about the diseases, their causes and possible treatments, with a view to becoming peer educators for their local community. Local healthcare partners such as Raks Thai Foundation, a member of CARE International, assist and support them. “Our primary goal in Bangkok is to stop the spread of HIV/Aids and Tuberculosis with the help of education and respective prevention programmes starting at the workplace,” says Wittwer.
Kempinski Hotels is one of the founding members of BE, along with Landor Associates, an international brand consulting agency, as well as Bloch & Partner, internationally-operating legal advisors, and bridge.over, a Swiss hospitality consulting company. They all share the same conviction that health is a common value of society and they have the vision to spread health by providing information and educating people.
A pilot project starting in May with four participating Kempinski hotels (Hotel Vier Jahreszeiten Kempinski Munich, Hotel Adlon Kempinski Berlin, Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains St. Moritz and Grand Hotel Kempinski Geneva) will inform guests about BE, and one Euro or Swiss franc will automatically be added to the guests’ invoice – this can be removed at any time upon the guest’s request, but of course, guests can also request to increase their donation. The donation collection will be rolled out in phases to other Kempinski hotels in order to guarantee funding for future BE activities worldwide. The specific use of the donations will be published in the annual report of BE and audited by Deloitte, one of the largest and most prestigious accounting firms worldwide.