A Love Story – RIU x ESCP Professorship

A professorship is a great way to create strong bonds between universities and external actors. It requires time, energy and passion, just like any relationship. In this article, we share what this means for ESCP and RIU Hotels & Resorts.

As sustainable development becomes a more and more pressing issue, it is clear that businesses have a strong role to play. And this not only in terms of climate change adaptation and mitigation, but also social investment, circular economy practices, etc. Therefore, companies in all sectors have fostered their corporate social responsibility (CSR) departments and actions. For example, tourism is a field not to overlook, as it touches the entirety of the globe. RIU Hotels & Resorts has recently sponsored the professorship of Lola Herrero to further work on these topics.

RIU Hotels & Resorts, with 100 hotels in more than 20 countries, has taken this matter to heart. In the past few years, it has been restlessly addressing both its social and ecological impacts. As one of their initiatives, RIU has been working together with Lola Herrero, Associate Professor at ESCP Business School and currently Scientific Director of the Jean Baptiste Say Institute for Entrepreneurship on the Madrid Campus. “After five years of honeymoon, RIU and ESCP are now finally married”, says Lola. This is how she describes the professorship agreement she arranged with RIU Hotels & Resorts.

As Lola says, the first year of the professorship is more of a Quo Vadis to define targets and goals. The further years will then be the Opera Prima, during which the agreed steps will be put into practice. 

ESCP Students giving their project presentation to RIU.

Professorship, a synonym for “wedding”

Of course, the professorship did not come out of thin air. It is the outcome of more than five years of developing projects together with professors, researchers, and students, demonstrating that ESCP is a great partner. Of course, a partnership of this calibre has many benefits for both sides. Therefore, this is the time to continue designing and developing joint projects and activities.

But what is a professorship and what does it entail? 
We are talking about a three-year agreement. During this time, both partners create a space for research, knowledge transfer, teaching and innovation in CSR. This will be achieved throughout two lines of work. On one hand, both partners will explore the creation of a permanent knowledge structure to execute studies. The goal here is to promote and disseminate applied science and knowledge in the field of hospitality CSR. On the other, they will jointly design and execute academic CSR consulting missions. The projects (International Consulting Projects – or ICPs) will aim to  complementing, improving, consolidating and standardizing RIU’s CSR initiatives.

Consulting projects will build upon each other throughout the years. As Lola says, “every project is a little junior consultancy, it is like an entrepreneurship project”. As the scientific director of the Jean Baptiste Say Institute for Entrepreneurship, she makes sure that the social entrepreneurial approach is applied in the projects. 

But how do the projects work? Whenever possible, RIU and ESCP fund students to go and stay at one of the RIU locations and conduct the project. Upon conclusion of each consultancy, RIU has a detailed action plan on the impact of the project and ESCP has precious material to compile and publish as empirical scientific knowledge. A win-win situation.

Lola Herrero and Catalina Alemany (CSR Manager) in the  2022 UNWTO Summit of Sustainable Destinations.

The secret to a strong relationship

Of course, RIU did not take ESCP’s word on being a good partner without tangible proof. This is why the first the first taste of this collaboration happened before the establishment of the professorship: we are talking about the “RIU Method”. 

Developed by Lola Herrero, the “RIU Method” is a social innovation methodology. In this method, the company works to identify and manage the impact that its activities have on the destinations where its hotels operate. The RIU Method serves as a key tool for the CSR team to decide what actions or projects to carry out in each country. This also allows to always take into account two priority lines: people (children and local community) and biodiversity. The “RIU Method” has different phases that go from the diagnosis of the destination of a social investment all the way to the measurement of the impact and the analysis of the synergies created. 

This methodology is highly developed but is still being improved within the framework of the professorship. As of now, the RIU Method is spreading within the hotel industry. And this is mainly happening thanks Lola Herrero’s engagement in several events and conferences, such as the 2022 UNWTO Summit of Sustainable Destinations (Mallorca), or the forthcoming X Foro Internacional de Turismo Maspalomas Costa Canaria (Canary Islands), which will take place in November 2022.

From our side, we wish this professorship to live happily ever after. And of course, we will gladly keep our readers updated on future offsprings of this marriage!