Jonathan M. Tisch

Citizen You

An Interview with Jonathan M. Tisch, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Loews Hotels

Editors’ Note

Jonathan Tisch has held his current post since 1989, as well as being Co-Chairman of the Board and Member of the Office of the President of Loews Corporation, its parent company. He is the author of three books including The Power of We: Succeeding Through Partnerships, Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough: Reinventing the Customer Experience and, most recently, Citizen You: Doing Your Part to Change the World (www.CitizenYou.org). He is also host of the Emmy-nominated Beyond the Boardroom with Jonathan Tisch, which airs around the world on Bloomberg Television and on Plum TV. Tisch graduated from Tufts University in 1976 and gave it an endowed gift of $40 million in 2006 to fund the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.

Company Brief

Loews Hotels is headquartered in New York City and owns and/or operates 19 hotels and resorts in the U.S. and Canada. The Loews (www.loewshotels.com) portfolio offers one-of-a-kind properties in major cities and resort destinations from coast to coast, including Las Vegas, Montreal, and Philadelphia. Four Diamond standards promise guests a supremely comfortable, uniquely local, and vibrant travel experience. In addition, Loews boasts innovative and successful travel programs, including Loews Loves Kids for families and Loews Loves Pets for owners who want to pamper their pets.

You’ve written books in the past. What made you feel the timing was right for Citizen You?

It was an appropriate moment in the evolution of our society to write a book like Citizen You. So many individuals and organizations are yearning for a roadmap to help them understand and do something to fulfill their responsibility to others. This takes leadership, both from the administration in Washington, and also from around the country through local leaders who have taken a lead, like Mayor Bloomberg in New York City. It is also being driven by a growing desire for additional responsibility that’s being articulated by the young men and women graduating from college – the Millennials – who have grown up in an era where they see diminished resources.

Is the message primarily focused on the Millennials or is it directed across the board?

I strongly hope this book will be read by people of every age, demographic, and profession. Students can learn how to launch and support programs for social change in their communities. Young and middle aged professionals can learn how to integrate citizenship into their careers and apply their skills to a cause. And older people can find a fulfilling and purposeful alternative to retirement. I hope that everyone who reads this book will be inspired to ask, “What can I do to help make our world a better place?” And on our interactive Web site CitizenYou.org, we provide people with the tools for doing so.

Are the concepts of corporate responsibility and corporate citizenship clearly defined today and have they evolved?

When you look at the evolution of corporate responsibility, you see that many C-suites are now adding a Corporate Responsibility Officer (CRO). That is a further extension of the understanding that we all have a responsibility to be active and engaged in our communities. Over the past couple of years, we have also debunked the myth that you can’t do well and do good at the same time. So Business America understands, like the Millennials understand, that we’ve got to do something. They’re also savvy enough to find ways to have it help their bottom line, and there is nothing wrong with that. So the acceptance of corporate responsibility is greater, but also the expectations of corporate responsibility, about how it manifests itself, and how it gets incorporated into your organization and your business plans, are also being readily accepted and welcomed by senior executives.

In the global market, is the U.S. ahead in this area or is it a key focus even for emerging markets?

The U.S. is ahead because we are the largest consumer and we use more resources. We also have the ability to innovate our way towards a brighter future. But other countries are catching up in terms of use of natural resources and also the way that they are educating their kids to be leaders in technology and innovation. The U.S. is probably still ahead in terms of an understanding of how important it is to have an appreciation of the need to have a sense of responsibility.

Can more be done through partnering to have an impact on addressing the challenges we face?

You can’t be all things to all people; it’s about putting aside your individual concerns and working together towards the greater good. The only way we can accomplish things is by working together with government, with NGOs, with community-based organizations, and the private sector. We need to work bottom-up to understand how some of these issues became prevalent in the first place. Government has resources available to it that the private sector doesn’t have, but the private sector tends to innovate in a different way, and a solution to some of these challenges is putting a private sector for-profit model in place, especially in terms of social entrepreneurship, which is working its way in around the world.

Many executives talk about aligning their CSR with their business, thereby creating a seamless message. Will that be the way going forward?

It has to be. The enlightened community work that’s being done by CROs of big companies ties things back to the brand. We all have limited financial and human capital resources. We want our coworkers to go into the community and determine the root causes of some of these problems. But we also want them to focus on helping the bottom line of the organizations that pays their salaries. It’s finding that balance.

Is this something the Tisch College is finding can be taught?

Absolutely. Instead of having a department, college center or course dedicated to public service, the Tufts program is integrated across the university and in every school, discipline, department, and corner of the curriculum. Active citizenship now infuses every facet of Tufts’ work. Public service and community engagement becomes not a task, but a way of operating. Before they graduate, 80 percent of Tufts students take at least one course with an active citizenship component. The Tufts program also supports faculty research that deepens our understanding of the nature and importance of civic engagement. It expects students to document what they learn from their service experiences and to use these results to improve future programs. Other educational institutions might find different approaches but this unique integrated approach really seems to be working and helping to inspire the kind of individuals that integrate citizenship in their lives no matter what they do.