Shangri-La commits to sustainability with half a million baht

CityNews – 31st March 2020, Gabriel Lombardo, General Manager of Shangri-La hotel told CityNews this week that the hotel has committed half a million baht per year to a sustainability project overseen by Warm Heart Foundation.

“I got in touch with Michael from Warm Heart Foundation after reading about bio char and all the work they were doing to mitigate the pollution,” Lombardo told CityNews. “I was very interested in this solution so I started becoming more curious and asked more questions and it was about learning about this and I liked it and got interested. Shangri-La has been supporting a school in Sankampaeng for five years, as our focus in the past has been more on education, though we have also been supporting various sustainability projects over the years. Normally we keep these projects for five to ten years, so for the school, every year we upgrade their facilities, one year the canteen another year building buildings another year connectivity and internet access. So we continue with them but then when I saw the haze issue, especially last year, I met Michael, I thought that we should probably shift our focus a little rather than doing this one school but shift it to the haze, which is a much more serious problem.”

Once Lombardo received approval from corporate head quarters, which released the budget, he decided to split the one million baht budget between the school and the foundation. The school will receive a multi-purpose sports field this year, and Shangri-La hopes that its Warm Heart projects could become prototypes for other businesses to follow.

“I wanted to make sure that whatever we do supports clean air and reduces PM2.5,” continued Lombardo. “I wanted to support the community and crate a model which is sustainable. Create jobs for young people and those in needs and maybe create a model that can be scaled and replicated. So we came up with this idea that we are going to hopefully be able to produce 50 tonnes of CO2 of bio char. We have two teams of youths around the ages of 17 and 18; one in Phrao and one in Mae Chaem. Each team will be required to produce 25 tonnes of CO2 in the form of bio char. They will be paid to produce this through our guaranteed purchase of the bio char.”

“By buying bio char we stop the burning in that area from emitting PM2.5 particles in the air and we sustain the youth because they have a job for at least 3-4 months. Then we will donate the bio char and we can decide whether to use it as fertiliser or convert it to briquettes as combustible.”

Shangri-La has committed to buying ovens to make bio char, which they will give to the youth groups who will be expected to produce 10kg bags of bio char for which they will be paid six baht per kilogram. The youth will be expected to deliver them to Warm Heart Foundation’s store where they will be turned into briquettes to be donated to farmers…this is what Lombardo sees as the snowball effect.

“If more and more businesses are inspired by this project and gets involved, then farmers and villagers will begin to see a viable alternative to burning, whereby they will earn even more money by converting husks and stalks into bio char. This process does not emit any PM2.5 particles into the air and the bio char can then be used for various purposes from combustibles (still no PM2.5) to fertiliser.

“There is already an emerging market, and some of we hoteliers hope to support that ecosystem,” continued Lombardo. “As far as I know the Four Seasons has ordered 2,000 kg of bio char briquettes a month – though with this current situation, I am not sure if that stands. If we all make such commitments, we will see change. Just think about the maths. For every 50 tonnes of bio char produced, you will ensure that more than 300 tonnes of PM2.5 won’t be emitted into our atmosphere. Also the 50 tonnes of bio char will permanently sequester 20 tonnes of CO2. These are good numbers.”