Creating Sustainable Luxury

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The B2B team talks to Ian Jones, executive director of Agile Development Group (ADG) and advisor for the House Boutique Hotel, about corporate social responsibility and the advent of eco-friendly design in Phnom Penh.

ADG specializes in creating design and enterprising solutions that place the local community at the centre of the conceptualization and implementation process. Their latest project, the House Boutique Hotel, exemplifies what ADG is all about; as an eco-friendly establishment that employs and capacities the local workforce and talent, the House Boutique Hotel is in line with ADG’s conception of sustainable development.  

“At ADG, we help create social enterprises and businesses that have an impact,” Jones explains. Jones vision of an enterprise with “an impact” is centered around making use, and promoting, the local talent. To this end, for its projects, ADG sources materials from local suppliers and artisans. “Just look at how we found the doors for the House Boutique Hotel,” Jones explains, “there’s a little family who goes around collecting wood from building sites. They’re lovely. We hired them to work with us to design and produce  our doors.”

In a similar fashion, Jones worked with Vannary San, a local designer and social entrepreneur, who designed and supplied the silk interiors and golden silk through her social enterprise, Lotus Silk Boutique. Vannary became very influential in ensuring that Khmer culture was infused and respectful throughout the building, right down to the tree that sits peacefully in the middle of their salt water pool.

With projects like the House Boutique Hotel, ADG is spearheading a push in Cambodia for social responsibility in the hospitality sector. Jones believes there is still a lot of work to be done in Cambodia when it comes to socially-minded projects: “if there is a socially-conscious business, then there’s always foreign influence in the project. There are a lot of social enterprises here set up by NGOs, but we see very few Khmer investor and designers concerned about how they can make money while, simultaneously, bettering the lives of people. We aim to influence these local investors to get them to start thinking this way.”

The recruitment process is an integral part of ADG’s strategy to achieve this goal. “Our staff recruitment was strategic in terms of social impact. We work with Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) to source part of our staff. We have a preferential hiring policy that gives priority to those coming from social enterprises and training schools.”

For Jones, working with people that live in the proximity of the hotel is of vital importance. “The last part of the strategy was to recruit people who live within a couple hundred meters from the hotel. The benefits of doing this are double-fold: on the one hand, the staff can walk safely at night. On the other, hiring local staff helps embed you into the local community, and soon enough the community starts looking out for you.”

As with all its projects, Jones aimed at minimizing the environmental impact of the construction and operation of the House Boutique Hotel. “Our impact is minimum. We harness solar energy from plaques in our roof for our electricity and hot water supply Almost all wood  used in the building is reclaimed, which helps combat the ongoing destruction of the Cambodian rainforest. The bar and the reception area are made out of material reclaimed from an old cinema and a museum from Kampong Cham.” Instead of the provision of free water in plastic bottles, House Boutique now offers guests unlimited filtered water in recycled wine bottles, saving up to 15,000 plastic bottles that would otherwise end up in a landfill.

With the eco-friendly hotel niche still in an infant state in the Kingdom, ADG and Jones are exploring and opening up new territory every day. “We are the first private owners who are pushing the issue hard. We strive for financial, environmental and social development.”

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