Ten years ago, senior vice president, chief procurement and sustainability officer Norbert Riezler, was appointed to manage the U.S. procurement department for Las Vegas Sands and within 18 months, was asked to head the department globally by Chairman and CEO, Sheldon Adelson. Three years later, he was asked to lead the sustainability department globally, managing the program in Macao and Singapore as well.
“Marina Bay Sands was opening at the time and there was no sustainability program in Macao, it was only based in the U.S.,” he said. “It had really started here in Las Vegas with the opening of The Palazzo and its LEED certifications at that time.”
Leading the company into sustainable operations, Riezler searched for the right person to help establish the program the correct way. He hired Katarina Tesarova, vice president of global sustainability, to unite all regions and create Sands ECO360, Las Vegas Sands award-winning global sustainability program. The two spent time traveling to learn what others thought about sustainability, ultimately creating the program based on four pillars: Green Buildings, Environmentally Responsible Operations, Stakeholder Engagement and Green Meetings and Events. The pillars were created in areas where they could make the most impact.
“We focused on these pillars and annually, we have elevated the program and our goals,” he said. “We now have a five-year outlook, a strategy of where we want to go, and today, the four pillars still hold strong in all that we do. Katarina brings our regional teams together at our annual summit where we share best practices and jointly decide on what critical issues we need to address. This is where we decide on what we should do for the program, allowing flexibility for each region to execute their own, tailored initiatives, but still based on the pillars.”
Riezler does say that the global sustainability team does have to formulate specific needs to each region and properties because they are so diverse. But all regions and properties are looked at as one sustainability group globally, focusing on what is really important as a whole.
“For example, sustainable food is a huge initiative for all of the properties and its restaurants. But, each property or region does it their own way,” he said. “With this, we have found that what works in one region may not work for the others. For Marina Bay Sands, they partnered with WWF for the sustainable food program and they’ve executed the initiative very well, but now we have to see if its applicable for the U.S. and Macao. Another example is in Nevada, it’s sunny almost every day, but in Macao they have different weather patterns so solar technology is going to be very different in these two regions. We have to look at all locations and see what fits best. There are elements that are out of our control.”
Other issues that affect regions differently are government, people, and jurisdictions. With recycling efforts, infrastructure in the U.S. is far better than in Macao. Las Vegas is able to recycle 55-80% of materials depending on events, but in Macao, they don’t have the infrastructure or recycling facilities like the U.S. With support from Las Vegas Sands executives, the department is able to improve their efforts every year.
“We have great support from our top exectuives,” Riezler said. “We are able to attain new technologies like chiller plants, replacements for our existing equipment, and upgrading lighting at all of our properties. This allows us to become more energy efficient, reduce our carbon footprint and in the long run, save money globally.”
During the launch of the program, Riezler said he and Tesarova always aimed to have a sustainability program in place that produced facts, figures and certifications, where the program can speak for itself through high rankings and various awards. Through its science-based targets, the department is deeply embedded in global operations.
“For the future, I don’t see the program ever stopping,” he said. “Climate change is real and companies can do a lot to reduce energy and carbon emissions. Every year we find new ways to do it. In five years, I hope that we implement new technologies, continue to reduce energy consumption, recycle even more materials, and engage more stakeholders. This is a journey with no end point for us and that’s what makes it so exciting.”