Dorchester Collection made headlines earlier this year when actor George Clooney called for a boycott of the company’s nine global hotels in protest at new strict Islamic laws in Brunei that make gay sex and adultery punishable by stoning to death.
Dorchester Collection is owned by the Brunei Investment Agency, the sovereign wealth fund of the Sultan of Brunei. According to news reports, the backlash resulted in several organisations including The Financial Times and the Police Federation cancelling events at London’s Dorchester Hotel.
Although Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah has since backtracked on enforcing those laws, many within the events industry still support the boycott and articles in some industry media have called for planners to avoid booking events at the properties. Others, however, have come out in support of the hotels and claim it’s unfair to penalise the hotel’s employees over political issues they have no control over and do not support.
Regardless of where you sit (and we appreciate all points of view), Dorchester Collection hasn’t been given much opportunity to explain the impact of the boycott on their staff or the fact that, ownership controversy aside, it works hard to champion diversity and inclusion within the group and has done for many years.
With Dorchester Collection attending inVOYAGE 2019 as a partner, we feel it’s only fair that all sides of the story are heard. So, we caught up with Eugenio Pirri, chief people and culture officer at the group, to get his views…
What would you like to say to event planners or clients who may be concerned about booking events at your properties following the publicity earlier this year regarding your ownership?
Inclusion, diversity and equality are the foundation of Dorchester Collection. We do not tolerate any form of discrimination, we never have and we never will. Our values are far-removed from the politics of ownership.
How has your events business been affected since the boycott headlines?
Our business was impacted; however, many people have returned as they recognise our hospitality and the genuine human relationships forged with our people, who are and always will be the stars of Dorchester Collection.
It was incredibly difficult to see our dedicated employees affected by the headlines: we are a team of people representing 67 nationalities, who love what we do and care enormously for our guests and communities. Diversity, inclusion and equality will always be the core of our company values.
Tell us more about the work you are doing to support the LGBT+ community within the workplace.
At Dorchester Collection, people are the cornerstone of every business decision. The people and culture team has pioneered several pivotal initiatives for Dorchester Collection including the We Care philosophy. Under its wider umbrella, our global RESPECT initiative launched last year to wholly champion an environment where all employees feel valued and treasured.
Dedicated to celebrating individuality and the brilliance it adds to our company culture, we bring diversity and inclusion to life via training, education and consistent employee recognition. To implement an aligned approach to diversity and inclusion, we conduct various internal workshops with hotel teams to reiterate the company’s We Care commitment. With particular focus on all protected classes under the Human Rights Act, coaching, mentoring and diversity celebrations were introduced to showcase the truly inclusive environment of Dorchester Collection.
Recognised and affirmed by Stonewall, our diversity and inclusion policies demonstrate an unwavering commitment to promoting LGBTQI equality in the workplace and beyond. Ensuring this commitment is fulfilled and practised across all aspects of operation, Dorchester Collection proudly submitted to be part of The Stonewall Workplace Equality Index 2019-20. Regularly contributing to global conferences focused on advancing workplace equality for LGBTQI people, we recently participated in a United Nations consultation on how the private sector can better support LGBTQI initiatives.
We are proud to be recognised in the industry and have garnered many awards for our successful people strategies. These include Distinction in Talent Management by the HR Distinction Awards, Excellence in Employee Engagement from HR in Hospitality and Employee Engagement Company of the Year by the Employee Engagement Awards. We were recently recognised as recipients of a Princess Royal Training Award 2019 for developing an outstanding workplace learning and development programme.
Externally, I have personally addressed various audiences at thought-leadership forums to advance the message of LGBTQI equality on a wider scale. I also support and participate in InterPride and various hospitality LGBTQI community groups to reinforce the message of creating a culture of respect through everyday actions.
Do you feel Dorchester Collection has been unfairly penalised over your ownership because of the celebrity headlines when there are other luxury hotel groups who may also be owned by individuals or organisations with questionable ethics?
We are aware that many other brands have ownership with similar backgrounds in this increasingly global world. This is a political and religious issue that we don’t believe should have been played out in our hotels and amongst our 3,630 employees.
What are you doing to support your own staff who may have been affected by the controversy?
Employees of Dorchester Collection have always had a strong voice within the company. This is a fundamental element of our organisational structure and the pillar of our We Care philosophy. Upholding transparency in times of public controversy is crucial to maintaining a mutual trust between senior management and all hotel employees.
Our strategy involves a direct and consistent flow of communication across all departments within the company; senior Dorchester Collection management visit all hotels to provide insight and support, while We Care committees talk openly with employee representatives. Our people and culture leaders are provided with guidance on how best to communicate with employees and our policies are re-shared across all departments.
The safety and protection of our employees remains of upmost importance, therefore we ensure that mentoring and employee assistance programmes are in place to provide confidential support to all.
What do you hope to achieve by attending this year’s inVOYAGE event?
We would like to augment and further develop our existing and already valuable partnerships while forging new and meaningful industry connections. The forum will provide us with an opportunity to stay up to date with the ever-evolving needs and expectations of the groups and events sector. We would also like to share details of our inimitable offerings and recent refurbishments and investments, with the aim of continuing to deliver exceptional guest experiences.
Most notably, it is an opportunity to celebrate our people, who are unrivalled craftsmen and women in all they do. It is through this collective of incredibly talented people that Dorchester Collection is brought to life.